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Mehak Chisti’s journey: From modelling to lead actor in web series

Post by on Thursday, July 29, 2021

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From modelling to the world of acting, transition is not only challenging but it also tests the skills to survive in competitive and complex medium of film making. Mehak Chisti’s journey depicts the same challenges as she started her career as a model and then grinding her skills by participating in various plays and theatre workshops. The desire to be a top notch actor, she joined Masters Programme in acting at Jamia Millia Islamia. She has worked in documentary shoot, theatre group, on stage and screen productions besides OTT platforms. 
In a candid talk with Rising Kashmir’s Misabah Bhat, the 27-year-old Mehak walks us through her journey from theatre groups to now as lead actor in web series ‘21 Days’.
How you got introduced to the world of acting?
After having graduated in Communication Design with specialization in Experience Design (Exhibition / Set Design etc.) from The Pearl Academy, Delhi, I worked with Design Habit, a well-known Museum Exhibition / Set Design firm led by Amardeep Behl. Soon after, I got this rare opportunity to go on a travelling assignment to various cities in the U.S. with TaanBaan, a renowned Textile Design studio. Besides demonstrating, modelling for various Sari wearing styles across the U.S., I got an opportunity to be a part of the documentary shoot for The Sari Series – An Anthology of Drape shot by Bon Duke, the well-known American Cinematographer.
On my return, I realized that communication through other mediums including acting was beginning to interest me. This led me to venture out into the world of acting. 
 Have you joined any formal acting course?
After receiving basic grooming from Prasad Bidapa, well known fashion stylist and choreographer in Bangalore, I attended my first serious theatre workshop at Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts & Research in Pondicherry. The inward- directed Adishakti experience ignited a deep interest in me about the phenomena of communication through acting.
This was followed by a long stint with Asmita – a well-known theatre group in Delhi led by Arvind Gaur where I got an opportunity to work both on proscenium and street theatre. Realising that I needed to educate myself further in this art form, I joined the Masters Programme in Acting at A.J.K. Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia.
Tell us about the various film banners you have worked with?
I have been acting ever since my graduation, on stage and screen productions. ‘Aage Kya’- a short film directed by Harleen Singh, where I played the lead female role, was my first professional acting assignment.
In 2019, I worked on screen with Dark Phoenix Studio’s Supernatural Thriller ‘Hostage to The Devil’ for the OTT Platform Moon The Indie Cinema. The following year I worked as the lead with director Sankshay Babber again for another Thriller project- ‘21 Days’, a web series with a twisted dark alternate reality to the first lockdown resulting from the pandemic. This is due for release later this year.
Parallel to this I continue to do modelling and photography for TaanBaan and Wafflesome etc.  
Do you think JK can aim to position itself as a preferred film destination?
As proved by the Bollywood films produced with Kashmir as the backdrop in 60s and 70s J&K has indeed a big potential for the film industry. Personally speaking, I love films with a good environment, good aesthetics and good cinematography.
Kashmir is nothing less than heaven and when you capture such a beautiful place while you’re telling a narrative through the lens it just adds to the value of the final product and attaches a cultural value to the film.
For example, Haider is such a fabulous piece of art created by Vishal Bhardwaj and even he said in an interview that JK is what made the movie so mind blowing, the locations are heavenly and the local culture is sensational.
Recently, the JK administration has assured local artists of facilitating them with Bollywood banners. Do you think any work has been done on that front?
While promoting the scenic beauty of J&K the policy envisages providing a platform for the local talent to prove themselves on the national level.
 The film policy is set to benefit local artists including writers, dancers, fashion designers, actors, choreographers, cinematographers, sound recordists, set designers, and others, according to a release by the Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR), Government of Jammu & Kashmir.
The work has just started but I personally believe that the most immediate result is the spark of hope that is being lit amongst the youth, the hope that they’ll get an opportunity to work under the big banners is revolutionary. With time I believe that J&K would be pinning a place for itself in the maps of cinema.
The government also launched a film industry policy. How much will that help local artists?
Revolutionary steps like these take time to be implemented but the most important and immediate effect that is visible is the creation of hope amongst the youth. I’ll quote my favourite movie Shawshank Redemption here, 
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”
 What are new projects you’re working on?
Presently, I am working on the dubbing and post production work of ‘21 Days’, the web series. Other projects that were in the pipeline have been impacted adversely by the prevailing pandemic.
Many filmmakers visit Kashmir for film making projects. What chances do you see locals getting to work with them?
The biggest opportunity that people of Kashmir experience is not the financial benefit from the films but the direct interaction with the film community that results from it. They learn as to how things work, how films are shot, the preparations and everything; it makes them curious and also motivates them to be a part of it.
Also, because of the films being made here it creates an important leverage for the place to be highlighted more amongst the audiences.
Any suggestions, which can help the local film industry?
I believe that more than Bollywood banners more focus is needed to be given to the OTT community- which is the future of the screen based creative industry.
Post the first lockdown the biggest growth has been seen in this creative digital medium. Most importantly, to promote this industry it is important to introduce such activities in schools and colleges.
In addition there is a need for setting up avenues for professional education in film making, theatre, acting, script writing, music direction and the technical side of films, TV, Internet and new media.

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