COVER STORY

BHUMI PEDNEKAR ON A 'ROLE'

BHUMI PEDNEKAR ON A 'ROLE'

"It upsets me when people come up with bizarre things, but then you get over it as it’s part and parcel of being an actor."

"It upsets me when people come up with bizarre things, but then you get over it as it’s part and parcel of being an actor."
In just five years, Bhumi Pednekar has made a dent in Hindi films. She lost eye-popping amounts of weight after a brilliant debut, turned around the classic Akshay Kumar heroine with a feisty performance and became a performer that everyday women could relate to. Bhumi has set a high standard for herself as an actor to reckon with. With her hands full with four new films and while shooting for 12 hours in prosthetic makeup in remote Uttar Pradesh, she takes a breather to talk about transformations and her inspirations with Archita Kashyap.
In a short span of time, you’ve got filmmakers writing stand out roles for you. How have you made this happen?

In a short span of time, you’ve got filmmakers writing stand out roles for you. How have you made this happen?

I honestly believe that I am a product of the films that I have done. Right from my first film, I have been extremely fortunate to find roles like Jaya from Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Indumati Tomar from Sonchirya. I have always maintained that whatever path my career has taken has been because I took my first step with Dum Laga Ke Haisha, where I played an overweight Sandhya, as my debut film. I am not an insider from the film industry so I just took the first opportunity that came my way. As an actor, because I took a risk with my first film, filmmakers took notice of the fact that I am ready to go that extra mile. And I truly am. 

What began with Dum Laga Ke Haisha, carried forward to your upcoming films like Takht and Saandh Ki Aankh, tell us about your transformations.

I am constantly looking for parts where I can push the boundaries and challenge myself. I am extremely happy with where I am today because the satisfaction I get when I am done with a character and finish a film, is immense. There is a lot of thought and work that I put into every character. My films require me to go that extra mile. Transformations that I go through are also emotional, with every character. In the end, I come out enriched as a human being. There are such fantastic stories being written and such amazing content oriented cinema is happening right now. I am very happy that I have entered the cinema at a time when the female leading actor has evolved so much and is not just the glamour quotient of a film.

What began with Dum Laga Ke Haisha, carried forward to your upcoming films like Takht and Saandh Ki Aankh, tell us about your transformations.
Is it difficult to transform into a different character, each time, given that most characters you’ve played are not like the urban, independent woman that you are?

Is it difficult to transform into a different character, each time, given that most characters you’ve played are not like the urban, independent woman that you are?

I am nothing like the characters that I play. The lives they lead have nothing to do with me. I often get asked if I don’t want to play urbane characters. But I like to take up the challenge of doing something that I am not familiar with. The process, honestly, is very hectic. All my films require a certain dialect or diction. Each character that I have played has displayed courage and personality, so I start off by un-learning a lot of things. I have grown up in Mumbai, have studied here and always vacationed overseas and have rarely been to rural India, or even have worn Indian clothes. For my roles, I have to de-urbanise myself which is as difficult as it gets. In Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Jaya is an educated and opinionated woman, but her world is a lot smaller than mine. It starts off as living as my character and then making small changes in my life when I am shooting.

Being an actor is certainly not easy. With technological advancements, roles are also getting complex. What’s the most difficult part about being an actor for you?

I haven’t cracked it yet. Now I am shooting for Saandh Ki Aankh, for which both Taapsee (Pannu) and I have to wake up and sit for 3 hours in makeup. It’s a brutal process, so tough on your skin and so tough to physically transform and look so old. It hits you on set while looking for a film. Sometimes, when your body doesn’t react necessarily to how you want to do it, it gets difficult. We sell our faces, so seeing yourself transforming, changing onscreen feels odd and but when you see the material, read the script and get on set, it all feels right.

Being an actor is certainly not easy. With technological advancements, roles are also getting complex. What’s the most difficult part about being an actor for you?
Do you feel that the Hindi film industry thrives on how a female actor looks and plays up insecurities with one’s physical appearance?

Do you feel that the Hindi film industry thrives on how a female actor looks and plays up insecurities with one’s physical appearance?

It definitely does. It's definitely an industry where vanity is given a lot of importance. That's why my peers and I, we try very hard to look good, stay fit and that’s something we can’t ignore. But personally, I find people have been rather kind. It stems from the kind of roles that I have done so far. For instance, for Shubh Mangal Savdhan, I played a character that of a young girl who is kind of lazy and comes from a family where she didn’t need to do much. So I had put on some weight for it. When the film was about to release, I had lost weight again. I wondered if I had taken this too far, given that it’s not exactly a character-driven role and is primarily a romantic comedy. But when it finally hit theatres, I saw myself and didn't worry anymore for the extra weight fit into the character. And the beauty of it is that not one person questioned it or criticised me. If a role needs me to get six packs, I will go ahead and do it. So far, I have not had people pick on me for my weight gain or the way I look. We also live in times of social media. People see you on film and then see you when your life you are living. A constant visual of the real person is there all the time, so that kind of helps. 

You’ve got four films coming up and each role is vastly different from what you've played onscreen. Which one did you enjoy shooting for the most?

Each role is fantastic but I haven’t shot for three yet. I must say that Saand Ki Aankh is different. Taapsee and I are playing women that are thrice our age! It a wholly different experience. It’s gruelling and we shoot for about 12 hours. It’s very tough but it’s a very beautiful, light-hearted story full of hope and spirit. I really enjoyed Dolly Kitty Aur Who Chamakte Sitare because she’s just a 21 year old with dreams and ambition. So both these films are very fresh and special to me.

You’ve got four films coming up and each role is vastly different from what you've played onscreen. Which one did you enjoy shooting for the most?
Lastly, do you get annoyed when your personal life comes under scrutiny?

Lastly, do you get annoyed when your personal life comes under scrutiny?

A lot of my personal life has not been discussed. I am okay about it and quite disconnected with people have to say. It upsets me when people come up with bizarre things, but then you get over it as it’s part and parcel of being an actor. A lot of times, what we do are misread and put out of context. But I am getting used to it.

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