The rise of Bhumi Pednekar as an actor and an environmentalist has been inspiring to say the least. On screen, she’s fighting patriarchy with her powerful roles, on social media she’s making the right noises for conserving the environment. Over our zoom call, I also meet the young, simple girl who loves doing make-up and likes to look good at all times. Clearly, there’s more to Bhumi Pednekar than meets the eye. “You know because of the roles that I do… I don’t get to glam up in my films. But in real life I’m so away from those roles or those characters that I play, I take out all my frustration on myself when I’m not in front of the camera. I love playing dress-up,” chuckles the actress. One wouldn’t have known that she’s as fond of make-up kits as she’s of method acting. The stark contrast between Bhumi’s on-screen and off-screen personalities makes her more real than most. Her candid replies make you aware she’s actually woke and not pretending to be so. Her relatability is her USP and the more you learn of her inspiring journey, the more your respect grows. Bhumi started off on a strong note with Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015), then went from one high to another in her career and five years later she’s reached that point where author-backed roles are being written for her. 2020 started off on a high as she received the Filmfare Award for Best Actress (Critics) for Saand Ki Aankh, along with Taapsee Pannu. And she’s closing the year with the spectacle called Durgamati, her first project where she’s the solo lead. The candid, witty, compassionate actress talks nineteen-to-the-dozen about making her way in a man’s world, surviving the lockdown, becoming a warrior for environmental issues and losing her heart to showbiz that kind of explains the lack of a special someone in her life… Excerpts…
Durgamati is your first project where you’re the solo lead. What are your expectations from the film?
Tons and tons! My expectations are extremely high. It’s the first time I’m helming a project. The film already has a successful Telugu version which is called Bhaagamathie. And Anushka Shetty had done a fantastic job in it. I have a lot of responsibility where this film is concerned. Also, the names connected to the film, be it Akshay sir (Akshay Kumar), Abundantia, Amazon, all of them have a lot of credibility so I have to make sure that my hard work pays off. The film’s a genre breaker, to be honest. I have not seen myself do the things I’m doing in the film. There’s a lot of hard work that has gone into the film, it’s a conspiracy thriller, with a horror story. I enjoyed making the film because it’s a family entertainer. It’s not one of those horror films that you can’t watch. I’m nervous too.
Durgamati was meant to release in theatres but then the world changed. How did you react when you came to know it’s going to have a direct-to-digital release?
I’m going to be honest. I’m a consumer of the OTT platform. So I love all our OTT platforms. There’s path-breaking work happening on these platforms. But being a film actor, someone who is so used to seeing her films release on the big screen and someone who loves the theatre-viewing experience, I had mixed feelings. I wasn’t sure, especially for a film like Durgamati because it is a spectacle. The film is extremely larger than life. Once you see the film, you’ll understand that it’s an experience. So I was a little confused. I’ve already had Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare that came out on a similar platform. The love that the film got was amazing. And that experience taught me that if you have a good film, it doesn’t matter what medium people watch it on. I’m glad that at least my film is reaching people in the same timeline that it was supposed to reach people earlier. I feel that films do get stale. Every film has a shelf life and you need to enjoy it then. We all move on with our lives, I’m going to start shooting my next film in January. There is a certain amount of relevance and also the business needs to keep rolling. Besides, the kind of reach all our OTT platforms have
You worked with Akshay Kumar in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha but this time he’s not acting with you. How is he as a producer?
I would say he’s more hands-on as a producer than he’s as an co-actor. He’s someone I keep learning from. I’ve always maintained that he has had the biggest influence in my career and in my life. I was fortunate that I did the film Toilet… with him so early in my career, so I learnt many things, professionalism, punctuality, mutual respect for everyone around, being happy, hard work…. When
I saw him take on the hat of a producer or a presenter, I realised that he is as involved. Be it the script sessions that we had, the post- production work that went into the film, he was constantly checking with me when we were shooting or with the director. He was completely up to date with whatever was happening on the set. And he has four films in a year. I was like
How do you make time, how is it possible?
I don’t know, he just has superhuman strength. I did not expect this level of knowledge and investment from him as he is so busy, but he surprised me.
In your next project Badhaai Do, you’re teaming up with Rajkummar Rao for the first time. How excited are you collaborating with him and secondly are you going to miss one of your favourite co-stars Ayushmann Khurrana who was part of Badhaai Ho?
I’m definitely going to miss Ayushmann. I think the chemistry that AK and I have is cracking. It just happens. You know whenever we speak to each other we’re constantly telling each other that we haven’t found that comfort elsewhere, even though I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing co-stars. But me and Ayushmann, there is something special about what we do. And coming back to Rajkummar, he’s one of my favourite Indian actors. I thoroughly love his work. I’m nervous that I really have to up my game. He’s so good with comedy. I’ve met Rajkummar a couple of times in a professional space for Badhaai Do. He is such a nice guy, so sweet, so secure about his craft, that is something I really appreciate in a co-actor.
Now, this is one question all movie buffs want to know. What is the progress on Takht?
I know everybody wants to know this, but I feel you should ask Karan Johar. It’s one of the grandest and at the same time one of the most powerful stories that I’ve heard and read. And whatever will happen with Takht will be great.There are people senior and higher up like Karan, who should give you clarity on this.