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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Bhumi Pednekar: “I’m an Actor. It’s My Job to Transform Myself Into Every Character”

Bhumi Pednekar is an actor who is beyond conventions and filmy formulas. Take her success story for example:

Who knew that working as an assistant casting director at Yash Raj Films would one day result in gaining the lead role in a feature movie?

Making her debut opposite Ayushman Khurrana as the plump Sandhya in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Bhumi broke all stereotypes of what a mainstream Hindi film actress should look like to carry a ‘hit film’.

Since then, she has appeared in several films which consist of social stigmas. For instance, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha tackles open defecation, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan on erectile dysfunction and Bala on premature balding.

Interestingly her performance in Netflix’s Lust Stories exhibits her as a maid who has an affair with her employer… This also tackles a ‘taboo’ relationship.

By playing a real-life elderly sharpshooter in Saand Ki Aankh, who is thrice her age, proves that Pednekar can mould into any role with ease and grace.

Reflecting on a triumphant year in cinema, Bhumi Pednekar joins Filme Shilmy for a special tete-a-tete.

In 2018, your bold performance in Lust Stories provided a different variation to you as an actor. Had it not happened, what and where do you think your career would’ve ended up?

I don’t know (laughs). Before that film, I had three successful films, so it’s hard to measure.

But Lust Stories gave me a good reach… That’s for sure.

If anything, it has only added to my ability as an actor, I got the opportunity to work with Zoya Akhtar, a director I love the most.

Ultimately though, it’s a different medium. The trajectory overall has still been the same. By then, I already signed the films that I was doing.

As for my career, being associated with Yash Raj Films makes me feel very fortunate. I started working there when I was 17 and it’s more than a production house for me.

It’s literally my home and school, where I grew up. My first ever salary came from there. So my relationship has been very different.

I am lucky to be a ‘YRF heroine’. Not many actors get that opportunity to debut in such productions and I’m forever grateful.

Professionally, the 2019 year was great for you…

Yes, it’s been a fantastic one and I’m excited for 2020 to start. It’s only going to be better. I feel in 2019, I’ve kind of cemented my path I wanted to create.

It has also given me a lot of confidence as an actor… Nothing I’ve done so far has been conventional and the variety of things this year has given so much reassurance.

Though it’s been a big whirlwind for me, I’ve understood that the more experience you gain as an actor, the more you learn.

My biggest learning from 2019 is to live each day as it comes because you have no control over what happens in the future, nor can we change our past.

I believe it’s important to just go with the flow.

There was an outburst on social media for the ‘dark skin’ controversy in Bala, the ‘ageism’ debate in Saand Ki Aankh and a backlash towards misogyny in Pati Patni Aur Woh. What was your mind-set like during these moments?

When the whole Saand Ki Aankh ageism controversy happened, I was a little upset about it.

But then I was confident that once people watched the film, they would think differently and that’s exactly what happened because I’m an actor and it’s my job to transform myself into every character.

If I can’t do that and stop doing that then there’s no point in me doing what I am doing. My approach has been like this since my first film.

Be it Bala or Saand Ki Aankh, both of them had their deal of controversies. But it’s okay it happens. It’s a part and parcel of every film that you do.

The beauty of it is that once the films were released, people looked beyond the makeup or issues they had because the movies stood for something bigger.

But surely this the social media trolling must’ve impacted your psyche and personality at some point?

With my job, people have thousands of opinions about me. I’ve just learnt to filter through them.

I have geared myself up not to be impacted by them as much as possible.

At the end of the day, we’re all humans. Being an actor, you get people commenting on your hair, looks and clothes on a regular basis. You’re under public scrutiny all the time.

So you’re constantly getting flack. With love, you also get the flack and that is something which you really can’t take it too seriously.

In fact, that has also been the biggest learning for me.

It’s important for an individual to know their moral compass and if you do things that do not compromise that, then you should do it.

Having said that, constructive criticism is always appreciated and at the end of the day, I’m a sensitive, compassionate, intelligent person. I empathise with people.

I think things through. I’m not silly in being impulsive so I just need to have confidence in myself and the craft.

Plus, I’m hardworking so collectively… All these things matter.

Sonchiriya was one of the most underrated films last year. Despite getting critical acclaim, how do you feel about the lack of attention given to it at awards ceremonies?

When it comes to awards, I just feel that all good films which are critically acclaimed – need to be a part of the nominations and should be considered.

I don’t think they should only be about popular films that make money. By the end of it, we are promoting good cinema that encompasses good content.

As far as Sonchiriya is concerned, I think it will get its fair share of love and appreciation. People are talking about it and have summarised it in their ‘Best Bollywood films of 2019’ articles.

It’s flattering when you see two of your films on that list. I’m grateful for that and the film changed me a lot, for the better, as an actor.

We all worked very hard, especially Sushant (Singh Rajput). He was very good in the film. One has to appreciate people for the effort they put into a film.

Be it Bhoot – Part One, Durgavati or Takht, 2020 is jam-packed with some potentially brilliant projects…

It’s really crazy because we’re starting the year with Durgavati. Again, it is a very special project, I am collaborating with Akshay Kumar sir once again, though in a different space.

The film’s genre is something which I’ve never done and it comes with a lot of responsibility as it’s riding on my shoulders… It’s a completely different ball game and feeling. Nervous and excited!

Akshay sir is producing the film our collaboration is of a very different kind in comparison to Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.

Of course, when you work with somebody, there is a certain relationship you build and he’s someone I’m very fond of.

He is someone I really admire plus, he has a great sense of knowing what the audiences like. I’m thankful to him for giving me my first solo film.

He approached me for Durgavati after Sonchiriya, for which he appreciated my work.

Despite the movie didn’t do well, for someone to have faith in investing money in you is a big deal. I respect him for that confidence.

Takht is a magnum-opus directed by Karan Johar, which is keenly awaited. How has your preparation been like?

Since it’s a period film, be it the language, the way we speak we all have to adapt to this.

Plus, it is based in the Mughal era, so we are reading up a lot on the empire from books. Karan as a filmmaker is very sorted. He’s really at it!

I’m very excited to work on Takht. Ranveer, in particular, has so much energy and is so talented.

Everyone in the film are such brilliant actors… Even Bebo, I’ve heard so many amazing things about her.

It’s one hell of a cast so fingers crossed!

As an actor and as a person, what will be your approach as an actor and person this year?

Professionally, as an actor, I don’t really have a plan. I’ve never had a formula. I have been very fortunate to have got the scripts that I get.

I’m very clear that I don’t want to do roles which make me comfortable. I want to keep experimenting with myself and this will keep happening.

As for me as Bhumi, I think 2020 will see me become a lot more responsible I am very passionate about climate change and our planet, I’m constantly advocating that.

I want to take that cause forward and speak more strongly about it. I want to do so much more about it this year.

#Throwback: Listen to our interview with Bhumi Pednekar here:


Undoubtedly, Bhumi Pednekar is amongst the finest discoveries in current Bollywood, who definitely hit the bullseye in 2019.

Given her ascending and impressive journey in cinema so far, we are certain that it’s only going to get bigger and better.

Here’s wishing Bhumi all the very best!

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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