A Different Act


Written by Ektaa Malik |
Published:July 19, 2017 12:15 am


Bhumi Pednekar, Toilet- Ek Prem Katha, Bhumi Pednekar Interview, Akshay Kumar, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Swacch Bharat Mission, Entertainment News, Indian Express News Bhumi Pednekar with Akshay Kumar in a still from Toilet: Ek Prem Katha

She shot to fame with her realistic portrayal of an overweight girl in small town India in the National Award winning 2015 film Dum Laga Ke Haisha. After a two-year hiatus, Bhumi Pednekar will return to the big screen with Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, where she is cast opposite Akshay Kumar. To release on August 11, the film highlights the importance of toilets and the problem of open defecation in India. The actor talks about the issue, choosing socially-relevant films and her future projects.

You play Jaya in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. The film comes after a two-year hiatus.

Neeraj Pandey, producer of the film, had seen my work in Dum Laga Ke Haisha and offered me the role. That time, I did not know that Akshay (Kumar) would be in it. I heard the narration and was hooked. It is a love story, but with a strong message that toilets are essential and sanitation is a basic right for all women in India.

What made you say yes to the project?

All my life I have lived in Mumbai and have never really experienced a lack of sanitation and other related issues. While going to school, I would see people sitting on the side of the road and going about their business. I used to just blame the government for lack of infrastructure. But once I heard the script, I realised how grave the problem is. I also started doing my own research on the subject. It’s a pan India issue.

The film is not just about sanitation, but also aims to challenge the mindset that a toilet or need for sanitation is dispensable. Fifty four per cent of Indian women have no access to a toilet. It’s not that it’s difficult to build a toilet, but the fact that they don’t want to use it is the bigger problem. There is a dialogue in the film, “Jiss ghar main tulsi ka aangan ho uss ghar main shochalya kaise banaye”. Look at the hypocrisy. We want women of our house to pull their ghoonghat till the stomach, and not show their face, but we are okay with them picking up their clothes and doing their business in public.

Several people are saying that the film is inspired by the Swacch Bharat Mission.

We are not just talking about swachchta in terms of sanitation. We need to cleanse our minds as well of the hypocrisy that exists in our society.

You were born and brought up in Mumbai. But you are much at ease playing a Sandhya in Dum Laga Ke Haisha and now Jaya, both the characters are rooted in small town India.

I don’t know where that ease comes from. I suppose I am lucky that I have a huge extended family, which gave me an insight into how our small towns function. Growing up in the ’90s our big towns and cities were not as bustling and busy as they are now. I am very much a director’s actor. In Dum Laga Ke Haisha the director, Sharat Katariya, knew that world very well. And it is the same for Shree Narayan Singh, who knows the world of Toilet : Ek Prem Katha like the back of his hand.

You are two films old in the industry. But both of these are very socially relevant films, with a strong underlying message. Is that a deliberate choice?

I think so. I am a very socially aware person. At a very young age we were taught what our social responsibilities are. I am an extremely patriotic person, and have a tendency to do characters that have some impact.

In an industry that perpetuates a certain kind of body image and is obsessed with a particular look, you started off with playing an overweight girl. Were you not scared of being typecast?

I gained 27 kgs for the role of Sandhya, and then shed it. We have never had a realistic portrayal of an overweight girl in our films. They have usually been the subject of ridicule and used for comic relief. This was different. Sandhya worked because our audiences have changed, it’s a refreshing change.

Post Dum Laga Ke Haisha, so many women wrote to me saying that they related to Sandhya’s character in the film. It was very heartwarming. Our industry has also evolved. I don’t think five years ago a Dum Laga Ke Haisha would have been possible, and it came from one of the biggest production houses of the industry.

What are your future projects?

There is Shubh Mangal Savdhan, with Ayushmann Khurrana, which is a romantic comedy. I am also working on another project with Zoya Akhtar.

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