NewsGram presents an exclusive tête-à-tête with the cast and crew of this year’s National Award winning Maithili film, Mithila Makhaan. In the fifth part of the series, Shillpi A Singh caught up with the film’s female lead Anuritta K Jha. In a freewheeling chat, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed three films old model-turned-actor tells us about the literary background of her famous family, the highs as an actor of Hindi and regional language cinema, and gives a sneak peek into her forthcoming movies and much more.
“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart!” is how actor Anuritta K Jha would like to be introduced to all and sundry.
Born in a family of litterateurs, Anuritta spent her early years in Katihar, Bihar and moved to Pilani in Rajasthan for schooling, and from there she landed in New Delhi to study fashion. And all through her growing up years, she was fascinated with the glitz and glamour that came along as a perk for a model. “I always wanted to be a model,” she said, with a childish grin.
Gifted with a beautiful visage, chiselled body and towering height, she became a sought-after name in the fashion world. Soon, she was all over, you name it, and she’s been there, done that! A popular face in Delhi’s modelling circuit in the mid-Naughties, she made a grand entry in the City of Dreams by winning Channel V’s Get Gorgeous contest in 2006.
Winning the beauty pageant gave her a perfect launchpad in Mumbai’s modelling world. “It gave me an opportunity to explore, learn and grow in this industry.” From being a fashion student to a fashion model, it had been a smooth transition for her, and she soon set eyes on the big screen. “It was an expected move, barely a matter of when and not why for me,” she said. Her ardent suitor, success followed here as well.
Dad’s the Word
If Anuritta’s granddad Upendra Nath Jha ‘Vyas’, Sahitya Akademi Award winner and first Chief Engineer of Bihar, has left behind an enviable literary legacy with his remarkable contribution to Maithili literature, her parents — Dr Shailendra K Jha and Dr Bhanu Jha — have done that as acclaimed economists. That’s quite a legacy. Her paternal uncles are academicians and litterateurs par excellence. “As a kid, my grandfather used to make all the children assemble in the courtyard and recite Shlokas in Sanskrit. It seemed such a futile exercise way back then, but now I realise that he intended all of us to stay closer to our roots and take pride in our culture and language,” said Anuritta about her fondest childhood memories.
She is currently reading Du Patra, her grand father’s Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novel in Maithili. Her favourite though is father’s Economic Heritage of Mithila that stood her in good stead for her role of a girl from the Mithilanchal region in Mithila Makhaan. Coming from a close-knit family, she is extremely close to her father and elder brother Anshuman. “They are my best friends and will dole out a sincere and honest advice without being judgemental.” She owes her success to her family for being so progressive and supportive. “I am who I am because of my family,” she said with a lot of pride. Indeed, she ought to be proud; in small measures, she has contributed to Maithili films on its 50th anniversary, much like her famous family has done to the Maithili language.
“You cannot walk a straight line without a fixed point to follow,” she said on foraying into films, adding, “I consistently love to challenge myself.”
After winning the Get Gorgeous contest, she joined Atul Kasbekar’s modelling agency, Matrix. Reminiscing those days, she said, “It was a stepping stone of sorts.” As a model, she had been the face of umpteen products, but it was a television commercial for a face wash that made Anuritta give a second thought to acting as a career in 2010. She courted this passion by pursuing some acting courses and attending theatre workshops with Neeraj Kabi, her guru. It was a beautiful dalliance that reaped rich rewards when she made her dream debut with maverick filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2. Being from Bihar worked to her advantage. Though she had a measly role in the gang war drama, she managed to steal the show with her docile act as Shama Parveen, a character who adds to the rivalry between two families, and takes the plot forward. “I had auditioned for the role, and Anurag Kashyap liked my performance, and before I could realise, I was in the cult film as Shama Parveen. Initially, it seemed like a dream, and I had to pinch myself to make sure that it was indeed true.”
Filmmaker, actor and writer Zeishan Quadri, who had penned the gangster saga of rage, rivalry, and retribution, said, “In Anuritta’s case, beauty isn’t only skin-deep. She’s strong because she knows her weakness, she’s beautiful because she’s aware of her flaws and she is wise enough to learn from her mistakes. She’s constantly evolving, and the best is yet to come.” But a perfectionist to the core, this Virgo loves to give her best to the role that she essays on the screen. She doesn’t shy away from calling herself a keen student, always eager and anxious to learn the nuances of acting. “I attend acting workshops now and then. I love to indulge myself by doing meaningful theatre. It helps me learn the art better. I find it educative, informative, and motivating.”
Fresh from the success of Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2, she landed the lead role in Mithila Makhaan, her most-talked about outing so far. In the Maithili film, she essayed the role of Maithili, a fine arts graduate who lives true to her name by returning to her village and running an NGO for the promotion of Mithila paintings and in the process happens to provide a decent livelihood to thousands of rural women. She shows her strength and attitude when she tells the male protagonist, Kranti, who is based in Toronto that “It takes a lot of courage to leave behind a life of luxury in foreign shores and settle in the village”. As a parting gift, she gifted him a beautiful painting depicting the plight of those affected by the Kosi deluge that forces the lead actor to take a call and return to his motherland for “if he doesn’t, then who will work to make it a better place for others”. It is a film that highlights the best of the region and gave Anuritta an opportunity to connect with her mother tongue, and appreciate the beauty of the beautiful language.
Made on a modest budget, Mithila Makhaan shows her in a deglam avatar. She is dressed in ordinary cotton salwar-kameez and sans any make-up. Her role will surely redefine the very meaning of that oft-used word. Buoyed by its success, she said, “I am keeping my options open for regional language cinema. The role has to be emphatic, and the story has to meaningful.”
A Perfect Note
Her next, Jugni, was written and directed by Shefali Bhushan, and released in January 2016. The movie was based in Punjab, and Anuritta essayed the role of Preeto, a Sikh girl who lives in a village and is madly in love with Mastana. It is an out and out musical film, and though Preeto has no sense of music, it becomes synonymous with Mastana and her unconditional love for him. The entry of another character leaves her shattered. “The film explored myriad emotions through music and connected it soulfully with beautiful songs. It is a story of how letting go of someone in love is more fulfilling than clinging on to it. My role as Preeto was quite taxing emotionally, and I had to learn Punjabi. It was a great learning experience, and I am happy to be part of it.” The film is all set for an international premiere at the prestigious London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) to be held in July.
She has just finished three other interesting short films that are ready for release. An exciting project that she’s kicked about is Amit Mishr’s Moonlight Cafe, a mockumentary following the misadventures of the unlovely Abhimanyu Gujjar from Mumbai to Dharamkot in Himachal Pradesh. It boasts of an international cast and crew. Apart from these, two other films are expected to go on the floors later this year.
For a layman, Anuritta comes across as a beautiful Mithila painting, sans shading, full of bright and vivacious colours, depicting the best from the region and reflecting her connect with the land. And just like the paintings where a double line is drawn for outlines, representing the favourable and unfavourable circumstances, and the gap is filled with either cross or tiny straight lines, she is here to fill the gap between the two extremes with her realistic cinematic portrayals. The reason, she said, “It is because I know what I am doing, love what I am doing and believe in what I am doing.”
(In the next part of the series, we will introduce the film’s music director. Stay tuned!)
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Film: “A Fantastic Woman” (Spanish, with English Subtitles, based on a transgender woman); Director: Sebastian Lelio; Starring: Daniela Vega; Rating: 1/2 (2 and a half stars)
“A Fantastic Woman” could have been penetrating portrait of a transgender woman’s struggle for dignity after her middle-aged lover suddenly dies on her.
Marina (played with consummate sensitivity by Daniela Vega) never quite recovers from the traumatic shock. Neither does the film. It quickly goes downhill from the point of tragedy, building what looks like a shell-shocked narrative in-sync with the stupor that falls over Daniela’s soul after Orlando (Francisco Reyes) passes away.
The ensuing trauma of a ‘woman’ who is unacceptable to society for her gender and status in the life of the man she loved, is brought out like a dentist extracting rotten teeth. It is a graceless situation.And director Sebastian Lelio goes with the frown, rendering every crease in Daniela’s disheveled existence in shades of black and fright.
Daniela’s dilemma is so in-your-face, it hardly needed to be affirmed so strongly by the narrative. Her humiliation is shown in scenes in the hospital and at the police station. And we know what happens to the mistress specially when she is gender-challenged. But Marina’s behaviour post the tragedy eschews empathy. She frets, fumes, snarls and at one point even jumps on to the car of her deceased lover’s family to bounce up and down.
By this point the edgy narrative begins to look uneasily unfocused.
Perhaps Marina’s unconventional methods of protest are a cultural things. Maybe in Chile, the conventions of bereavement are played out at a pitch that seems fairly bizarre to us. Also, the fact that the film is in Spanish makes the dialogue-heavy sequences, such as the one where Marina is confronted by Orlando’s wife in a car basement, seems unnecessarily stretched-out and verbose.