The first season of the Netflix Original series Delhi Crime, which released in 2019, went on to become the first ever Indian series to win an award for Outstanding Drama Series at the International Emmy Awards 2020. Following its footsteps, Delhi Crime season two opened to wide critical acclaim too with its lead actors Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal and Tillotama Shome garnering rave reviews for their gritty performances.
In an exclusive conversation with News18, Dugal shares that the web show proved to be a turning point in her career as it helped her explore a whole new side of the actor in her. “For me, Delhi Crime is a very significant part of my career, not so much because of the global recognition it received. It was a very special experience for me as a performer. Neeti Singh is one of my most favourite characters because I relate to her so much. The show is one of the most emotionally immersive experiences I’ve had,” she says.
She also credits the success of the show to her directors Richie Mehta and Tanuj Chopra and adds, “Even though both the seasons are very different from each other, I had some beautiful creative collaborations in both and that’s not very easy to find. It’s also isn’t easy to find people who understand, appreciate and nurture the nuances of a performance.”
It’s said that acting is a lot about reacting. Dugal agrees and attributes what many believe is one of her career best performances to her co-stars in the show. “It’s so much fun to work with an ensemble cast. I was amazed by the performances of all my co-actors. They really knew how to work in an ensemble project and you can see that energy on-screen. We played off each other and there were lots of improvisations which were fundamental and unique to a show like Delhi Crime,” she remarks.
The crime drama propelled Dugal to international fame and won her appreciation from different parts of the globe. Recalling an incident, the 37-year-old says, “I’m very happy that my character had that kind of a reach. In fact, I was recently shooting in Yorkshire and there was a musician at the café of the estate where we were living in. I was in a very different avatar because I was shooting for a film. He looked at me and said, ‘One minute… You’re Neeti Singh from Delhi Crime!’ He was a French guy and he had watched the show. It’s always nice to have the global audience watching your work.”
Apart from Delhi Crime, Dugal has been a part of other web projects like Made In Heaven, which also made its presence felt at the International Emmy Awards, and A Suitable Boy (2020) that premiered in the UK on BBC One. Ask her if these shows have opened doors for her internationally and she states, “It’s hard to tell. I had so many other projects coming out around the time when Delhi Crime had released. Mirzapur had released just before that. All I can say is that good stories can transcend all borders.”
With a few of her contemporaries traversing international waters, does she also have a plan of working in the West? “Of course, I would be interested in doing an international project. It’s on my wish list and I’m putting it out there in the universe, hoping that it happens soon,” the Manto (2018) and Lootcase (2020) actor reveals.
But Dugal expresses that she has not had the time to actively work towards realising her Hollywood dream. “My commitments for the subsequent seasons of my shows and the irresistible new offers that I received last year didn’t leave me with much time. It’s true that one needs to work towards getting international work. It won’t miraculously land in your lap. I mean it may happen but it’s a matter of chance. Fortunately or unfortunately, I haven’t had the time,” she says.
The actor, who began her career with the film Anwar in 2007, credits the OTT space for putting actors like her on the global roadmap. Though she’s happy to have found wide acceptability and visibility through a bunch of web series over the years, she looks back and rues that some of her most critically acclaimed projects in the earlier years of her career like Qissa (2015) and Tu Hai Mera Sunday (2017) didn’t receive their due post their theatrical releases.
Dugal shares, “It would have been nice to have the OTT invasion at that time but those films are now on steaming platforms anyway. In fact, subsequently more people watched Qissa than they did when it had a small theatrical release. I’m so happy that the OTT boom happened during a certain phase of my career. I don’t know what I would’ve done without it. It has been a boon.”