"I Believe If You're Given A Voice, You Better Use It Well": Sobhita Dhulipala On Made In Heaven And Beyond

Breaking in with Raman Raghav 2.0, actor Sobhita Dhulipala has grabbed attention with Made in Heaven

Divya Unny Updated: Oct 17, 2019 12:08:53 IST

Tell us about your journey from Visakhapatnam to Mumbai.

I had a modest upbringing in a simple South Indian household. My father would be away a lot since he was in the [Indian] Merchant Navy. I was a bit of a loner as a kid. Once a teacher asked us to complete the sentence ‘If I were a … ’, and while all the students were writing doctor, engineer, president, I wrote ‘If I were a bird’. In retrospect, that reflected how I felt. In school, I spent all my time in the library. I immersed myself in books to get an edge over the kids around me. From geography to genetic mutation, I knew everything! Till the age of 18, I must have hardly seen more than 20 films, including eight Harry Potter ones.

So your move to Mumbai, and then modelling, happened purely by chance?

I wanted to travel out of my little town. I was certain of that. Mumbai was my first choice. When I was picked for the Miss India [competition] after college, it became yet another reason for me to fit in. But modelling wasn’t very rewarding. I constantly felt like I was punching below my weight. I started auditioning, and I taught myself Hindi in the process. I remember translating Hindi songs to English in an effort to understand their meaning. It was during the audition of my first film that I realized this is what I want to do.

Made in Heaven is brutally honest and strips down the double standards within Indian society. Is that something that attracted you to the show?

Well, here is a story that’s talking about some very real issues of our time. How much of Indian cinema does that? It’s mostly escapist. People of all classes have their own struggles, be it existential or survival. But very few films talk about them. Made in Heaven gave me a voice, and I believe if you’re given a voice, you better use it well.

What is it about Tara, your character in Made in Heaven, that you related to the most?

She’s flawed. She isn’t the perfect protagonist you see in cinema most of the time. She’s vulnerable, she gets cornered and she has dilemmas, some created by her own insecurities. Isn’t that what most of us deal with in our lives? It’s what makes her real. I grew up in Visakhapatnam—I’m a small town girl and I had a very simple life. Tara’s world is very different from mine. It was exciting to explore the mannerisms and the mind of someone like her.

Did you ever think that a web series would be your big break? Does that say something about the changing nature of cinema in India?

I’ve done Raman Raghav 2.0, Kalakandi and a superhit Telugu film called Goodachari, but I was invisible till Made in Heaven came about. You feel rewarded and validated as an actor when something does well, and something that’s not run-of-the-mill. It’s an incredible time to be an actor today. Shows like Delhi Crime, Made in Heaven and Sacred Games are all examples of free, liberated storytelling. I hope the success of these shows will empower more people to make them.

Do you feel the pressure of being a digital superstar? It’s a whole new genre of actors in India.

Sometimes I feel it’s a consolation prize. But I hope it’s not. It’s a new wave and I’m glad to be in it. Our trials and tribulations are going to define a part of the new generation and that’s important for me. My upcoming work includes a TV series called Bard of Blood, an indie Malayalam-English film called Moothon and another Hindi film called The Body. Each of them is unique and edgy in its own way, and it’s the kind of work I really want to do.


A version of this interview first appeared in the May 27, 2019 edition of the India Today magazine.
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