‘Every role that I haven’t done as yet is a dream role’, says Bhumi Pednekar

Bhumi Pednekar on how playing Sandhya changed her life, knocking off the kilos and playing a feisty bride in Toilet…Ek Prem Katha

August 08, 2017 08:16 pm | Updated August 09, 2017 09:48 pm IST

Self evaluation:  The actor says that being overcritical keeps her going

Self evaluation: The actor says that being overcritical keeps her going

“I am just going to make myself comfortable,” says Bhumi Pednekar as she plonks herself on the couch and stretches her legs. Despite a long day at promotions for her upcoming film titled Toilet… Ek Prem Katha , the 28-year-old is at her chirpy best. Pednekar had a sparkling debut in 2015 romantic comedy Dum Lagake Haisha (DLKH ), where she played Sandhya, a plus-sized bride trying to find love with a husband who refuses to accept her. The actor’s second film has her playing a feisty newly-wed, who leaves her husband after discovering he doesn’t have a toilet in the house. The film delves deeper into open defecation, the need for sanitation in the country and conveys this message through a love story. “It is a simple story about a couple where toilet becomes the villain. The writers and the director have amalgamated the social issue with the love story without making it preachy and keeping the satire in place,” she adds.

The actor, who is only two years old in the industry, says she couldn’t have asked for a better debut. Looking back at the way her career has shaped up, she says, “Playing Sandhya changed my life. I wouldn’t do anything differently if I were given a choice. I would still want the five years of working behind the camera [working as a casting director], playing Sandhya and then having a career in films.”

Starting out

DLKH turned out to be a sleeper hit of the year and was acknowledged by the critics and audiences alike. The film opened to rave reviews and Pednekar’s performance was much appreciated. The actor insists she has a long way to go. “The thing is that I am overcritical and that keeps me going. I don’t think I will ever be satisfied with my performance. It is constructive criticism towards yourself,” she adds. After the film, she was apprehensive about being typecast in similar roles but was in for pleasant surprise as every script she read after DLKH , had something different to offer. “It was refreshing to see that the scripts I got after DLKH , the requirement weren’t for the girl to be overweight. It also said a lot about the way our industry has evolved,” she notes.

At 18, just out of school, Pednekar joined Yash Raj Films where she juggled a bunch of jobs — from casting to that of an assistant director. She was in fact, auditioning aspirants for the role of Sandhya when the YRF bosses chose her to play the role.

“I had read the script because I was casting for it but I never thought they would consider me because on paper, the girl was overweight and I didn’t match her physically.” Once selected, she embarked on the “best phase of her life” where she was “getting paid to eat and act”. “I was eating so much junk but I loved it. I was at home for one year where I would get to watch TV and eat,” reveals Pednekar adding that at times, she would get sick of eating junk and take a break but the pounds would come off. “I realised that the only way to gain weight was to be consistent and to keep eating. By the end of it, I had gained 27 to 30 kilos.”

In a different mode

The shooting for DLKH wrapped up in March 2014, and Pednekar waited until December for reshoots and patchwork. As soon as she got the green signal, she shifted gears. “I lost most of my weight in eight months. I was eating right and working out a lot. Being a hardcore foodie, I knew that I wouldn’t survive on raw salads and soups. I shared my entire journey on social media because I wanted to people to know that it is possible to lose weight with simple lifestyle changes. I didn’t use any ingredient that wasn’t widely available.”

The fact that she had to shed more than 30 kgs meant, she needed to strategise her diet well. Pednekar came up with a plan that kept her emotionally satisfied, kept her cravings at bay, gave her good nutrition and helped her knock off the weight. “I made small changes like giving up on wheat and instead have ragi, nachni, jawar or gluten-free flours. I had ghee on my roti, sabzi and dal but my portions became smaller and the alternatives healthier,” adds the actress who credits her mother for her weight loss journey. It was her mother who would diligently looked up the Internet for recipes and make sure her daughter ate healthily. “I belong to a kind of house where we were never encouraged to have coke, chips and chocolates during childhood. The emphasis was always on healthy meals. I didn’t go to a nutritionist or a dietician till recently,” she asserts.

Dreams and controversy

Recently Toilet ran into rough weather when a song from the film was heavily criticised for encouraging stalking. The song shows Akshay Kumar following Pednekar and even filming her on his mobile phone. When asked about the criticism that a mainstream film should not promote stalking, she is quick to retort that the film has no aspect of stalking. “People have gone with [just] one video and visual. The song was divided and released. After few days, the second video was released where the girl is stalking him and doing the same things. When people will see the sequence in the film, they will understand that he is not stalking me,” says the actor adding that she is yet to bear the brunt of social media as she is cushioned and protected by her portrayal in DLKH . “People have seen me in a physical shape that was not the most flattering according to the societal standard and now I have a film on a social issue. I am sure it will happen in future but I am going to stay strong and not give it any heed,” she adds. Like every actor, Pednekar is often asked about her dream role, the one she’d like to portray on the silver screen someday. After a little deliberation, she answers, “I want to get wet in the rain, wear a yellow sari and dance to ‘ Tip Tip Barsa Pani ’ but at the same time I want to do the films I am doing. Every role that I haven’t done as yet is a dream role,” she emphasises.

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