Anisa Butt shoots for The Hangout amid lockdown in Mumbai. The actress from London who has made Mumbai her second home speaks to Opening Doorz from the UK.
By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | July 14, 2020
Anisa Butt came to India after seven months (sometime in February) and ended up ‘hanging out’ for over three months, stuck at home, like the rest of us. However, Anisa is not someone who likes to while away her time. Lockdown was a time for her to be immersed in activity. “Fortunately for me, I had a flatmate. She flew to the US before me. I was very busy with my podcast and there were days that were challenging. I missed family,” she says, safe at home now, surrounded by her loved ones in London.
A week before she could fly off, Anisa shot for ‘The Hangout’, a short film by Kabeer Khurana. Shot over a period of two days, the film is slated for release sometime in mid-August. Anisa plays Alia, an empathetic do-gooder who unexpectedly meets Romi, played by Arjan Singh Aujla, on a company Zoom meeting announcing salary cuts.
Alia is caring by nature and primarily concerned by how the salary cuts will affect her donation to the migrant workers’ cause. With Alia as a source of inspiration, Romi overcomes his creative lull and decides to help in the way he knows best—through music. Romi composes a beautiful song and donates its royalties to people worst-hit by the pandemic.
Opening Doorz caught up with the always full-of-positivity Anisa in UK over telephone to talk about her ‘lockdown’, flying back and ‘The Hangout’ that happened in between.
When did shooting for The Hangout commence and was it shot remotely or on a set?
We shot over two days in the last week of June. We had our rehearsals over Zoom 3-4 days prior to the shoot and shooting was done in our respective homes. So over a period of two days, the film was completed. A day prior to shoot, a recce was done to get an idea of the space and if things had to be moved. In all, there was a group of five people wearing gloves and masks. Not me!
How did the role come about?
Kabeer (the director) contacted me about a month before the shoot with the script and asked me if I would be interested. We’ve known each other for a while and we share the same sensibility. I liked the script; it’s a really sweet film with a good message.
Can you tell us a little about your role and the film?
Without imposing her conception of morality on either Romi or the audience, Alia is an inspiring, empathetic woman dedicated to helping the less privileged. Her character is an endearing, buoyant call to remember that if we look outside our windows, we have the incredible ability to make a difference. Basically, I’m a positive person and I liked the positive vibe about the whole script. The film is a heart-warming reminder that two people, physically worlds apart, can find emotional closeness and bonding through good conversation and honesty.
You flew back to the UK on June 29 after being in India for over three months. Were you apprehensive about flying?
The flight was fine; it was a full Air India flight with a lot of safety protocol. PE kits and masks were being distributed. I carried my own food for the journey. They had also put dry food packs on the seats. I was grateful that mine was only a nine-hour flight. I know of people who have spent a longer duration on flight. It was a basic evacuation flight with no in-flight entertainment. I wanted to avoid the evacuation flight but I had to leave because my work visa was expiring and needed renewing. I also felt there was stability in cases and we’ve seen the worst part of it. In India, there is still a lot of uncertainty. In UK a lot of things are re-opening with proper safety protocols.
You wore a PE suit for the entire duration of the flight?
They were distributing PE Suits to people in the middle seats. They had to wear it although it was a little uncomfortable. I did not have to wear one!
You came to India in February and then got stuck…
It was unexpected. I was looking to coming back after seven months of being away in London. I also had some meetings lined-up with Netflix and Amazon. They were two platforms I really wanted to work with. After my third week in Mumbai, the lockdown was announced. For my family back home, it was worrying and creating a lot of anxiety. I felt at peace because I had come after a long time and there was the hope it would be short-lived. However, the lockdown kept on getting extended.
But you could have left immediately after the lockdown was announced?
True. When the lockdown was announced, I still could have left. But cases were escalating and I did not want to take the risk of flying. I spoke to my parents and everyone suggested I should stay put—it was an intentional decision not to fly in a hurry.
Did you have any safety measures to take once back?
Yes. I did my test two days after returning and it was negative. I was a bit apprehensive before the test. It was more for sanity and peace of mind and for my family. I have not done anything like this before. It’s nice to be back home with family. We can’t go back to living to exactly how it was before; there are a lot of safety measures being implemented here.
When are you coming back?
This is a question that cannot be answered with certainty. London is base for me at this point in life. The actor part of me wants to do really great work and if something was to arrive, I would like to fly back. Mumbai is second home. Right now we have to wait and see how things unfold. I’m praying for people to heal from the virus and hope that we have a solution soon. Right now, safety is the priority.