‘I am a reluctant glam doll’

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Chat Swara Bhaskar recounts riveting tales of a girl who wants to be in the skin of theactor only as long as thecamera is rolling

On her termsSwara BhaskarPhoto: V.V. Krishnan
On her termsSwara BhaskarPhoto: V.V. Krishnan

Swara Bhaskar oozes the warmth of a chirpy girl next door who can simultaneously focus on values of protest in democracy with ease. She could be a doll if she puts her mind to it — as we saw her in a recent advertisement of a cold drink, but left to herself, Swara is a diva without the dazzle.

Over food, which begins with jal jeera , Swara gives us an insight into a student from Jawaharlal Nehru University, whose parents are reputed scholars and who is now on the verge of becoming the next big thing in Hindi film industry.

“My biggest struggle was with pedicures and manicures, I never used to have them; but it is okay now I guess, I’m learning to wear heels. Mumbai is a great teacher. Though I have a tenuous relationship with the city, it teaches you method. Even a look at the way the maids work there teaches you merits of discipline.”

An artiste's dream

After being noticed with Tanu Weds Manu, Swara didn’t get carried away; she waited for the right roles to come by. “I have been very careful. Twenty years later nobody is going to look at a feature supplement of the newspapers to see who all appeared on Page 3, but the films I do will be there forever. They will decide how I am going to be remembered as an artiste.” She is right. Listen… Amaya might not have set the cash registers ringing, but it did establish Swara as a new force.

Having grown up on a diet of Chitrahar , Swara understands how to run around trees. “Just give me an audience, I have been a big nautanki right from childhood. It is just that I am a reluctant glam doll, particularly off-screen. You give me any role and I will try to justify it, it is the red carpet that I struggle with. There have been times when directors have told me I was too intelligent for the role, even when I kept saying try me!”

Mumbai also made her learn to cook. “In Delhi, I was a spoilt brat. In Mumbai, I got the slap of reality. Now I can make dal-chawal and try roti.” She tries fusion dishes as well. Chewing on basil- and lime-marinated grilled fish Swara recalls the school days when her mother used to pack a new variety every day to school but Swara looked for noodles in her classmates’ tiffin boxes.

“One day she complained to my class teacher and she admonished my friends for eating my lunch. It was such an embarrassing moment for me and my classmates made fun of me for a week.” However, now she realises her worth. “My mother and grandmother don’t eat non-vegetarian food, but they cook such amazing meat delicacies. I am the opposite. I can’t touch non-vegetarian when it comes to cooking, but I am not in a hurry. I will learn when I have kids!”

Tasting spinach kabab with corn kennels, Swara recalls her great food experiences. One was in a restaurant on Gaza Strip. “It was the best Middle-East food that I ever had and I could not come to terms with the fact that this was the same place that became a war zone now and then.” A few years ago she took the bus to Lahore on a whim. “Along the way we were asked questions such as ‘Why are you going alone?’, ‘Are you Hindus?’… But we had a great time. People offered us place to stay with them. Sometimes we create a perspective without checking the ground reality and keep believing in it,” she muses.

Staging protests

Having been part of IPTA and N.K. Sharma’s Act One, Swara was in Delhi recently to perform with her cultural group Swaang, which specialises in protest songs. “Most of us are outsiders, who are trying to create a niche in Bollywood, but don’t want to give up on our roots. It is really important to protest. It is a right that’s increasingly becoming risky in India. I recite the poetry and act in our theatres production Beech Ka Rasta Nahin Hota (there is no middle path), based on a poem by Avtaar Singh Paash.” Going through the rich array of desserts, we discover that she is doing Yash Raj’s Aurangzeb and Anand Rai’s Raanjhnaa. “While Atul Sabharwal (director of Aurangzeb ) was asking for a controlled performance, which is very difficult for a trained Bharatanatyam dancer such as me, Anand wanted me to play a desi Benaras ki ladki when I am urban from u to n.” But, she’s not complaining!





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