It is so hard to keep track of everything you dabble in, writing forewords for books, protesting against injustice, also working in back-to-back movies…
That’s great isn’t it? It shows I am doing something productive with my life.
What was it like doing a film as a stand-up comic amidst professional comics?
I was terrified when they offered me the part. I had no idea how I was to go about it. Playing Beanie has been terrifying, exhilarating and very liberating — all at the same time. Stand-up as an artform is not easy. I actually went out and befriended so many stand-up comedians. I am sure they thought I was stalking them. The guys might have been like, ‘Why is Swara calling us again and again, is she trying to date us?’ Well, now they know that I just needed help with a role. And believe me, it was really fun being a student of stand-up comedy. It is a fantastic feeling to be able to write your own content and perform it in front of people, but to make them laugh and share your own vulnerability is quite another. It is like stripping yourself naked in front of people, it is such a brave thing to do. I have the deepest admiration for the stand-up comics.
Talking about good times and bad, how much did the pandemic affect your work scene?
Sheer Qorma was supposed to have a premiere at the BSI and at Flare, which is a very prestigious Queer film festival. It also had a showing at the Boston film festival, we missed both of that. Faraz Arif Ansari (Director) and Marijke Desouza (Producer) were really disappointed. Having said that, I have to say that I am still very grateful for the fact that I have had three releases in 2020 starting with Rasbhari in June, Flesh in August and now Bhaag Beanie Bhaag. Both, Rasbhari and Flesh, have had great numbers, Beanie is looking good as well; people are looking excited. So, I was just grateful…
You didn’t have any movies last year, but you are always in the news…
2019 had been a very lean year for me, in terms of releases. I was in the news for all kinds of other things, but for my films. I have to thank my trolls for keeping me relevant at all times. I might be the only actor who doesn’t need to pay to stay in news.
Jokes apart, how do you deal with the trolls?
It is draining really. A lot of people tell me not to look at comments, but why should I live like that? Why should I live in constant fear of what kind of crap will be written on my wall next? Why should anyone be quiet over cyber harassment? Why should I have to develop a thick skin for abuse? I shouldn’t have to do that; the fact that I am expected to do that and that in itself is the problem. But it helps to remember that I am not alone. It is not an experience that only I am going through, a lot of people who are raising their voices, are going through the same.
We are in a toxic social environment. It is in our media, social media, why should I be safer than anyone else? This is the reality of our country right now. We have to fight it, but the first step is to accept that this is reality… Having said that, social media has given me a lot of support as well. People have recognised this is happening and have called it out... very grateful to all those people.
If there was one thing you would rather be doing instead of all this, what would that be?
I would have preferred to be shooting. This year, especially, I haven’t been on sets much, and it is killing me. I am the sanest, the most efficient, most at peace when I am on the sets. This year from March till October, I didn’t shoot at all. Even now, I am home at the moment, and I will go back on sets only at the end of January. It is very difficult for me to keep sane without sweating it out under those halogens.
Will we see you on the 70mm or do you think it’s going to be OTT all the way around now?
OTT is here to say, but I don’t think theatres can be replaced. Theatres is not just a movie watching medium, it an experience. Theatres will resurface, for sure. People will return there, where else will they go for their first dates, where will couples make-out? Just a matter of time, I say.