The actor tells John Byrne how her first job renewed her hunger for acting after years of being told she’d only be cast for her ethnicity lowered her confidence
My first job was in London in 2017, very soon after I graduated from drama school. It was for a theatre production called Child of the Divide, which was due to tour the UK.
The play is set in India in 1947, moments after Partition is announced. It is told through the eyes of Pali, a Hindu child left behind as Indians and Pakistanis flee to either side of the border. I was sent the play in advance as on the day of the audition, Jim Pope (our director) and Sudha Bhuchar (the playwright) would pick scenes for me to perform.
Sudha’s writing is so tender, poetic and human. It’s exciting when you’re given a play where everyone is battling through something, especially when it is based on a historical event. What Sudha wrote is so important. We’re not told about our history, the British Empire or the part they played during Partition.
For the audition I was extremely nervous, sweated a ridiculous amount and questioned my outfit choices. There was a lot riding on this casting. I’d recently graduated, the tenancy for the house I was living in was coming to an end and I needed deposit money to find a new one. These factors are hard to ignore when you’re going up for auditions. I didn’t mention my circumstances, but I used that determination to set myself apart from everyone else.
I was passionate about this piece and brought my authentic self to the room. This job revitalised my hunger for acting, having left drama school with no confidence after years of being fetishised and told I would only get places on account of my ethnicity, rather than the talent I’d spent years nurturing.
I’ve come to recognise how detrimental drama schools can be on young people and their mental health. It’s taken a lot of self love, therapy and forgiveness for myself to be freed of those demons. For a Bangladeshi, working-class girl from Bristol, I am incredibly proud of my career and I am so excited to see how it continues to transform in the face of adversity.
Theatre includes: Does My Bomb Look Big In This (Soho Theatre), Three Sat Under The Banyan Tree (Tara Arts), Child of the Divide (Bhuchar Boulevard – UK and Toronto tours)
Film includes: Supernova (BBC Films and British Film Institute), The Scar (HOME Manchester)
Agent: Byron’s Management