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'Women in our cinema are frozen in time'

By SUBHASH K JHA
March 10, 2021 14:12 IST
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'This is the kind of dream role that actresses beyond a certain age don't get in our country.'

IMAGE: Pooja Bhatt in Bombay Begums. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pooja Bhatt/Instagram

Pooja Bhatt makes a stunning comeback to acting in Netflix's Bombay Begums.

Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, the six episode series has strong female characters, played by Bhatt, as well as Shahana Goswami, Amruta Subhash, Plabita Borthakur and Aadhya Anand.

Bhatt looks back at her experience on the show and tells Subhash K Jha, "I'm looking forward to Season 2 of Bombay Begums. After that, if I don't get something like this, I'd be happy to not act ever again."

Congratulations on a stunning comeback in Bombay Begums. Why have you hiding yourself from the camera?

(Laughs) Thank you. I got busy with a whole lot of production work.

...Where you introduced a whole lot of talented but ungrateful actors.

(Laughs) That's true.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Pooja Bhatt/Instagram

How does it feel to come back after so long? Is acting like swimming and cycling which you can never forget?

I am glad you asked me that.

Acting is like cycling.

When you get on a cycle after a long gap, you are a bit shaky but soon, you are steady.

That's what happened to me.

When Alankrita Shrivastava came to be with Bombay Begums, I was like, 'Are you sure? I am a bit rusty because I've been busy producing films.'

But she was positive she wanted me to play Rani.

 

IMAGE: Pooja with Alankrita Shrivastava, Amruta Subhash, Plabita Borthakur and Shahana Goswami. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pooja Bhatt/Instagram

Was nothing substantial coming your way?

I was quite happy to get out of the acting space and concentrate on production.

When this offer came to me, I was in the middle of a schedule of Sadak 2.

For me, that movie was important because it was my father's.

Of course, later, the audience got to know that I wasn't even in the film.

But Sadak 2 was my chance to be associated with my father (the director Mahesh Bhatt) again.

I felt like a protective child, and I wanted to be there for him.

IMAGE: With Sanjay Dutt on the sets of Sadak 2. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pooja Bhatt/Instagram

What made you take up Bombay Begums?

I was quite taken aback when I got this role.

I got this e-mail out of the blue offering me the role.

They sent me a very detailed brief.

It was set in the world of banking and finance.

I read the plot and I was like... Wow!

I was being offered the pivotal role.

I loved Alankrita's Lipstick Under The Burkha.

Bombay Begums addresses many issues that are considered taboo in our society, especially when it comes to women.

Yes. My character Rani is going through a difficult menopause.

But like I said, I was in the middle of Sadak 2, so I said thanks but no thanks.

My father was the most excited that I got the part.

But I was adamant.

I told him my love for him and my commitment to seeing Sadak 2 to its completion far exceeded any other consideration.

But as luck would have it, the shooting of Bombay Begums got delayed, so it came back to me.

You know, what is meant for you in life will come to you.

We completed the shooting just before COVID.

Then the whole year was just a blank.

Something like Bombay Begums reminds us that the focus has shifted to a large extent from the large screen to the small one at home.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Netflix /Instagram

Bombay Begums has a certain glamour and opulence. Don't you feel some of that is lost on the small screen?

You know, my launch as an actor came on the small screen in 1989, long before the OTT platform.

I wouldn't trade my launch in Daddy for anything in the world.

I remember my father telling me on the first day of shoot that he would throw me out if I didn't give him the performance he wanted.

Then I kind of moved towards film production when I was just 25.

I remember speaking to you at length during Zakhm where I wore a sari for the first time.

Now, so many years later, I am back in saris for Bombay Begums.

It is really strange how life comes full circle.

I've never heard you so happy with a role before.

It is a great script and a great role, and Endemol are wonderful producers to work with.

It's such a relief not having to worry about everything on set.

Netflix is exceptionally organised. They have literally change the definition of cinematic entertainment.

All I had to do was act and focus on my character.

I surrendered to the team and they guided my through the whole process of facing the camera again.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Pooja Bhatt /Instagram

I think what makes Bombay Begums and your character so interesting is that they address female sexuality honestly.

Absolutely! My character is going through menopause and she is in complete denial about it.

I love my first shot in the series where I am looking into the mirror.

Women in our cinema are frozen in time.

Very rarely is the process of aging in a woman discussed.

I said no to a number of offers in the recent past because they expected me to play someone 10 years younger than I actually am.

In Bombay Begums, I play 49 and I am 49 in real life.

There are women protagonists of every age in Bombay Begums.

There is a girl who is going through puberty and there is a woman, me, who is going through menopause.

This is the kind of dream role that actresses beyond a certain age don't get in our country.

IMAGE: With Rahul Bose in Bombay Begums.

And you may not get something like this again?

Which is why I am looking forward to Season 2 of Bombay Begums.

After that, if I don't get something like this, I'd be happy to not act ever again.

Doing Bombay Begums was like a vacation for me.

This new professional way of working... I hope it becomes the norm in the film industry.

It was liberating not to worry about the production because while doing this series, I also went through a health scare.

So between shots, I was popping pills and taking my shots.

But it all came together finally.

I watched the whole series recently and I was stunned.

That wasn't me I was seeing there on screen.

I felt it couldn't get any better for me.

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