‘I don’t fear getting typecast anymore’: Bhumi Pednekar on why industry norms won’t define her career choices – An overweight girl in Dum Laga Ke Haisha (DLKH), a villager in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (TEPK), a small-town girl in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (SMS) and now a grimy-looking domestic help in the anthology Lust Stories, Bhumi Pednekar has been unorthodox in her choices in a career spanning three-and-a-half years so far. Shortly after her latest release, we caught up with the actress, who is dressed simply in a pretty salwar kameez, to speak about the risky subject and her risque role in Zoya Akhtar’s short. Bhumi talks about the challenges that she faced while portraying Sudha and why her career choices would never be similar to that of any other Bollywood heroine. Over to her…
What led you to play Sudha, given you barely had any dialogues in the film?
When Zoya got in touch with me, it seemed like a great project because it was Bombay Talkies 2 then. But when I read the script, I was like, ‘How am I going to do this?’ When you have dialogues, it tells you a lot about the character and the world he or she comes from. If I’m just quiet, it will confuse people. I had to play a house help and feel the whole class divide. The film had so many layers. I shot it a while ago when none of my work had released, except DLKH. I had just wrapped up TEPK and was shooting for SMS. It was such a big compliment that a filmmaker like Zoya wanted to do a film with me when she had only seen my debut movie.
How did you structure the role?
It was all thanks to my endless conversations with Zoya. Right from the shots to the transitions and edits, she had a clear vision about what she wanted. The purpose of her making this film was to make a comment on the class divide, and about being a girl in such a situation. For two weeks, I was maaroing pochha at home and doing all these household chores, which I have done for my other projects, too, but that was as an owner. Here, I was just the help and I couldn’t have that kind of comfort.
Being a feature film actor, weren’t you advised against taking up a project on an OTT platform?
It’s not the most conventional route to take and a lot of people asked me if I was sure about doing this film. I didn’t know it was going to release on an OTT platform only when I had shot the film. It’s still a feature release, but just on a different medium, as opposed to what I have done.
What about the physical transformation?
I have gone four shades darker, my face and hands were pigmented. This is the most amount of time I’ve taken to get ready for a film. Zoya has dirtied me right to my nails being chipped. I did gain weight for Dum Laga Ke… and I was nervous even then. This time, there was also the whole sex scene that unnerved me but Zoya is empowered, so she gave me the confidence to go ahead and do this. It was liberating working with her. She’s a boss lady.
Aren’t you scared of getting typecast because of doing only unconventional roles?
Initially, there was an apprehension because I actually didn’t know if people would see me differently. But now, I don’t fear getting typecast anymore. I have a strong personality — I know who I’m outside my work and I’m nothing like the characters I portray. Then the audiences have also matured. My intention has always been to just do good work. I have realised what my pitch is and I’m in this industry for the pure reason that I love acting. I also love the frills that come with it — the clothes, red carpet appearances and having an impact on people. But I also love waking up and telling different stories and exploring different emotions.
In a profession where looks are important, don’t deglamourised roles seem like a risk?
Hundred per cent. But Dum Laga Ke.. gave me a lot of confidence. I realised that if you are doing a film to act, nobody’s going to point fingers at you. But if you’re doing a film to just look good and you’re not a good actor, then people will. I get trolled, too, but I don’t read any of those remarks. I belong to a family where even when though my sister and I were gawky-looking as teenagers, our mother made us feel like the prettiest girls in town. So, I don’t shy away from going grimy with my looks. If my character is of the most beautiful woman, I’d do that, too. An actor is supposed to be a chameleon.