Bolly.id - When Mumbai girl Bhumi Pednekar first appeared in the movie Dum Laga Ke Haisha, she was a charming, excessively overweight actress, bringing alive a determined young girl from the small town of Uttarakhand. For a newcomer, it was definitely a very bold decision to increase in size for a debut film, but her acting was something that made everyone sit up and take note. The audiences were pleasantly surprised because no one expected a leading actress being overweight. So far, an overweight woman on the screen was simply a subject of ridicule. This was the first and revolutionary role.
Bhumi surprised everyone when she again appeared in movie Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which had her in a strong character. As an educated woman from UP, trying to bring about a social revolution by making the woman think about cleanliness as a way of life. Despite the presence of a senior actor such as Akshay Kumar, Bhumi stole the show. This is largely because Bhumi had shed 21kgs by adopting a healthy lifestyle. The audience who remembered her as a fat girl was in for a shock to see her a charming you girl with an enchanting smile.
This started a trail of movies including Shubh Mangal Savdhan and Lust Stories on Netflix. In every movie, Bhumi tried a new look and played a character that was not only unique but instantly appealed the audience.
The reason for this was simple - Bhumi nailed the look of a young and beautiful girl next door- who looked simple and natural but had inimitable power to be different.
Bhumi is out marketing her latest film, a biographical drama titled Saand Ki Aankh scheduled for Diwali release, where she plays a real-life 60-year-old sharpshooter from Haryana. It’s only her fifth film in four-and-a-half years, despite a much-acclaimed debut, but there is no stopping Bhumi.
Along with contemporaries like Taapsee Pannu, Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao, 30-year-old Pednekar, who started out as a casting director. Just like any other starry-eyed newcomer, Bhumi did not start as an actor auditioning for various roles but she used to help other actors prepare for the role. She was an assistant at the film theatre and would work hard to prepare aspiring actors for the role. But as luck would have it she found her feet and was involved in a movie that changed the way actors were looked at in Indian cinema.
Bhumi’s presence confirmed that Indian actresses need not be the angelic face, overloaded with makeup but they could be an average looking girl. She is the actor who has a story to tell. Her movie Saand ki Aankh is about a strong woman in an oppressive society. She talks about why it’s a good time to be a female actor in India. We speak to Bhumi about her choice of movies, her portrayal of a strong woman on the screen and how she enjoys being part of the changing cinema:
You have been cast in movies that are unique and offbeat. Was this a conscious choice?
Yes, this has been the most cherishable part of life as we are working hard to get the role of our dreams. I am not just talking about myself but about all the other actors who are being a part of meaningful cinema. Had it not been the kind of movie that are being made, I would be out of job.
After Dum Laga Ke Haisha, you came across as a strong actor, who refused to think of vanity?
It was once in a lifetime role where I got a chance to work in a movie that changed the face of actresses. Before this noone thought of having an overweight actor as the lead. It is high time that we break the mould as this is not the time to realise that actresses should not look a ‘certain’ way.
How does it feel to be a part of the change that the movies are bringing about these days.
All that I can say is that this is the best time to be an actress. Working on characters that are relatable and narrating a story which speaks on an ordinary story in a unique way. Actresses should be particularly happy that they are getting a chance to play varied characters and are able to tell a unique story.
Do you enjoy the fact that you are the flagbearer of the girl next door.
Well, I never intentionally thought of that, but now that it has happened I love that absolutely. We need faces that are relatable and charming. I guess such characters are being written only to brush the fantasy of people.
Your character in Saand Ki Aankh is unique. Tell us about it?
Saand Ki Aankh is about two unique women from Haryana, who changed the way feminism is perceived. I play Chandro Tomar along with sis in law Prakashi (played by Taapsee) who are tuned to the patriarchal way. It is only when they become a grandmother at the age of 60, they realise their power to shoot. This is a story of two sharpshooters
Everyone was apprehensive about the movie since it is about two grandmom and not young damsels.
This is what we need to convey -that movies are about strong characters and not simply about beautiful people. We all love to see movies that tell us a different story. The interesting part is that the audience now wants to see a movie that speaks about extraordinary characters. It is important how we tell the stories on screen.
In your upcoming film Bala, you again play a unique character. Please tell us about that?
The film is about a man who suffers premature balding. I play a dark-skinned girl in the movie. It is a movie that again highlights our fixation for fair skin. The conventional roles have only fair-skinned characters due to which we have deep-seated biases. This movie will again talk about it.
Do you think we need a feminist comment in the films?
I am a feminist but not really a social activist. I want to make a comment on society through my movies. It is important that we speak about issues that have long been avoided.
Tell us more about your upcoming movie Dolly Kitty Aur Chamakte Sitare?
All I can tell you that it is a coming of age movie about two women and their ambition. The movie is directed by Alankrita Srivastava, who previously directed Lipstick Under My Burkha. This will be one of the most amazing scripts that we have seen in a long time.
After the trailer of the movie Saand Ki Aankh was released, senior actors such as Neena Gupta, Soni Razdan commented that they should have been cast in a role of elderly instead of youngsters like you and Taapsee? Would you comment on this?
Well. I think one should realise that it is the filmmakers prerogative to decide about the actors. We as an actor should think of what we want to do.
You worked as a casting director. Did your work help you while you pick the movies?
I enjoyed my work and was known to be a hardworking person. I learned the nuances of this industry through the job. It also prepared me to be who I am. I still look back and feel proud of the job that I performed.
Tell us something about Pati, Patni Aur Woh, which is a remake of the old one made in the 70s?
It is a huge responsibility to recreate the magic of the old movie which had legends such as Sanjeev Kumar and Vidya Sinha. We hope to have fun in the movie. I enjoyed shooting with Kartik Aaryan and Ananya Pandey. We just hope that it creates the same interest as it did in 1978 when the original film was released.