First of Many: Natasha Rastogi revisits the monsoon wedding
Natasha Rastogi may have started acting late in her life, but she has managed to be a part of some notable projects. She says her journey from stage to film has taught her a lot and that the rise of the digital space has proven to be a blessing for artists like her.
Natasha recently played Sanya Mahotra’s mother in Netflix’s version of Pagglait. Natasha’s work also includes films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Do Dooni Chaar, My Name Is Khan, Ishaqzaade, Amit Sahni Ki List, Talvar, Naam Shabana, Behen Hogi Teri and others. She was also part of Raat Akeli Hai and Bandish Bandits.
Although Natasha started out with a small role in Monsoon Wedding (2001), she says it’s the experience that is close to her heart. Here’s what she shared about the first time she faced the camera in a professional manner.
What was your first acting project? How did the project come to you?
I was a drama teacher in the modern school and also did theater. My close friend Shubha Mudgal told me that Mira Nair is auditioning for her film. I auditioned for a scene where a sangeet ceremony is taking place and I have a phone conversation. Another scene is where I get out of a car with Neha Dubey playing my daughter, and I say to Naseeruddin Shah, “We got you some real scotch. Thank you for taking care of my little Alia.
I got a call if I had a video recording or photos of my work. I didn’t have one because I hadn’t started playing professionally at the time. But I still got the part in Monsoon Wedding. It was shot in 2000, came out in 2001. I was 39 years old then. I started very late in life.
What do you remember from your first day on the set?
Since the film revolved around a wedding, almost all of the actors were on set. My first day of filming was the same as the one I auditioned for. Its location was in Delhi, on the Chattarpur or Bijwasan farms I guess. I shot for 25 days and the movie ended in 30-35 days. This was the time when movies took 8 months to finish. So Mira Nair was making an entire movie in such a short period of time, that was another big news at the time.
The first scene I shot was where Rajat Kapoor takes my daughter for ice cream. Shefali Shah comes and asks her where he was leading her. She told him to get out of the car because he had abused Shefali when she was a child. Rajat Kapoor plays the uncle there. After Shefali, I come on stage and hold my daughter against me. Mira thought it didn’t take two people to do the scene, so my part was cut.
When I went for the dub, Mira apologized and told me she had to edit my only major scene. This is the first time that I know that your scene can also be cut. Now I feel like I’m more like a flower vase in the movie.
Were you nervous? How many times have you taken?
I think an actor should memorize the lines first, only then can you play with the scene. When doing theater, you have to perform even for the person sitting in the last row. On camera, you have to hold back. There was no nervousness as such. But it was definitely a learning experience, compared to theater. I had small scenes and the movie went really well. And then the cast of people in the circuit started looking at me.
How was that connection with your co-stars when you got to meet them or work with them again later?
It was so much fun. I felt the movie was a live wedding. We used to shoot all night. There was Soni Razdan, Lillete Dubey, we used to sit and chat. It was like a family. I was wondering if they were going to shoot the movie or if we would just keep having fun. So you can tell the whole movie was shot like this.
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If you are given the chance to reprise your lead role, what would you like to change or do better?
Not really, it was all scripted. And since it was a small role, today I want it to be longer, with some good scenes. But it was my first trip to Bollywood and in front of the camera. It was a pleasure to work with Mira Nair.
A movie or a role that inspired you to become an actor?
I loved Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. I wish someone could choose me for the role of Meena Kumari. I think she was great. No one can do what she did. I also loved The Great Indian Kitchen which I saw recently.
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