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'Age Has Liberated Me'

By PS AARYAN KHANNA
December 17, 2021 13:39 IST
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'The prime of my career is now.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Lara Dutta/Instagram

Lara Dutta feels she is in the best phase of her career now, thanks to all the roles she is getting to play today.

The latest is playing a mum to a teenage daughter in Hiccups And Hookups, a Web series on a very unconventional and liberal family.

In a candid chat with Rediff.com Contributor PS Aaryan Khanna, Lara says, "I played the character of a woman who is unapologetically ambitious, who had her faults and was having an affair (Hundred), to playing Mrs (Indira) Gandhi in Bell Bottom and then playing Vasudha in Hiccups and Hookups. It is like a party for me."

Hiccups and Hookups is a family story, but has an unorthodox approach to relationships. Is that what attracted you to this script?

Yes, in a way. Looking at the young people around me, including my nieces, who are 22 and 17, they have a very different approach with their parents in comparison to what we were like while growing up and the relationship that we had with our parents.

Today, youngsters are much more vocal. They have no filter.

They are far more confident about broaching subjects that were considered uncomfortable or taboo with parents.

They are not really worried about how parents will react. If the parents do have an adverse reaction, then it is something that the parents have to deal with, not the kids really.

We were locked inside our houses for one-and-a-half years due to COVID, with nobody else but our families. I think it has given us time to pause and reflect on these relationships.

I wouldn't call it an unorthodox approach, I would like to call it an honest approach.

I think this show shows the concept of having family members as our friends, in whom we can confide and share all sorts of things with them.

The show is a remake of the American comedy drama series, Casual. Did you happen to watch that?

We were aware that Lionsgate was adapting from Casual. I hadn't watched Casual before.

I had no idea what Casual really entailed and it was only after we went on the floors, that I watched one or two episodes.

It seems very different from what we were making, apart from the basic premise.

The situations, the language, the intonations are very different.

You play mum to a teenager. Are there any bits in the mother-daughter relationship that you have experienced in real life as well?

Not really. My daughter is nine years old.

I have no experience of being a mom to a teenager, but I am an aunt to a teenager and as I said, I had the opportunity of observing my nieces in their lives.

Obviously, when I am building a character, I will draw inspiration from observations, from watching other people's lives and maybe a little bit from experience.

So, my relationship with my daughter is very different from the one that I have with my daughter on screen.

But I am assuming that very soon, I will have a teenager on my hands and hopefully, I will learn from my reel life and carry that into real life.

Do you think single mothers in real life are always facing such situations with love and relationships or is your character just a heightened reality of what things could be?

One of the most fulfilling parts of me being an actor is the fact that I can bring characters on screen that are highly relatable.

Also, I have received feedback from single mothers as well as single women, who are navigating this current dating scenario. They say the character really resonates with them.

The circumstances or the incidents in the show are things that have really happened to them.

I don't think this is a heightened reality.

I just think that women who are in marriages, relationships or maybe a generation that I belong to haven't really needed to navigate this field.

We're a generation that was raised for being always conditioned to look forward to pretty much all or nothing.

I think the women that are navigating this field now, it is an awakening for them to understand that it is absolutely fine if you are not only looking for 'the one' and you are just looking for somebody to be there for whatever amount of time that you want them to be there for.

Should bonding in families between siblings or kids with their parents be as it is shown in the show?

Why not? I think that I have grown up in a fairly liberal family setup. Being an armed forces kid, my father has been extremely open-minded.

Simple things like, he would go and buy sanitary napkins for the women in his life -- his wife and his three daughters.

There was never anything that was considered taboo or shameful or something that should not be discussed.

I feel that you create a sense of security, a sense of openness when you encourage families to be able to confide in each other. It is not about having a liberal view.

It is not considered 'bindaas'.

Just because we can discuss anything doesn't make us a cool family.

It is about providing a safe and secure environment for the members of the family to be able to talk about issues that are very relevant in their lives; their sexuality, sensuality, their sex lives, and so on.

There was a time when actresses were written off after a certain age. Do you think that concept has changed now?

Yes, of course. If you ask me, I would say that age has liberated me.

It has given me a chance to break free of all the boxes I was forced to fit into at the so-called prime of my career.

I think the prime of my career is now.

In my 20s and 30s, we were invariably subjected to playing the hero's girlfriend or wife.

It was very limited and I think with age, I can now confidently move away from that.

It has given me an opportunity to breathe, to really be adventurous, to explore these multiple facets of myself as an actor.

I think it is brilliant that you have so many more actresses on screen now in their 30s, 40s, 60s.

Wonderful actresses like Ratna Pathak Shah and Neena Gupta are still doing incredible work on screen and are such a joy to witness.

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I was recently talking to Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah, and they said a similar thing. They said post 40, they are enjoying roles much more than what they were doing when they were in their 20s. Do you relate to this statement?

Definitely, I agree with them.

Is this a golden period in Bollywood to get offered such different varieties of female characters?

Yes, I think this is the most exciting time for me.

This is the reason why I actually became an actor.

I never became an actor to be a star.

I became an actor because I just wanted to play these really multi-faceted roles on screen and I think I am finally being given the opportunity to do so.

For me, it has been an incredible year.

I have had a wide variety of roles have been offered to me in the years 2020-2021.

From doing Hundred on Hotstar, as an OTT debut for myself (to now).

I played the character of a woman who is unapologetically ambitious, who had her faults and was having an affair (laughs), to playing Mrs (Indira) Gandhi in Bell Bottom and then playing Vasudha in Hiccups and Hookups.

It is like a party for me.

IMAGE: Lara Dutta as Indira Gandhi in Bell Bottom.

What sort of boxes should a project tick for you?

I have never been somebody who has asked about the length of my role or how many scenes I have.

I believe that if you are an actor with confidence in their craft, then regardless of what is being offered to you, if it is a character that you are allowed to create an impact with, that character doesn't leave you.

It is the one character that really hits hard and for me, that is what it boils down to.

That part and, of course, I am a mom to a nine year old, so it is very important for me to balance home and work.

I need to figure out how much time a project requires, how long I will be away from home, whether my husband can step in and balance that out, so that one of us is always with my daughter.

These are the kind of things that I look at.

What after this can we see you in?

Well, I have a few OTT releases lined up.

I have got something that I am doing with Emmay Entertainment which is really fun, interesting and again, different from anything I have done so far.

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PS AARYAN KHANNA