• Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Entertainment

“I’m grateful to Kavish Sinha that he saw Koyal in me,” Undekhi star Apeksha Porwal

Apeksha Porwal (Photo credit Apeksha Porwal Instagram)

By: Mohnish Singh

Former beauty pageant winner Apeksha Porwal surprised everyone with her debut performance in the hit streaming show Undekhi (2020). Critics praised her for her intense and raw performance as Koyal. After the huge success of Undekhi, SonyLIV recently launched Undekhi 2, which saw the return of several cast members from the original, including Porwal. Just like its predecessor, Season 2 of the show also garnered a positive response from the audience.

In a candid conversation with Eastern Eye, Apeksha Porwal talked in detail about her character Koyal, how she bagged the role, the preparation that went into playing the part to perfection, and much more. The actress also spoke about how the success of the show changed her life. Excepts…

Undekhi received an overwhelming response from the audience. Did you expect it?

What happened with season 1 is what people sort of call a sleeper hit, right? Because when we made the show, it was not like we had too many known faces apart from senior actors like Harsh Chhaya and Dibyendu Bhattacharya, of course. But we were all sort of sold on the story and the script, so we made season 1 and nobody expected that would be the response. We were all very overwhelmed by it. I definitely feel it is a very well-written script by the writers and we have a very edgy thriller on our hands.

 

How did you bag the part of Koyal and how did you prepare for the same?

I had done a bit of theatre before. What I did right before Undekhi was that I was a part of Miss India and I won that year in 2017. I was auditioning like any other person. But there was nothing that was meaty or really was a character that sort of spoke to me.

Once casting director Kavish Sinha called me. It was for the character of Koyal. I am so grateful that he saw Koyal in me because back then, I wasn’t getting any roles in this space despite I kind of wanted to explore it. Kavish saw it in me that I could play that and he called me for the audition. So, the first time I went wearing all the make-up, did the audition, came back. Then they called me again, with zero make-up. I did the audition and came back. Then there were like two-three rounds of this. They always say that never get attached to a part that you are auditioning for because you never know we end up auditioning so much that if you start getting attached to everything that you are auditioning for how are you going to balance yourself.

Having said that, from the minute I read the script which was a one-pager and in that one-pager, I had only one line at the end. And I was like I have to do this part. I want to do this part. I think the entire process took around six to nine months and I believe I was one of the last few people to be cast in season one, the rest of the cast was already there and Koyal was a little tricky for them to cast because of the way the character is and you have to look the part. That’s how it happened and I think I was the happiest when I got the call that I am playing Koyal.

Koyal is completely different from you in real life. How challenging was it to play such a character?

Oh, I think, it is a whole 180-degree turn completely. Which is what was actually thrilling for me to play, to be honest as my first role on screen. She comes from a tribal background, she belongs to the Sundarbans, she is a girl who has been molested in her childhood who’s been hounded by Sarkar, who had to leave and find her way in the jungles so as to escape from this person. She has gone through so many hardships and even season 1, the point where it leaves off is when I see my sister shot dead in front of me who is the only person for me in the world. I see Praful being shot dead, I see Rishi, my companion, being shot dead. It ends with me having a bullet wound in my stomach. So that is a lot of baggage and a lot of hardships to have come through to the point of starting season 2.

How did you prepare for the character?

So, there was a lot of preparation that went into it. Starting from working on the body language, on the voice of the character, on the way she sits, the way she talks, the way she looks at someone, how does she speak, like how does she run, and all of those things, the body language, working on the Bengali accent. I worked with an accent coach for that. Even the action training, for that matter, with action director Raj Shinde and his fabulous team was great. I had a bit of action training in Bombay. Then we did all the stuff there but the most important thing to me at any point is playing the character as authentically as possible. So even in action, we would make sure that it won’t feel like I have been trained for it because it has to be raw. She knows what she knows and she can defend herself, she can kill with a hair-stick because she had to live in the jungle, she had to deal with people like Sarkar at a very young age. She killed Sarkar before coming here. So, whatever she knows comes out of defense as supposed to be the trained attacker, right? So that rawness in the action scenes was very important to me. We worked a lot on the physicality, then there was working on the emotional and inner life side of it, which is a whole different ball game and we did a lot of workshops for that, we referenced films, I had so many discussions with Ashish sir. Even before starting the schedule, we had days and days of workshops. Sometimes we would just go and sit with sir, discuss scenes, discuss how should this be done and how should that be done. Even in Manali, at night we used to sit and discuss with sir that we would this scene this way the following day. Having said that, you prepare a lot, and then when you are on set and it is action, you keep all that preparation aside, and then it is just about being in the moment and being Koyal as much as I can be Koyal and live in Koyal as supposed to think that I have prepared for this and all that. So, I think, yeah, a lot goes into creating a character to reach a point where you just forget that you have created that character and then just get into the skin of it.

How did the success of Undekhi change your life?

Undekhi S1 came out in lockdown in 2020. There were no extravagant motion posters or boardings put to promote the show. I think we had two teasers out and then the show released. That is what spoke for it, that word of mouth and people actually really enjoying the content is what mattered. To me, some of the sweetest messages came from people that I wanted to reach out to, from casting directors to directors like Anurag Kashyap. Those are the things that mattered to me the most because these are people that I look up to. It changed in a way that I guess opened up other opportunities for me. It is a body of work that is out there, which is a character that is so different. I don’t think a character like that up until then even had sort of being written in the OTT space or, you know, very far and few between are written like Koyal. So, to play a part like that, to live a part like that also gave me a sense of confidence, a sense of having something that actually was successful and people liked it. So yeah, it opened up opportunities and it was seen by people who mattered. I think that’s what matters the most to me.

Eastern Eye

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