Unpaused: Tannishtha, Lillete Dubey Of Team ‘Rat-A-Tat’ On The Little Things That Inspired Their Pandemic Story
If your weekend plans don’t include watching Unpaused on Amazon Prime Video, I’m going to be really insulted. The film, which is an anthology of five short films, chronicles the little, human emotion stories that will be relatable to most of us who’ve lived through this pandemic and continue to slog through for our survival. And believe me when I say this, whether you’re ploughing on while making Dalgona coffee, or clicking selfies or working 14 hours a day, as long as you pull through, you’re doing amazing, sweetie! One of the shorts in the film, called Rat-A-Tat, is directed by Tannishtha Chatterjee and stars Lillete Dubey and Rinku Rajguru.
I’ve watched Unpaused and it is one of my favourite shorts from Unpaused! One of the biggest reasons for that could be because I got a deeper understanding of what the film’s underlying inspirations and intention was from the director and the actor themselves. In a candid tête-à-tête with Team Rat-A-Tat’s Tannishtha and Lillete Dubey, they told me all about why they decided to be a part of Unpaused, their experience of shooting in a pandemic and the little things (not the big dramas) that inspired their very human, very relatable and absolutely beautiful story of an unlikely friendship between two women who are poles apart!
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What for you, as a director, was the appeal of doing Rat-A-Tat in Unpaused?
Tannishtha: See, I didn’t want to tell anything that is dark or depressing, because I was not in that state myself. We were confronted by it constantly through media and social media. So I really wanted to talk about the little things, which was very relatable to how my life had changed during the pandemic.
The pandemic is a global phenomena and things have shifted forever. But the dichotomy is that somewhere, our lives came to a standstill. Nothing happened. There was no drama, the problem was that! What appealed to me about the story is that there is no big drama. It’s very little things which can still shift something inside us and bring about a catharsis in the character. That’s all it is.
Also, it’s a very unusual friendship that these two women have. Not just because of their age. But from every which way, they’re very different people. Their backgrounds, their temperaments, age, generations even their circumstances are so different. One character has isolated herself for many years so the lockdown doesn’t make any difference to her.
What I wanted is two completely different people as actors, and Lillete Dubey and Rinku Rajguru are exactly that. Other thing I wanted is to reverse the idea that the younger character is cooler. But I wanted the older character to not be this sad, depressed woman where a younger woman comes and fills her life with joy. I didn’t want that cliche and that’s why the casting was so important.
I wanted the older character to really maintain herself, be happy living by herself, and be a very contemporary woman. At the same time, Rinku’s character is true to the younger generation and lives in the moment, and is also compassionate and wants to help people around her. Her own fridge has no food, but she’s willing to go buy groceries for the senior citizens in her building. It’s because the younger generation is living with so much awareness of political rightness. Once we got the story with these actors, we tried to bring out these nuances.
Lillete, what attracted you to the role?
Lillete Dubey: There were many reasons, of course. The biggest being nobody had done any work in the past five months or so! I’d done a small shoot, but this was the real deal that came along. I was just so excited to get back to set and some normalcy. Though, everyone kept telling me because of my age that I should be very careful. But that only made me want to do it more. I said, “I want to get out of this bubble. We all have to live now, take precautions and get back into the world.”
This was going to be a Pritish Nandy Productions short, with whom I’d done Bow Barracks Forever, and I’ve liked their work. It was also having Tannishtha, a lovely actress, as my director. I have seen her act, and she also comes from theatre. So I knew our sensibilities would be quite in sync. The note of the piece would be very truthful, real and my kind of a performance. I haven’t seen Sairat yet, but I’d heard that Rinku (Rajguru) was amazing in the film. She was so well cast.
I think more than the story of Rat-A-Tat and my role, the anthology itself was a huge appeal. We’re going through this unprecedented, absolutely rare occurrence in our lives, which has affected everyone across the globe. There common feelings of isolation, loneliness, fear, anxiety. But there were also things we individually felt on a micro level. It’s an important period, and Unpaused is one of the first films that explores this period of emerging out of the lockdown, and will remain an important film. I loved the range of Unpaused—from stories of migrants to a young couple, to unlikely friends.
Of course, I loved my own short as well. In the great drama that is playing out in the world right now, there were very small things that were happening to us. And this small, everyday little things, in a very subtle way, were changing things in us. I liked the graph of my character; she doesn’t remain the same. Which is quite important for me as an actor.
I also loved that I was working with so many talented women—Tannishtha, Rinku, Devika, Ishita (writers). So it was like women power!
Also Read: Unpaused Review: This Pandemic Anthology Is Like A Warm Hug For All Our Touch-Deprived Souls
Tannishtha, this is your second film as a director, and it turned out to be a pandemic shoot! How was that experience?
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Tannishtha: It was quite unnerving. The other directors on Unpaused have had some films and shows, and are quite experienced. They all mentioned that they have crews of hundred os people, and all the equipment they need. And I was like… this is my second film! My first one was Roam Rome Mein, which was shot in Europe and they are used to working with minimal crew. So I didn’t really miss having 300 people on set; in fact it was really nice.
We had to all take COVID tests and work with minimum resources and people. What really was limiting was the thought in your mind, the fear. We’d all come out after so long. We were wearing masks and shields for 14 hours. We had to always think about social distancing. Everything that had to be given to the actors had to be sanitised. I had to ensure I wouldn’t go too close to my actors when explaining something to them There’s a scene where they are eating so we kept asking for the food to be reheated in the microwave before giving it to the. So all these things were like a constant extra fear.
In the beginning, everyone was too strung up. But after a few shots, once the creative juices started flowing, it began feeling normal. But still, the awareness of the fear was there. Our rehearsals and pre and post production was done remotely. As a director I just kept hoping that it didn’t affect the output. Because the audience isn’t going to be like, “Pandemic mean banaya hai toh chalega!”
What is it that you as a person and as an actor are taking away from Unpaused?
Lillete Dubey: Some of the things that this character experiences, in a different context, in a different degree, did affect me, in fact all of us. Looking at life through a lens where the fragility of life and mortality is a very real thing, staring in our faces everyday… You can’t help but start thinking about your past, present and future and wonder, what is important? What can you let go? Should you live more in the present? Should you aspire to more things because life is short, it’s so obvious now. All this introspection is what resonated with me.
Also, to perform in a COVID environment was also a challenge, to perform in a mask with all these restrictions and challenges. For me, just as an artist, on set was tricky. But once I was there, the fears were mostly forgotten. You sanitise, you wear masks and you just do it.
Unpaused is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.