Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR
She’s strong, opinionated and largely endearing! She brims with positivity, and is someone you can actually have a long conversation with. But amidst a hectic day while promoting her upcoming release, ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’, we catch up for a quick chat with Bhumi Pednekar about this re-launch of sort and more…
Akshay Kumar said to us that it’s pretty courageous for an actress to do a film like ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’….
This film primarily is a love story but it deals with a very important social message. I don’t know if it is courageous of me, but I think it was really important to do the film. I love my country, and I have a strong voice. I am opinionated and I’m taught to be opinionated. I’m a feminist; I really feel that we as a society need to change. So, for me as an actor to get a film where I get to romance my co-star, and there are beautiful songs was great. For me, ‘Toilet – Ek Prem Katha’ is one of the greatest romances that I have come across. And then a film that touches upon so many hypocrisies of our society was a win-win.
How was the overall experience and the biggest challenge during the film?
The experience was fantastic because until ‘Toilet.’ I didn’t realize the intensity and gravity of the situation. As someone who is privileged, I’ve always had access to a toilet, except when we were on a road trip and I would see people every day sitting in a line when I went to school and I’m from Mumbai, so this is an urban problem as well. I used to think it is because of lack of sanitation, but it was after ‘Toilet.’ that I realised, it is actually a mindset issue. People don’t believe that there should be a toilet in their house because you do impure things in a toilet. I find it very strange, because how can defecating be impure because it’s as natural as breathing. It’s a system which God has created. It’s a part of the natural bodily process. I think it’s great hypocrisy in a society where in a women has to wear ghunghat till her waist but they’re okay with her flashing her private parts in front of people because that’s an impure act. I learnt a lot – that this is such a threat to women; such a threat to their security and health. The toughest scene for me has to be the scene for me when I had to defecate in the open, even though it was just a scene and I was acting. But believe me, as a girl I just couldn’t get myself to pick up my clothes and pretend to be defecating. I felt humiliated, I felt violated – as if a very private act of my life has been made public. It really took a lot for me to do that.
In a way, does this seem like a new start for you all over?
Definitely. I tell everyone that this is my re-launch. What happened with ‘Dum Lagaake Haisha’ is completely done. Now what’s going to happen with my life is going to set the tone of the rest of my career. I am back to being myself, people need to accept my craft and the way I am. I am nervous but very positive.
Also, your look in the film is very simple yet beautiful.
It was refreshing. If I hadn’t kept the look this real, it wouldn’t have worked because we’re dealing with real issues, real people and real life atrocities that people have to go through. So, we had to keep the look also real. But there’s a beauty to simplicity and I really believe in it. I just went with that funda, and I think it all worked well. Even Akshay sir’s look – it is so non-hero. He looks like a common man. I look like a common woman. That I think is an achievement for us.
Do you see a difference – from your first film to your third one?
The amount of work I put in is the same because I’m very nervous before every film. I’m constantly questioning myself. I’m supercritical about my work, I’m never satisfied. I still see ‘Dum Lagaake Haisha’ and I cringe. But that’s a process. With every film, you learn a lot more about yourself, you become easier in front of the camera and I feel very lucky to be shooting constantly. It has definitely eased me out and made me confident as an actor.
“What happened with ‘Dum Lagaake Haisha’ is completely done. Now what’s going to happen with my life is going to set the tone of the rest of my career”
What has been the learning from ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’?
I think my learning has to be something that I took from Akshay sir while I was shooting the film. His motto in life is ‘be happy’. That’s something I’ve recently adopted. I mean I have always been a very happy person. But ‘health is wealth’ and your mental health is very important. So, it’s important to just have faith and do your work.
The trailer of ‘Shubh Mangal Savdhaan’ has also released and it’s got some great response. What’s your reaction to that?
It’s been so overwhelming; my social media is flooding with messages. It’s such a quirky, new concept, and it’s a thing which people don’t discuss openly. It’s such a taboo and the beauty of the film is that this taboo topic has been dealt with such simplicity and lightness and comedy. We are not making fun of anything, we are just empathizing with the couples who are in that situation. The girl and the boy. We don’t realize that it could be the boy’s issue but the girl is equally, so it has been dealt with a lot of respect. The world of the film is also beautiful.
One does see a pattern though. Choices that are very unique, new, and quirky – yet the idea of these films is to entertain. Has that been conscious?
What has attracted me the most, are my characters. I love all these characters. They are so strong. By strong, I don’t mean they are overpowering people but they are girls who are simple and have a lot of self-respect. Sandhya was timid, she was naïve, soft, but when it came to standing up for her self-respect, she stood up. Jaya is opinionated, strong, and feisty. Sugandha from ‘Shubh Mangal Savdhaan’ is immature, she is child-like and protected, but she stands up for her love. So, all these women have a lot of courage and that’s what attracted me towards them.