Resurgence in respect for health post-crisis: Lisa Ray

We’ll see resurgence in respect towards our health, personal hygiene post COVID-19, says Lisa Ray

Photo courtesy: Lisa Ray.

There is something irrepressibly unassuming about Lisa Ray. Add to it is a joie-de-vivre that spills out in spite of the health hurdles, and a part that is always unafraid to call a spade a spade.

At 48, the mother of two is making the best of the lockdown to contain COVID-19 in Singapore, working on her second book and spending time with her twins. Her soul-stirring memoir ‘Close to the Bone’ had held a mirror to her life striking a chord in the reader.

As she returns to the second season of Rangita Pritish Nandy’s ‘Four More Shots Please’, where she plays the complex part of Samara, she talks to Anupama Ramakrishnan about the thrills and spills of it, and how our perspective towards health is going to change post-COVID-19. 

Q. An unusual storyline, 'flawed' characters and a web series... What was in the script of ‘Four More Shots' series that made you decide to go ahead with it in the first place?

A. Exactly for the reasons above. I have always sought out deeply human narratives and flawed characters -- I mean that’s what makes a great story. And the Indian audience is finally accepting fallibility reflected on screen. Thank God. But if you want to go deeper into why I said ‘yes’ -- it is due to the all-woman team -- and not just the actors. That includes female director, director of photography, writers, assistant directors and the producers. Rangita (Nandy) is an old friend and frankly, she’s the one who reached out and brought me squealing only slightly in protest, on board. I’m so grateful for it.

Q. How was it doing the second season? How did you balance motherhood and shooting?

A. It was superb for me though at times it was physically demanding. I mean, I was the oldest person on the set! But I relished every moment of playing Samara. I decided I wanted to have fun and go for it -- which is the privilege of someone like me, who’s been in the business for ages, and has moved on to writing, but is available for interesting, provocative material.

Q. Do you think the audience in India has changed over the years and are more accepting of all kinds of subjects now?

A. Absolutely. The argument is simply to provide a variety of content for such a huge, diverse country as India. ‘Four More Shots’ will not appeal to everyone and neither is it meant to. But as Rangita says, we haven’t seen this sort of content and the lives of young, upwardly mobile, liberated urban women in India explored, unapologetically so far. Kudos to Rangita and her sister Ishita for seeing this through.

Q. How was it shooting in Udaipur? Any fun moments that you can recall?

A. Udaipur was so much fun and chaotic, and beautiful. At times, it felt like we ourselves were having all these subplots going on, just like our characters. I was hungry constantly. I would start snacking on kiwi and end up with Oreo cookies stolen from the mini-bar. I soaked in every moment. I loved working with Nupur ( Asthana) --- she is such a strong director and yet compassionate and so collaborative with her actors. I surrendered to her vision. Bani ( VJ Bani) is a wonderful actor and human being. My kids came to visit for a while and I rolled around with them in the grass between shots, and I don’t mean tequila shots. The big reveal of the ‘Sangeeta’ song will stay with me for a long time. It was a complete surprise. But we gave all our energy and focus to the work. Ah -- the shaadi outfit and I did not get along. That lehenga was swallowing me alive. It was so heavy and hot. That doesn’t come across on screen but I didn’t dress like this for my own wedding and now I know why. I give full credit to Sayani (Gupta), Kirti (Kulhari), Maanvi (Gagroo) and Bani for being not only excellent co-actors but supportive, generous, sassy, amazing young women, figuring out life, day by day.

Q. How do you look at the rave reviews that you have been receiving for ‘Four More Shots Please’?

A. Look, I’m an old warhorse. I’ve been in front of the camera since I was 16 and I’m 48 now. I’ve learned not to get over-attached to neither criticism nor accolades. But of course, it is a wonderful and warm feeling to participate in people's appreciation. Social media has also changed the game and the audience lets you know very quickly and very frankly what they feel. I’m grateful -- I’m 48 and I’ve moved full time into writing-this is a wonderful gift.

Q. As a bibliophile, what are you reading these days?

A. So much -- ‘Women’s Work’ by Megan K Stack is so powerful. I’m reading Rebecca Solnit’s memoir ‘Recollections of my Non-Existence’, ‘Department of Speculation’ by Jenny Offill and ‘Figuring’ by Maria Popova

Q. As a cancer graduate, how do you look at the COVID-19 situation? How has the world changed for you and your family after the pandemic?

A. I’m immuno-compromised so I have to be more conscious than most. On the lighter side, I think we’ll see a resurgence in respect towards our health and personal hygiene. I’ve written articles on my experiences in Singapore during COVID-19 for a number of Indian publications, and I welcome readers to have a read.

Q. Coming back to the author in you, have you kept any deadline for your second book?

A. I am working on it and it’s too early to talk beyond that. But of course, I’m very proud of ‘Close to the Bone’ and the reception it has received. I have another exciting announcement about it, but given COVID-19 and the state of our world, this announcement is best delayed. Let me say: I’m a writer who occasionally acts.