As children Bhumi Pednekar and her sister’s favourite pastime was flopping down on their mother’s bed and engaging in endless conversations. During one such chat, Bhumi told her mother she would become an actress.
“So, yes, I’m not an accidental actress. I meant to be here. The path I took was different, but I knew I would be here,” says the assured performer, whose latest Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (SMS) directed by RS Prasanna, released on September 1.
Having said that, Bhumi confesses she did not join YRF as assistant casting director in the hope of getting launched. “I would have otherwise been packed off to London to study. I wanted to enter the industry, and working with YRF meant being part of the fraternity. YRF is like my film school; I’ve done so many things there, and it taught me a lot.”
It is this confidence that saw Bhumi take up a role such as Sandhya in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Jaya in Toilet Ek Prem Katha and Sugandha in SMS. Each of these roles has seen the Mumbai born and bred actress travel to the hinterland. How difficult was it to absorb influences of small-town India and make them her own? “Though I’ve been raised in a metropolis, I think I’ve picked up enough material for some more films set outside of it. I love to be around people, and strike a conversation with them. I people-watch, and you absorb so much,” says Bhumi.
Going by the promotion exercise for the film, Bhumi comes across as someone with a funny bone. “Oh yes. I believe humour stems from intelligence and wit, and I think I’m a fairly smart person. I don’t take myself too seriously and like joking around. I always tend to see the humour in any situation. It allows you to move on. It helps that I love discussing my imperfections and flaws,” she says.
It was one such face that she showed in her debut, piling on 27 kilograms. “Everyone wondered if I was unwell or depressed, because I was rapidly gaining weight. But, I saw myself through my family’s eyes — my parents have always told my sister and I that we are beautiful inside out, and in my mind, I look a certain way; that will never change. I realised how much I’d piled on only when I watched the movie on screen.”
Speaking about SMS, Bhumi said she never had to think much before committing to it. “It is about a couple dealing with a situation; it is a sensitive, unique love story. My character stands by the boy through everything, because she sees so many good traits in him.”
If she looks and feels real in the film, that’s because the writer of SMS Hitesh Kewalya rooted the Tamil original Kalyana Samayal Saadham in Hardwar and lent it the pizzazz of small-town India.
“As an actor, I believe in research. I do my homework before hitting the sets. But, these days, writers and directors come well prepared, even before the script reaches us.”
Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi’s careers have met at a sweet spot with SMS. “We are kindred souls and think similarly. We’ve become better friends now. We are both subtle, real actors. Of course, if a script comes along, I might take up an over-the-top role. I might not be comfortable in it, but I can pull it off,” says Bhumi.
Has she ever received a film that is in tune with the real Bhumi? “I did get offers, but my policy is this: The script is king. If wearing jeans and a tee will get me more work in a bad film, I prefer my salwar kamzees in a good film,” says Bhumi, whose next is with Abhishek Chaubey. “I want to do a nice mix of films. I grew up watching Smitha Patil, Shabana Azmi and the works of veterans such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Bhattacharya. So, yes to song and dance, but also to sensible content.”
How does Bhumi rate herself as an actor? “Very poorly, I’m extremely critical of myself. When I watch myself, I feel I would have done better. I’ll be happy if people tell me SMS is my best performance. That means, I’ve learnt something from the previous film.”
And no, all the adulation never permeates her personal space. “I continue to have the same non-filmi friends, and go back to a loving home. But, I do get upset when people comment on my behaviour, because, in my life, it is a direct comment on my family. And, my parents raised their daughters well.”