In the cinematic world where actors are ditching black and white roles to play grey characters, stars like Bhumi Pednekar are chasing the rainbow. Right from the start of her career, Bhumi wasn’t up for confining herself to a box. Her latest film Badhaai Do, where she shares screen space with Rajkummar Rao, takes you through the hardships and struggle of two individuals who opt for a lavender marriage to keep their sexualities under wraps. The trailer has already caused enough buzz to intrigue the audience about the film. In this exclusive chat, Bhumi gives us an interesting insight into her character Suman, and what she learnt from her. Excerpts…
What intrigued you the most about the story of Badhaai Do?
I can’t pinpoint one thing but it definitely starts with what the film stands for. This film celebrates inclusivity, it’s brave and courageous. Rajkummar’s character Shardul and my character, Suman are fearful at times, brave at times. The film revolves around their friendship and how it helps them overcome their fears. What really stayed back with me about Badhaai Do was that there are so many things that you laugh about, but you also end up questioning whether it is okay to find this funny.
In what parts do you connect or disconnect with your character?
I don’t think there was ever any disconnect while shooting. I come from a privileged life and live with a lot of freedom. I never had to hide who I am. Sumi is not leading the life she would want to lead. She doesn’t have the freedom to love the person she wants. That is not who I am. But there were a lot of things that resonated with her as well. Where the preparation was concerned, I had to dig into the parts of my life where I had no liberation. She is vulnerable and yet fiery. She speaks when she has to and that’s what I connected with. She’s a hustler and has to make it through life. She’s mentally prepared for the fight.
Was there a scene in the film that made you empathetic towards Suman?
There were moments with her father that were changing points for this girl. It would be unfair to bring it down to one particular scene because it wasn’t just about coming out of the closet. You have one battle with your family and then the society at large. You can’t normalise something people aren’t even comfortable talking about. But her relationship with her father is something to watch out for because it brings about a big change in her life.
Have you ever spoken to someone who has a Lavender marriage?
I have been a part of many journeys my friends have had. It’s a tough conversation to have. So many weren’t accepted by their families. Some are still living a lie. It is more than about bringing your partner back home. The point is, their sexual preference should not be stirring anything at home. Just because same sex couples are lesser in number, we think it’s not normal. That’s the problem. There are so many teenagers and young adults who are on a lonely journey. So I hope they watch Badhaai Do and find comfort.
Most of the films on the LGBTQ community fall under the comedy genre. Why do you think that is?
I honestly don’t have a clear answer for this. Every narrative is different and the one that we chose is one that makes you laugh while making you feel many more things. We did not make this a comedy because we wanted more people to come to the theatres. I feel it is easier to get your point across to the audience when you are making them smile. Comedy teaches you a lot about life.
When do you think we will cast people from the LGBTQ community to play roles about them?
I completely agree with this. We need a lot more representation, whether it is in front of the camera or behind it. Before any of that happens, we need to work on acceptance. By the end of it, we are actors and it is our job to take on different roles. Having said that, we definitely need more roles written for anyone from any of the vulnerable communities. But change takes time and we are working towards it.
How has your understanding of the community changed?
I have had many family members from the community but I’ve always had a third person view of their lives. Now, I feel like I’ve lived one, even though it was for three months. Everything that I thought I knew before was nothing. The claustrophobia, the constant pressure of not being yourself is difficult to deal with. There is trauma, there are mental health issues we don’t even understand. There are so many people who are alone. So many young adults blame themselves and think they are wrong. This conversation needs to change.
Have you ever had to compromise personally or professionally to keep the situation from getting worse?
The film doesn’t speak about compromise but it’s about people who choose to be in a set up like this and eventually you realise that it’s not a compromise. There is a lot that happens in the film. Even though it may seem like it started out as a compromise, the two take a lot of courage from each other and it doesn’t end with one. But personally, I have never compromised. I was fortunate to be born in a family that taught me to be me. I had choices and that itself is a great privilege. Nothing was a taboo in my family. Professionally, I don’t know what to call it, compromise or sacrifice but to be a female actor in a male-dominant industry, subconsciously I compromise here and there. But I try to avoid that as well.
If a friend of yours said they wanted to have a Lavender marriage like one in the film, what advice would you give them?
The advice I would give is that whoever is going to be your partner, needs to know your complete truth. I am nobody to tell them what is right or wrong. But the only thing I will tell them is to not keep whoever they are in the dark. If the person they’re marrying knows the truth, and if they accept it, then it is okay. You can’t cheat someone.
Movies you think have portrayed the LGBTQ community well?
Call My By Your Name, Queer Eye and Mira Nair’s’ Fire. Today, such phenomenal work is happening. Even if you watch a sitcom like Modern Family, the way the couple is shown is exactly the kind of normalcy and acceptance we need. My family or friends shouldn’t look at me differently because of my sexual preferences.
Is there still a topic or genre you feel like you want to do?
There aren’t enough stories about women who were part of the freedom struggle. It’s such a male-dominated storyline and narrative, it bothers me. I’m sure there were enough women who were part of it. So it is one thing I would like to do, amongst many other things, of course.