“No way, you’re speaking to the actor who plays Saba,” my younger sister exclaimed as I prepped for an interview with Madhyama Segal. The excitement is justified; Netflix’s Class has become one of the most sought-after web shows, with Segal being applauded for displaying a sense of honesty and self-restraint that her character, Saba Manzoor, demands. What was supposed to be an interview ended up being an easygoing chat between two women who bonded over finger tattoos, matriarchy, and being ambiverts.
ELLE: How did you prepare for a complex character like that of Saba?
Madhyama Segal (MS): Playing someone like Saba was as complicated as it sounds. However, bringing her strength and depth to the screen wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be. I wanted to bring out every ounce of Saba’s determination and showcase the range of her emotions to the best of my abilities. More than superficial preparations, I focused my energies on understanding Saba’s emotions, something that unfurled slowly. That proved to be a lot more emotionally draining than I expected; bringing out a certain vulnerability to the screen is always difficult.
ELLE: You’re also a professionally trained classical and contemporary dancer. How did it help you prepare to face the camera?
MS: Dance has been at the core of everything I do for so long! And it will always continue to be that way. As an art, it has really helped me with my expressions and learning how to emote. This is what made my transition to acting easier. Even though dance has been my safe haven, I picked up certain elements from it which pushed me to be the actor that I am. For instance, the rhythm required in dance movements is something I use in dialogue delivery and tuning in with my co-star. On some days, I feel like they’re identical, but some days I also feel like a complete stranger to the space.
ELLE: Saba is opinionated yet vulnerable. Does the character have hints of Madhyama in it?
MS: I’d like to think that Saba and I do meet at some point, but at the same time, there are stark differences between us. When you’re playing a particular role, you always end up pulling out your own experiences and emotions to do justice to it. I see my strength and pride in Saba when she fights for what she believes in. There’s an undeniable strength that I grew up with, and I gave it to my character. However, she and I differ in her conservative and introverted outlook towards life.
ELLE: Speaking of feminism, do you and Saba hold similar viewpoints?
MS: I think for someone like Saba, who isn’t your picture-perfect feminist icon, it comes in phases. She does what she wants and is fixated on her goals. Her life revolves around working towards a financially independent future. Like my character, I never had an ideal definition of feminism growing up, but gradually, I learned to unlearn certain beliefs to build the future I deserve.
ELLE: What kind of roles are you looking forward to exploring now?
MS: As cliché as it sounds, I want to spread my wings. While playing Saba was an exhilarating experience, I want to dip my toes into characters that aren’t anything like her. She leaves a lasting impression on everyone, and I consider it a job well done. Saba will always be close to me, however, I’m waiting for roles that allow me to break away from her.
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