Aditi Vinayak Dravid on her Best Actress win at Berlin Film Festival: ‘My performance in Ijaad has placed a benchmark’

Performing has been part of actor Aditi Vinayak Dravid’s life for over two decades. Born and raised in Pune, the now Mumbai-based Dravid has always been performing whether through Bharatnatyam, her theatre days to becoming a household name courtesy of popular Marathi television series Mazhya Navreya Chi Bayko and Sundara Manamadhe Bharli and her silver screen debut with National Award-winning Marathi film Goshta Eka Paithanichi.

Dravid was recently awarded the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance in the bilingual (Hindi-English) feature film Ijaad. In the one-character film, Asmi (played by Dravid) has had an impactful incident in her childhood which is disturbing her present. But she finally decides to face it, go through the process and emerge victorious. The film, produced by Muktaayan Arts and Entertainment LLP, is directed by Piyush Kulkarni.

So far, the movie has made the rounds of the film festival circuit and has been a part of over 12 national and international forums including the 2021 Calcutta International Cult Film Festival and the 2021 Madras Independent Film Festival.

Here are excerpts from an interaction with Aditi Vinayak Dravid:

Q. How was your experience working on Ijaad?

It was my first work in the psychological genre. I have mostly worked in drama as that is the major theme in television serials with commercial subjects. Ijaad is a single-character movie which is less- explored. I felt good about it as it was quite a new thing. The film is based on the theme of lucid dreaming, the kind of dream where the individual can control what they dream. Director Piyush has had this concept for a long time. It was a challenge for me as an actor to hold a full-length feature film by myself. It was completely performance oriented. There was no other element to uplift the plot. It was a good experience for me as an actor as I got a better understanding of how much I could push my limits. There are projects where you receive a briefing or have a sample and references to get an idea of how to go about the process. Ijaad was a clean slate experience for me. But it also gave me the liberty to react as spontaneously as I would want to react as prior referral points act as a block sometimes.

A still from Ijaad

Tell us a bit more about your character in Ijaad.

The protagonist Asmi had endured an incident in her childhood with her parents which has stayed with her till her adulthood as she has not received any closure. The story of the film runs on two parallels – one where she is awake in reality and another where she is dreaming. Soon, the two overlap in a way that she does not understand whether at the given point in time is she in reality or in her dream. The title of the film ‘Ijaad’ translates to a scientific invention but here it is Asmi’s self-discovery, a brave journey she undertakes. Asmi is a character whose life is falling apart and she is trying hard to put the pieces together. As an actor, I had to get into her psyche. If the restlessness that she underwent did not hold the audience, then the victory that Asmi gets once she discovers herself will not be believable to the audience.

On winning the best actress award at the Berlin Film Festival

When I got the email from the Berlin Film Festival, it was the cherry on the cake as the film has been very well received by the juries and critics. I am looking forward to the film being made available for the audiences as well. The award hopefully will also help us get a platform to showcase our film, as it has been made specifically for OTT.

I knew I wanted to be an actor but it was something I discovered along the journey. People who are familiar with my work on television might find my work in Ijaad quite surprising and different. They will see my higher levels of skill as an actor. Personally, now as the days go by, I believe that my performance in Ijaad has placed a benchmark for my skills and I now want to be better.

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