We speak to young actors Dhurga Lingasparan and Prakash Arasu who are both set to make their stage debuts in Vidiyal 4: Devadasi this Friday, 6 January 2017 at Goodman Arts Centre’s Blackbox.

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Currently into its fourth instalment, Vidiyal 4: Devadasi is all set to thrill audiences with its first show this coming Friday, 6 January 2017 at 7pm. The production, spearheaded by budding director Nishmen Nair, revolves around the sombre theme of human trafficking. As with previous sequels, Vidiyal 4: Devadasi too will unfold both on stage and on screen. Expect a range of stage performances incorporating song and dance by a number of fresh young talents. The main cast also includes Jothi Selvam, Ambigai Uthaman, Sharon Roosevelt and Viknesh RS.

ChutneySG caught up with two young actors who are no strangers to the local Indian television scene for a chat on their experiences with Vidiyal 4: Devadasi. Dhurga Lingasparan, 22, and Prakash Arasu, 23, tell us all about their impending stage debuts.

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1. You have both starred in television dramas prior to acting in Vidiyal 4: Devadasi. How is acting in a television production different from acting in a stage production?

Dhurga: When you are starring in a television drama, the scenes can be retaken should you forget your lines. So the viewers don’t get to see your on-screen blunders. But when it comes to being a part of a stage production, it’s really a whole different ball game. I’d say that the actors are basically in a “do or die” situation. From voice modulation to body language, every aspect of your acting has to evolve for the stage. As far as I’m concerned, a stage production is many times more nerve-wrecking than a television drama.

Prakash: Acting in a television drama gives the cast more time to rehearse and go through lines. Being part of a stage production is more demanding. Ten times more demanding, I would say. This is because a stage actor needs to reach out to the entire audience – from the front row to the last row. It requires actors to express more through body language and facial expressions. You might not be able to be seen clearly on stage by the audience in the last few rows, but you still have to try your best to express emotions as much as possible.

2. Tell us more about how you first broke into the local Indian television scene.

Dhurga: I auditioned for the role of Sudha in Vetri 3. When I went for the auditions, I was super nervous upon seeing the number of people who had turned out for it. Initially, I wanted to walk out, but thanks to the support of my friends who had accompanied me, I somehow mustered enough courage to try out for the role. The other girl who had auditioned for the role alongside me was really good too, so I was pretty shocked when I received a call saying that I had snagged the part of Sudha. I suppose happiness took over the shock as the news eventually set in.

Prakash: My television debut was through a children’s series titled Subramani & Friends. That was about a decade ago! I was quite lucky to be selected for the role. I was playing football at the basketball court of my school and there was a Suria shoot going on then. I was chosen to be one of the boys who was playing football in the background for one of the scenes. From there, I was called for auditions for Vasantham’s dramas.

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Dhurga Lingasparan plays the affectionate daughter Hema in Vidiyal 4: Devadasi.

3. Tell us a little about the characters you both play in Vidiyal 4: Devadasi.

Dhurga: I play a character by the name of Hema in Vidiyal 4. She is pretty much a loving (and sometimes annoying) younger sister who feels responsible for her mother’s well-being. As the plot progresses, Hema’s life takes an unexpected turn for the worse – watch Vidiyal 4 to find out what it is!

Prakash: Vidiyal 4 revolves around the theme of human trafficking. I play a character by the name of Ajay. He falls in love with a girl, runs away from home with her and is later kidnapped. You will have to watch the production to find out what happens next!

4. What’s your favourite part about playing these characters in Vidiyal 4: Devadasi?

Dhurga: My character, Hema, adores her family. I would say that I have been lucky to play a character who very much resembles me in real life – I am very close to my family as well. Since I’m able to relate to the character, filming my scenes in Vidiyal 4 was an enjoyable experience. The scenes in which the love between mother and daughter are portrayed always reminded me of how much I love my mother and my close-knit relationship with her. Also, Hema is a strong character. Being able to play the role of a strong woman was my favourite part about this production!

Prakash: In Vidiyal 4, I get to act alongside a few other actors who all play very different characters. Hence, I get to express myself in different ways in relation to how these other characters behave. That’s my favourite part about acting as Ajay in Vidiyal 4.

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5. What have your respective journeys filming Vidiyal 4: Devadasi been like so far? Any notable challenges?

Dhurga: There were quite a number of challenges faced throughout the course of Vidiyal 4. Attempting to understand the emotions of my character, Hema, and stepping into her shoes to deliver a convincing performance on screen was a major challenge for me. Also, since the theme of Vidiyal 4 is human trafficking, it made it all the more emotionally draining for me. I am sure the audience will be able to sympathise with the real life victims of human trafficking when they watch the production unfold on stage and on screen.

Another notable challenge was time management. Scheduling shoots and stage rehearsals was particularly tough due to everyone’s varying schedules. But the crew managed to somehow pull it all off brilliantly by making sure that everything went smoothly and the needs of all cast members were met – hats off to them for that!

Prakash: There were many challenges both the actors and the crew faced during the production of Vidiyal 4. Many of the actors aren’t professionals. So that resulted in more mistakes during filming, and hence more retakes. The weather wasn’t very compliant on certain filming days, so we had to also redo some of the scenes. Time management was another challenge as not everyone was available for shoot at the same time.

6. Why should people watch Vidiyal 4: Devadasi and what makes it different from past instalments of Vidiyal?

Dhurga: The theme of Vidiyal 4 is entirely different from that of Vidiyal 3. I suppose the audience would have been able to relate to the content of the previous instalments of Vidiyal since the themes were very much family orientated. In Vidiyal 4, the audience will be exposed to a societal issue which has not exactly seen its fair share of the limelight in the local Indian society. Also, since human trafficking and prostitution are sensitive topics to address, I have to say that director Nishmen Nair has taken a bold step forward to weave a story that can come to live both on stage and on screen.

Nishmen has done his research and I’m sure that everyone who watches Vidiyal 4 will leave empathising with victims of human trafficking while pondering further on the issue.

Prakash: One good reason to come down to catch Vidiyal 4 is that there are many new faces who are part of the production. I believe that new talent should always be recognised. Please also do lend your support to the younger generation who are set to take over the local Indian arts scene here in Singapore. Nishmen Nair is a young director who has put in a LOT of effort without much support from arts institutions or organisations. The Vidiyal series has not exactly been a very well recognised production, so please do help make it a recognised one in the near future.

The theme of Vidiyal 4 is totally different from that of Vidiyal 3; it’s about human trafficking while Vidiyal 3 had a very family orientated storyline. I also think that the incorporation of dance items into the plot in Vidiyal 4 is particularly good and will be a treat for the audience! You have to watch  the production to find out how the dance sequences and the live singing ties in with the overall storyline.

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Image: Scarlet Stills.

7. What have been your biggest takeaways from the experience of starring in Vidiyal 4: Devadasi?

Dhurga: I have learnt never to judge anyone based on their profession or background. In the past, when I heard about prostitution, I always used to think that the women could get out of the stigmatised profession easily if they wanted to here in Singapore at least. Being a part of Vidiyal 4 made me realise that there are women all over the world who are tricked and forced into a helpless situation which endangers their lives as well. After my first day of filming, I came home to read up on the issue and the stories I came across really broke my heart. It’s really sad that some stories which should be known to the world are being covered up and cast aside.

Apart from that, I’d just like to tell everyone that it’s my first time acting on stage, so it’s very much a learning experience for me! I hope that I can do justice to my role and to the production. Please go easy on me, guys!

Prakash: I’m not a stage actor. I’ve only been exposed to acting in television dramas so far. Hence it was a challenge for me to deliver the same amount of energy on stage. Vidiyal 4 has definitely pushed me to be a better actor both on stage and on screen.

8. Has Vidiyal 4: Devadasi given you an opportunity to discover a side of you which television dramas previously have not?

Dhurga: I have only recently begun to act in television dramas, so there’s still a lot for me to learn. Vidiyal 4 is a whole new learning experience for me, and who knows, I might even come to realise that I do like starring in stage productions afterall. My character in Vidiyal 4 is not exactly the most mainstream of characters. Playing the role has emotionally affected me on certain occasions because I’m able to sympathise with the character’s plight. That has caught me by surprise!

Prakash: Director Nishmen Nair has given me the chance to play the role of a matured man for the first time ever. I have to thank him for that. If you’ve seen me in television dramas before, you would know that I have only played psychotic characters (haha!) and the roles of a student before. So the character of Ajay is completely different from what I am used to.

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9. What’s your message to young aspiring actors who want to venture into the world of drama and film?

Dhurga: Go for it. Never ever give up without trying. I myself am still learning from my experiences as an actor every single day. It’s really a whole new world out here, so don’t ever limit yourself when it comes to your aspirations. People may say all sorts of things to dissuade you, but it’s up to you whether you want to put yourself down as well or stand up to take a leap of faith. I have received so many negative comments but if I had allowed them to affect me, I would not have been able to live my dream. So if acting is your true passion, look ahead and go for it – be confident and strong. If I can do it, so can you!

Prakash: You should always be learning something new from someone, be it your co-star or veteran actors. Learn from every single person you meet on your acting journey and you will definitely succeed. Also, never forget how you first started out when you eventually do become successful.

10. What’s a dream character you would love to play someday?

Dhurga: I would love to play the role of an empowered female. I also happen to be quite a fan of the Harry Potter series, so playing the character of a wizard would be really cool and fun for me! Other dream characters I’d like to live out on screen someday would include boxer, musician and athlete since I probably won’t be able to be all of those in real life (haha)!

Prakash: I would like to play the role of a queer or transgender person, similar to what actor Vikram did in the Tamil film, Iru Mugan.

Vidiyal 4: Devadasi will be showing at Goodman Arts Centre’s Blackbox from 6 – 7 January 2017. 6 January (Friday): 7pm, 7 January (Saturday): 2pm and 7pm. Take a sneak peek into the dance sequences which await you in Vidiyal 4: Devadasi below:

Written by Uma Nathan

Full-time sub-editor. Part-time writer, copywriter, and editor all rolled into one. Photography, travel, food, reading and teaching take up whatever time remains.

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