Pranutan Bahl is one debutante to look out for this year.
She is the grand-daughter of a legendary Indian actress Nutan, the daughter of well-known actor Mohnish Bahl and her aunt Kajol is also a famous actress.
However, the Mumbai-based starlet has carved her own life-path and despite her familial background, she decided to first pursue a double degree in law, subsequently becoming a qualified lawyer.
After years of endeavouring to become an actor, Pranutan Bahl is set to make her grand entrance into Bollywood with Salman Khan’s produced film, Notebook.
In a candid chat with Filme Shilmy, Pranutan talks more about her experience.
You’re set to make your Bollywood debut. You must be quite excited and nervous at the same time?
Absolutely. Very excited, nervous and overwhelmed with everything happening around me. But I’m very grateful!
Your character Firdaus seems to be a compassionate teacher. Tell us a bit more about your role?
Firdaus is a girl from Kashmir and as you mentioned, a teacher.
She is somebody who adores children and is very mature.
She’s had a life which has been a bit emotionally effective.
Firdaus is somebody who has a good vision of where she stands in the world.
She generally cares about people.
What was it like shooting in Kashmir…? Any particular moment that stood out the most to you?
Firstly, it was very cold and that was something we all beautifully accustomed to.
I think the energy and passion that each crew member towards Notebook is not something I can put into words.
They were determined to do everything and to the best of their ability.
The people of Kashmir are amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever come across people who are so hospitable and genuinely caring.
There used to be times where we used to be shooting on the streets of Srinagar and there used to be houses located on the side.
Residents would come out, invite us for some Kahwah (Kashmiri tea) and Biryani.
It was something I never felt before, in terms of being a guest somewhere.
I never felt that kind of real affection.
When you feel love and feel this kind of positivity/good energy, it attracts you and makes you want to be like them.
You realise how much joy there is in giving love and being around those people.
When I came back from Kashmir, I was talking to my crew members every day and call them.
It’s not possible to spend a week without talking to at least one of them.
One can’t say why you love people or why you get along with people. You can’t put a finger on it.
The film revolves around the concept of falling in love with a person you’ve never met before. How much could you personally relate with Notebook?
I always believe that love depends on security, trust and faith. I feel that these three things don’t really require you to see or meet the person.
Especially through Notebook, you will notice how the two protagonists Kabir and Firdaus’ faith in love and purity has brought them together.
I really do connect with the film on a personal level because I believe in the purity of love.
I don’t believe you need to meet or hang out with people you love every day. The feeling of love transcends all of that.
In fact, it’s a very big word.
So, do you feel the film breaks stereotypes regarding typical Bollywood love-stories?
Oh yes, definitely. I think it’s an extremely different approach to life itself.
Even for a minute if we assume that this is not a film, the entire concept of falling in love with somebody you’ve never met begs a lot of curiosity.
The entire approach to love is unique in itself.
I believe that Kabir and Firdaus are timeless. They are very special.
What preparations did you undergo to pursue the acting field?
With regards to preparing for this film, I started doing workshops in July last year and did about 3 months of exercises in terms of breathing and meditation.
We trained to understand our characters and how they would react to certain situations.
As my acting coach Mr Hemant Kher always says:
“I can’t teach you how to act. I can only teach you how to become a better version of yourself.”
That process of self-discovery has really made me a very different and changed person.
I have started believing that breathing exercises are very important.
I’m thankful to him for that.
I’ve also started believing in the power of meditation and patience.
These things have calmed me down.
Before I used to be more of a jumpy person but this entire process has taught me the focus to be an actor.
It’s not just about learning your lines and taking care of hair/makeup… Acting is a lot more about mental focus.
I didn’t know this fact until I actually started shooting for the film.
The audition process must’ve been quite lengthy?
I had to go through an intense audition process.
I had a 4-5 hour long audition with the director (Nitin Kakkar).
But it was amazing as we did about 3 to 4 scenes and he just wouldn’t let go till he got what he wanted.
That is very stimulating for an actor because nobody wants to be complacent.
To improve myself and reach his vision is exhilarating for me.
I always say that these opportunities should be treasured and I know how hard it is.
This is because I think I’ve been to every single casting office for two and a half years.
Despite hailing from a filmy background, it seems like it has been quite tough for you?
If I tell you about my journey, I wouldn’t want to say it’s been difficult.
I think that if you want to be an actor or any other profession, there is a prerequisite or procedure to follow.
Today (hypothetically) if I want to be a lawyer, I cannot say that I don’t want to give the common law admission test because my father is a barrister.
That’s not the way it works.
You have to go through due process, give auditions through your mettle and decide whether you deserve to be in front of the camera or not.
Just because it’s in my genes it doesn’t mean I’m entitled to anything.
I’m glad that my parents have given me that understanding and I myself was very particular about doing it on my own, at least.
I remember going to casting offices and not writing my last name because I didn’t want the connection.
I wanted people to give me an opportunity because they thought that I deserved it.
You should be an actor because you love it rather than just getting fame from it.
Has (or not) your filmy lineage added pressure on you as an actor?
Initially, this is something that used to raise a question in my mind and whilst watching my grandmother’s films, I used to ask my father, “should I even try? (Laughs) she is a legendary actor!”
However, dad just said that it should never bother me.
I feel that guidance, which my parents gave me, made me realise that it shouldn’t be pressure but responsibility on your shoulders.
If you start viewing it as a pressure, then you will have a negative approach to everything you do.
But the moment you consider it as a responsibility, you take it as an asset.
At that point one simply thinks, “Okay fine, I’ve got this great lineage, I really need to live up to it” and that’s what you do.
You better yourself at your craft and that has been my approach.
My lineage has encouraged me to continue their legacy.
Reflecting on your family’s successful careers, what are some of the key lessons you’ve learnt from them?
The key things I’ve learnt from them is to be ready for success, failure and take everything as a pinch of salt because that is how the business is.
Generally, in life, you take the highs and the lows, but more in this business.
This is because you have or don’t have work.
That’s why I always say that I want to keep working and hope the universe continues to give me work.
I’m the happiest on a film set. I thrive off of being on one.
Having grown-up around sets where your dad acted with Salman Khan, in what way has he guided you as a mentor?
As far as the nostalgia is concerned, I think my dad and Salman sir felt it way more than me because they started off their careers together so for them it was like a full circle.
With regards to Salman, he’ll speak less to you about acting and will talk more about being a good human being.
The values he incorporates in all of us, in all the youngsters who are hanging around him, is to be respectful, a good human being and to be loyal.
To be a good human being he just said to be real and be honest.
He recently told me not to shy away from asking for work and that kind of stuck with me.
Who do you look up to the most in life and why?
Honestly, I feel to be inspired by somebody, you need to know them very closely.
I don’t regard or hold any public figure as my inspiration because I don’t personally know them.
I can be inspired by the work they do but as a personality and figure, I don’t think I’ll be inspired by anyone.
Besides films, what else are you most passionate about and enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love reading. I used to read a lot, then law happened and I ended up reading law books.
I want to get back into reading books.
Also, I paint and draw. I’ve even done Bharatanatyam for two and a half years.
Out of your contemporaries, whose work do you admire… Is there anyone you’re looking forward to working with?
I admire Madhuri Dixit and Priyanka Chopra as actors. I think they have made an empire of themselves.
You just can’t take your eyes off of them!
The film industry is quite competitive and cut-throat. What quality do you have that makes you stand out from the rest?
I believe that every actor brings a certain uniqueness to their screen personality.
I don’t feel that we as actors are replaceable commodities.
If a filmmaker wants to cast me for a particular role it’s because I am me.
But then again if anybody can do that role, then I don’t think it’s worthy.
Then those are films which I would want to be associated with.
I don’t believe we are replaceable commodities.
We are very unique and if a director wants to cast me, it’s because I fit that vibe of the character he envisions.
I don’t believe in this quintessential sense of competition.
If somebody wants to choose me for a role, then he or she will do so due to what I bring to the table.
When Nitin sir was casting for Firdaus, he auditioned more than 100 girls.
Listen to our interview with Pranutan here!
Finally, where do you hope to see yourself within the next few years and in terms of hopes and ambitions?
Well, hopefully, lots of work.
I think the audience will take care of me.
I have enough faith in them to either give me good/helpful feedback or put me in a place where I can hopefully live up to some expectation.
I have faith in the audience’s judgement and whatever it is, I’m ready to accept it.
With optimism and hope, here’s wishing Pranutan all the very best for Notebook and future projects.
Notebook is scheduled to release in cinemas from 29th March.