‘I might have chewed Akshay Kumar’s brains’: Bhumi Pednekar

Hers was the most talked about debut, the number of awards she has won for her first film is a record in itself. This rank outsider has already shaken the industry once, but she is about to do it again with Toilet Ek Prem Katha… Excerpts from the interview.

It’s been two years since Dum Lage Ke Haisha, any anxiety issues?

I think all my anxiety died post the release of my first film. Given it was such an unconventional debut, while I was certain people will love the film, I wasn’t certain if I would be accepted as a mainstream actress not only by the audience but also the fraternity. But I was in for a pleasant surprise, everyone embraced me. I got a lot of film offers right after Dum Laga Ke… made me feel accepted and also reassured.

And then began the transformation…

Actually, it began straight after filming. I had gained a good 27kilos and I needed to reduce that plus several other kgs, so I started taking my body seriously and working towards getting into shape.

You look stunning when I see you today, but it might have been a tedious task getting here from there!

Actually, I ensured that I don’t get into the tedious tasks. I did what I could do, within reason. I would have never survived on soups so I didn’t get into that. I obviously ate only what I had to but I gave myself a lot of cheat days too so I ensured I don’t psyche myself and people around me. I know there is nothing good coming out of short cuts, I refused to take any. It took me a while to get here, but I was prepared for that.

And then you managed to land a role with Mr Fitness himself, Akshay Kumar!

Believe me, it is so amazing to just hear him talk. There is so much to learn from him. He is one of the fittest actors I know, and he knows the rights from wrongs. I might have really chewed his brains when I kept on asking me questions about fitness and stuff through the making of Toilet…

It is not every day that you hear someone doing a film called Toilet: Ek Prem Katha…

What would you say if I tell you that the title of the film is something that really intrigued me from the beginning? With a title like that you are always curious to know what the film would be about! What I liked best about the film is the fact that is a love-story. At the end of the film, not only will your mind open up a little about the way things are in our country that we privileged ones are oblivious about, it will also leave you with a smile.

What was the toughest part of being Jaya, your character from Toilet Ek Prem Katha.

Understanding Jaya. Frankly, I have always had a luxury of having a bathroom in my house. And till before I signed TOILET, I didn’t even realise it was a luxury, I simply took it for granted. I couldn’t for the life of me think what women might be going through when they have to walk 4-5kms to answer the nature’s call. To not be able to go when they want to, with the fear of being seen. To be molested, raped and what not, because the only hours you go out of the house to defecate is after sunset or before sunrise…. Even to enact the role, to lift my sari and squat, pretending that I am answering nature’s call was humiliating experience. To get my head around it all was tough.

What is your take away, emotionally from Toilet…

There is so much, having worked with someone Akshay Kumar, for instance, has been such a learning experience. Here is a man who has already worked in over a hundred films who wants to do rehearsals each day so that he comes prepared on the sets. He is one of the first persons to reach the set, despite his many years in the industry, and his stardom he isn’t taking it all for granted. Instead his is giving more.

Also, I must admit like most, I didn’t know that the problem of sanitation in our country is due to our deep rooted cultural issues. The regressive ideas that we are harbouring even today… it was an eye opener.

Would you tell us a little about what are your next projects like…

Post this, I will be seen in Shubh Mangalam Savdhaan. I am hoping people like my look as much as they have in Toilet… the characters are both diverse and we have made a conscious effort. Other than that, there are a few other films which I am not free to talk about… all I want to say is a big Thank you to the industry and the audience for having embraced me so quick and so thoroughly!

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