In a span of seven years, Bhumi Pednekar has achieved a feat that many Bollywood actresses aspire to. She has not only broken stereotypes on the screen with films like Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Lust Stories and Saand Ki Aankh among others but also called out the bigotry in the industry & society. She has been a champion of women rights and girlchild education and uses her social media platform to spread awareness about body positivity, menstruation and climate change. In addition to these, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, intends to implement a year-long social campaign for which it has roped in the Bollywood actress.
On the occasion of International Women's Day, India TV got in touch with Bhumi Pednekar to talk about reshaping the entertainment industry, her film choices that help change perceptions about the "ideal woman" and consciousness when it comes to brand endorsements.
Excerpts from the interview:
How are women breaking stereotypes and reshaping the entertainment world?
Bhumi: I have always believed how until 1940, women actors in our Hindi film fraternity were depicted as characters without any desires, aspirations, or opinions. Most of the roles of the lead heroines were those of good mothers, wives, or sisters to their male counterparts. They were not even given proper names and were referred to as the mother of the character, or wife of the character, etc. Any woman character having desire or passion for herself was usually portrayed as a villain. It was only until the 1990s that women like Raveena Tandon started portraying themselves as working women in addition to their beauty on the screen. Since its inception, the Hindi film industry has been obsessed with only casting fair and attractive female actors, but it is refreshing to see more actresses step up and play non-glamorous roles, thereby breaking stereotypes in the industry and providing a new flavour of acting to viewers.
The best part is how this is not just in front of the camera! We are also now hearing of and watching women take up roles behind the camera in direction, scripting, cinematography and the list is endless! Conversations like these are a testament to how the revolution in the entertainment world is well and truly on!
Talking about your own creative journey, you have done films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare and Badhaai Do. What have been your expectations from films like these and the sensitive characters you portray in them?
Bhumi: I have always had a vision towards societal change and to collaborate with the directors who want to portray women as breaking stereotypes. I have always been super confident in my film choices – I have always wanted them to be different and unique with a message that pushes the larger message of what we need to fix with our society for people around us to lead a better life.
Being a woman, I feel that it is my foremost duty to take up roles that portray women as independent and full of dignity and pride, which I have always felt was a missing element in our film fraternity. That said, I am glad to see the landscape change and the role my counterparts and I have played towards it.
According to you, how can going beyond gender and social biases on the screen help change perceptions about the "ideal woman"?
Bhumi: Our generation and mindset have undergone a paradigm shift through the years. The definition of an “ideal-woman” too has changed a lot from what it was – and I feel it is all surely for the better than what it earlier was seen as. A lot of this change is also inspired by the form of content people consume on the screen. Be it through short stories, films, or any series – the power of cinema has the power to change and influence opinions, hence it comes down to the choice my fellow actors make while portraying various roles to initiate that change.
The way I see this, one can always create a difference with the choices one make. In my case, most of my projects are in line with the aim of uplifting women. As an entertainer, it is important to realize that when you possess the ability to connect with so many people, you should utilise it for good. This is what inspires me to take up roles that portray strong women with opinions and I hope inspires every other woman in our profession to also look towards not just taking a stand, but following-through with the message they aim to deliver.
Also, are you conscious about your choices when it comes to the brands you endorse?
Bhumi: I absolutely am! As someone who holds the power to influence people through my talent, I feel my endorsement should also make a difference to society at large. This means I’d rather be associated with brands and projects, which are working towards empowering people and societies and making a meaningful difference towards them achieving a successful life. As long as I can play my bit with bringing about a change and uplifting society, I consider it a job well done!
Whisper's #KeepGirlsInSchool campaign is very close to my heart – because I see how they have been working towards an instrumental change in society. Through this movement, I've seen how young girls gain confidence when they learn about period education, which we know is still considered taboo in many parts of our country. Being a part of this change that Whisper aims to bring through this movement, it feels wholesome to enlighten young girls about something that is not and should not be unusual at any point in their lives.
Lately, you have been busier than ever, can you share something about your future projects?
Bhumi: The future as always, holds a lot of promise with some entertaining and fun projects coming your way. Why don’t you wait and see, as I keep you updated on what’s next!