Ruhani Sharma debuts in the Rahul Ravindran directorial, Chi La Sow (2018) with a role that won appreciation for her sensitive portrayal of a female character. Five years later, Rouhani will be the host HERprocedural drama that shares thematic (and title) similarities with one of her previous films HEATH: The first case (2020), along with a nuanced look while writing women, as previously seen in Chi La Sow. Rouhani talks to CE about the concerns she faces in signing HERthe evolution of her acting process, her upcoming projects, and more
I have to ask you this as you are also a part of Sailesh Kolanu’s HIT cop universe. Is HER also an acronym or is it more of a she/HER thing?
No, it’s not an acronym. It’s just the word She in all caps.
You played the role of a forensic scientist in HIT, here you play a police officer. Aside from the more obvious differences, what do you think are the factors that set these two films apart?
I play Archana, an IPS officer in HER. Unlike HIT, this is not a serial killer movie. We are investigating the case of a murdered girl. HER deals more with how this case my character solves becomes personal.
You are the lead solo in this film, which is the first of your career. Can you talk a little bit about how the project came about?
At first I was very hesitant to accept this role. It’s a film full of newcomers, plus I didn’t think I had the star power to attract the audience for a film. But before that I watched the short films made by my director (Sreedhar Swaraghav) which convinced me to read the synopsis of the film. I soon called the director for a story and later took up the film, which was actually a risk for me. However, I was excited by the team’s ideas and fresh approach. I made the film for the experience, not thinking about the box office results.
From the title to the teaser and trailer of HER, we see an ethos of feminism embedded in its narrative. Could you talk a little more about this theme in your film?
We didn’t set out to make a heavy message-oriented film. But all around us we see women being judged for what they wear, who they date, their lifestyle, everything. People are quick to judge a woman’s character without considering context and personal choice. Our film reflects this through the central murder investigation.
You are seen using a weapon in HER. Could you talk a little bit about the preparation behind your performance?
Our main concern was to make the character as real as possible, that’s the tone of the film. The emotions weren’t that hard to overcome, but the body language I had to pick up required work. To get that look and manner right, I watched a lot of documentaries and interviews with real police officers. Crime in Delhi was one of the series I watched while preparing for the role. We tried to achieve the tone of this series in our film as well. Weapons and martial arts training followed.
People talk about Anjali, your character in Chi La Sow, to this day. How do you feel about this movie five years from now?
This movie is a benchmark for me. People still remember and recognize me as Anjali. I still try to break that with every film. Chi La Sow it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, but I really want a role that people will remember me by – as fondly as Anjali. Archana is my favorite after that Chi La Sow, and I hope the audience gives her as much love as Anjali.
From Anjali to Archana, how has your acting process evolved over the years?
There is no specific process that I follow. I try to feel what I do. I can’t fake things so I just tap into the emotions. I’m a very sensitive person and I use my sympathy to bring those real emotions into my performances. I was very new to acting when I did it Chi La Sow and I don’t remember what I did. I followed my director and he brought out the best in me. For Archana, I thought of this character whenever I ate, traveled, did any other work, so much so that when people asked me my name, I said Archana and not Ruhani. Thinking about the character to that extent really helped my performance.
You have two really interesting projects coming up — Saindhav, where you will be reuniting with Sailesh, and Kanu Behl’s Agra, which recently made its Cannes Film Festival debut…
Agra it will now also be screened at the Melbourne Film Festival. We finished shooting the film in 2019 and I’m so happy to see it get the recognition it deserves. My hero in Agra is very dark and this is the first time I am doing such a role in my career. I can’t reveal much about my character, but I don’t even think it’s human (laughs). It’s not a ghost either. I play the personification of desire. I can’t reveal much about Saindhav, besides being a very significant role. There is another film of mine that will be announced soon and may be released around the same time as Saindhav.