Exclusive: “I only saw myself as an actor,” says Pratibha Ranta | Filmfare.com

Pratibha Ranta, the doe-eyed newcomer from Shimla who rose to prominence with the delightful film Laapataa Ladies directed by Kiran Rao, a heartfelt satire about women in Indian society, is living a dream she doesn’t want to wake up from. “It’s been weeks since the release, and I’m still enjoying the love. There are constant DMs coming in,” she says, her bubbly voice brimming with excitement as she talks about the appreciation pouring in for her portrayal of Jaya in the film. She has harboured dreams of becoming an actress since childhood. “My family recognised my passion for acting and dancing at a very young age. They’d say ‘bacchi ka shauq hai.’ When I was in 8th standard and my friends were deciding what to do with their lives, some said they wanted to be doctors and teachers. And I realised I can’t relate to that at all. I only saw myself as an actor.”

Her elder sister, a NIIFT graduate, secured a job in Andheri, and Pratibha decided to join her. From visiting the beaches to travelling on local trains, the actress fell in love with her first impressions of Mumbai. She enrolled at Usha Pravin Gandhi College of Management in Mumbai to pursue her graduation in filmmaking. Based on suggestions from her seniors and friends, she joined an online audition group. Initially scared to attend auditions at distant locations, she always shared her live location with her sister. Within six months of arriving in Mumbai, she landed her first TV show, Qurbaan Hua, becoming a celebrity in her hometown. That’s when her parents realised she was serious about pursuing acting. She soon secured a role in Aadha Ishq as well. Always envisioning herself as a big-screen actress, she realised that dream when she auditioned for Kiran Rao’s Laapataa Ladies. Even now, it all seems surreal to Pratibha. “I didn’t even realise when I ended up sitting in front of Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, auditioning for Laapataa Ladies. They say some things are planned for you. If you work hard on your craft, the universe is there to handle everything else.” She recalls that both Aamir and Kiran made her feel at home during the audition. Thanks to their calming presence, she was able to deliver her best. “I was performing better because of their positive energy. By 5 pm, I wrapped and went home. At 7 o’clock, I received a call saying that I was selected for the part.”

Pratibha found herself relating to her onscreen character, Jaya. The film helped her analyse herself better. “While I was reading the script, so many of my suppressed emotions surfaced. I was able to come to terms and find closure to many hidden things,” she narrates. She adds that working with a female director certainly helped as she was able to understand what Kiran Rao wanted with much ease. Reviews are validating, but the greatest compliment came in the form of messages from back home. “I got messages from my friends back home saying that if you were able to do it, then we can do it too. It feels like I’ve finally achieved something,” she narrates.

Pratibha had to ask Aamir Khan the most pressing question – How did he earn the title of Mr. Perfectionist? “I actually asked him, and he gave me a very nice answer. He said, ‘I’m not seeking perfection, I’m seeking a magic moment.’ And that makes sense to me. He’s not looking for perfection. Sometimes you get it in one shot, sometimes you get it in a couple of takes.”

Pratibha Ranta

She auditioned for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi right after wrapping up Laapataa Ladies. She recounts her first day on SLB’s sets, saying, “I was taken in by the grandeur. It was such a huge set. That was a very intimidating feeling. Everything was decked up, lights were coming in trucks, and costumes were being carried in bulk. When I went to my van and saw my costumes, I was thrilled with how different I looked. It was the complete opposite of Laapataa Ladies.”

The actress can’t stop gushing about working with SLB, “The way he frames his characters is beautiful. Every frame was perfect. I learned how to delve deeper than ever into my craft. Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali come in the category of the greats, and I’m so lucky I’ve worked with all of them so early in my career.”

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