MUMBAI: Actor Janhvi Kapoor instantly agreed to feature in Zoya Akhtar's short in the horror anthology "Ghost Stories" for two reasons: to understand how the filmmaker creates her characters and because she finds herself drawn to "slightly tragic characters".
Zoya's short features the "Dhadak" star as a home nurse tasked with taking care of an elderly woman, played by veteran actor Surekha Sikri.
Janhvi says the project gave her the opportunity to understand the world Zoya creates, which is quite unlike others.
"The way Zoya sees her characters and writes them, they are grounded in reality. They are detailed and never one dimensional, she layers them in a way I don't think many filmmakers have cracked. I wanted to be a part of this world and get to know how these characters are made. It was just curiosity," Janhvi told PTI in an interview.
The actor says the story and the character resonated with her on a very "weird level".
"I think I am fascinated with slightly tragic characters," she adds. Calling Zoya an incredible storyteller, the actor says the director, quite meticulously, handed over her a five-page backstory for the character before the film rolled.
"A lot of discovering who my character was, was also about her physicality - the fact that she was a nurse, there was a certain body language. "The way she would dress while working and not working dictated a lot of her intentions. She had a specific way of talking".
The actor was shooting for "Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl" and "Dostana 2" when she landed on the sets of "Ghost Stories" and was told, last minute, she had to put up an accent for her character.
"Zoya asked if I speak Tamil or Telugu. I said I don't so she asked me to do an accent. I did one, because my DoP in 'Gunjan' is a south Indian. Zoya was like great, let's do it. Imagine she is a nurse -- an orphan, part of her backstory -- who has grown up around those Kannadiga sisters who bring up orphan kids. This happened on the spot! Luckily that day I had only one-two dialogues," Janhvi adds.
The actor then relied on her house help, a Kannadiga, to pick up the specific accent.
"The way she speaks Hindi was very specific to what Zoya said. All her 'h' are silent, so she says, 'teek hai', 'kaane may kya chahiye. I made her say some of my dialogues, recorded it and then we just went with it!" "Ghost Stories" would be her follow-up to her 2018 debut "Dhadak".
The 22-year-old actor says she has picked all her projects purely because they offered new opportunities for her to learn.
"The films I have picked after 'Dhadak' have been--what people have told me--slightly unexpected.
Everything I have approached has been through the lens of 'is this an opportunity to learn?' "If it has been, I have jumped at it. To work with Zoya, Surekha mam and Vijay, on this story, seemed like an opportunity of a lifetime for an artiste to grow from".
"Ghost Stories" will stream on Netflix from January 1.