Bhumi Pednekar is one of the prominent names from the new age cinema. Her choice of films has always been applauded by both critics and the audience. Her new film — Saand Ki Aankh, based on the lives of sharpshooters Chandro and Prakashi Tomar, is inspirational in many ways.
Bhumi and a few of her contemporaries like Ayushmann Khuranna, Rajkummar Rao, Taapsee Pannu, are focusing on scripts that are out-of-the-box yet powerful. Bhumi says that content-driven cinema means a lot of hard work. “We are trying to change things and challenge the comfort zone we are in, which doesn’t happen easily. I am extremely happy that I am part of the change and the revolution. The change is important because we need to push boundaries, change the content that’s been developed. We are such a big country, which has a huge pool of talent, we need to make the most of it,” she says.
Every character that she has done so far is different from the other. But being different in the film industry can be quite challenging considering the industry tends to stereotype actors, directors. “I am very fortunate to be offered such good work. I instinctively react to a script. I now know that I do not want to do run-of-the-mill kind of roles and enjoy challenging ones,” she says, adding, “Stereotyping happens when you do similar kind of work. I have had five releases till date and though most of my characters belong to similar social strata, their backgrounds, stories and journeys are not the same. I work hard on my body language so that I can make them different from each other. I love to be the queen of heartland cinema but all my characters are different.”
Working in ‘Saand Ki Aankh’
Bhumi, who plays one of the title roles along with Taapsee, says that the journey of both the women on whom their characters are based, is very inspiring. “They have changed the lives of over 50,000 children. They truly are the symbol of courage and strength. For an actor, it is a role of a lifetime — to be able to play a character that is 40 years older to your real age, is great. I am constantly seeking challenges, seeking parts that challenge the actor within me and Saand Ki Aankh is much more than that,” she says. The film, is releasing today (Oct 25) along with Housefull 4 and Made in China.
The actress not only had to play a much older character but she had to learn shooting and get the mannerisms of a village woman right too. Throwing light on the preparation, she says, “A lot of homework goes into a film but this one was a little extra. Firstly, I had to think like a 65-year-old, whose life is so different from mine. These two women lived all their life in their house with a ghunghat (veil) covering their face. Their eco-system consisted of the 100 members of their family.
They didn’t know that they could have desires, dreams and opportunities and they were happy with it.”
“That’s the way their society is structured. It was not until they tried shooting and got it right at the first attempt that they were encouraged to take it up as a sport. They only did for their daughters because they didn’t want their daughters to have the life they themselves led,” she says, adding, “To be able to feel like a mother and a grandmother, be submissive and get rid of all the ego and impulsive stupid nature that I have, was the toughest. The makeup etc, are technical challenges.”
She says that it was two and half months of preparation right from learning Haryanvi, pistol shooting to learning to live like the dadi. The entire process was a challenge, says the pretty actress. “Sitting everyday for makeup for five hours is tough and it was so harsh on our skin. We had to wear body suit to match the dadi’s body type. More than anything, for us, it was a responsibility playing these two women, who are very active and loved,” Bhumi says.
In fact, the film has already been made tax-free in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Bhumi feels it needs to be made tax-free across the country. “This is a story that will inspire many people and it’s about women empowerment. It’s not just about uplifting the sport but more about uplifting the gender. This film is for every person who has a dream but doesn’t have the courage to fulfill it because you are constantly told, ‘You cannot achieve it’.”
She is happy that the film has been passed with a ‘U’ certificate with zero cuts.
Controversy around the film
Saand Ki Aankh is the directorial debut of writer Tushar Hiranandani. The film has had its own share of controversies. Neena Gupta on Twitter had pointed out that she would like for the film industry to cast age-appropriate actors for older roles. Soni Razdan too shared similar concerns. “I do not disagree with this. Yes, filmmakers should cast actors of certain age for a particular character but having said that, it is the filmmaker’s prerogative to cast whoever they want. There is a dearth of good roles being written for women and specially of that age group and no one is denying that,” she says.
“But if younger actors have decided to take up such challenging part, they should not be receiving any flak. I am not speaking against Neena ma’am or Soni ma’am because I am sure they have nothing against us. We love them as actors and vice versa. Neena ma’am has communicated after that as well. I am saying this in general terms. Half of people who were commenting on her tweet are anti-feminist,” she adds.
Need for message-driven cinema
Ask her what is about her and message driven-films (Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan) and she says, “It’s something that’s required in today’s times. If we look at any of the legendary films, there is always a lesson. Pop up entertainment is something I enjoy but I don’t want to do it. Cinema makes such an impact on people, you have to make the most of it.”
Bhumi has an equally interesting line up of films including Bala, Pati Patni Aur Woh, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare and Bhoot - Part One: The Haunted Ship. When she signs a film like Pati Patni..., which is out-and-out commercial, is it because she wants to take a break from meaningful cinema? Bhumi laughs and says that Pati Patni...is very meaningful. “Meaningful doesn’t really mean it has to be serious. Apart from Sonchiriya, none of my films has been serious and dark,” she says before signing off.