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Stellar Sibling

Saturday, October 01, 2016

After a hiatus, producer-actress Bhumika Chawla revisits Hindi cinema with ‘M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story’, albeit as a screen sister. Ajit Ramachanddran catches her in inter-phew mode...

Within the swanky confines of a club located in suburban Mumbai, Bhumika Chawla is braving a fusillade of queries hurled at her - in swift succession - by a slew of quote-thirsty reporters and byte-hungry channel crews over her portrayal in ‘M. S. Dhoni- The Untold Story’, a biopic that illumines the life and times of the cricket ace essayed by Sushant Singh Rajput.

Chawla – a South crossover star who sashayed into Hindi moviebiz with the Salman Khan flick ‘Tere Naam’ (2003) – has taken the route less travedded this time around, enacting sibling to the titular character in the opus helmed by Neeraj Pandey.

Clad in an aquamarine lacy top and denim ensemble, Chawla looks fetching even as she tirelessly goes through the pace of full-dress interviews (more appropriately, inter-phews!) Excerpts from a speedy interface with a zealous PR monitoring the proceedings, all hawk-eyed...

It’s unusual for a lead star to accept the role of a screen sister in a movie. Guess, a great script and having Neeraj Pandey as the director were tempting enough reasons...
Absolutely! Once I begin filming for the biopic, I realised that Neeraj Sir is a very calm director on the sets and is extremely meticulous. Everything is very well-researched. And he has a manner of correcting you in such a decent and soft-spoken manner, that even the technician or co-actor standing next to you will not be able to hear what he’s saying! The great thing about the making of this movie is that it had great synergy running throughout the cast and crew.

How did you manage to clinch this role?
I had received a call from the casting director of the film Vicky Sidanah, which was then followed by a meeting with Neeraj Sir. I was floored by his clarity of thoughts and the vision of the character. After hearing the script, we met again once and then matters were finalised.

The danger in playing a sister’s role is that could get you stereotyped into that slot...
I know(smiles). But it’s a risk that I have taken. And I’ll know what the results are in the weeks and months to come.

How would you describe Jayanti Gupta, your character in the movie?
Jayanti, like most sisters in India, is a silent supporter of the lead character. She’s a simple and composed person.

What’s the message that goes out to audiences via Jayanti’s character?
The message is that you must stand by the person and the dreams of your near and dear and loved ones, no matter how bizarre or impractical they may seem to the world.

Tell me about the very first shot that you gave for the film…
Well, I shot for a total of 18 days and the very first shot was filmed at Ranchi. It was one, where the family is watching TV. It was a simple shot.

You’ve returned to the Hindi film industry after a gap. What are the significant changes that you see today?
Firstly, the Hindi film industry has changed in terms of timing. They have become more organised and punctual. That change was visible even when I shot my last film ‘Gandhi, My Father.’ Secondly, they have become more experimental in terms of subjects and genres, which is wonderful.

Your screen brother Sushant Singh Rajput is quite an actor too. What’s your take on him?
He’s a young actor among the newer lot and what impressed me about Sushant was his dedication and hard work. He had just started working out and was very particular about it. As a person, he’s very humble and grounded. He’s a good conversationalist too, and is a little like me. If I talk, I can go on and on… and there are days when I will be silent for hours together.

As a successful star with a track record of 42 films in six languages in a career spanning 16 years, what advice would you give new entrants to the film industry?
I can only say that there is no short cut to success, except hard work. Never let failure or success, for that matter, get to you. Have a strong set of family and friends and even though you aim for the stars and stardom, always stay grounded. Life then becomes easy.

You’ve produced movies down South too. Would you consider a co-production with your debut co-actor Salman Khan under his banner?
Co-producing a film with Salman Khan means it would have a really big budget! (laughs). Well, on a serious note, I have not been thinking about production immediately. I’m an actor first. If I do produce a film today, it would have to be a subject that’s out-of-the-box and path-breaking, definitely. Otherwise, I’m not interested.

Your husband Bharat Thakur’s ‘Artistic Yoga’ sessions are also on the upswing...
Bharat puts up plenty of videos on Youtube. He has a great client base in U.A.E, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai and Ajmal. We have three centres inMumbai and the one in Bandra is the oldest. Recently, he’s been doing a lot of work with the ‘Patanjali Yogasutras’ and has been speaking extensively on the importance of the ‘yogasutras’.

Assuming your two-year old son Yash shows an aptitude for acting soon, would you consider making him a child actor in telly serials or the movies?
I would not mind Yash doing an occasional project, here and there. But acting full-time is out of the question! I want him to have a normal, happy childhood.

How has coming from an army background shaped you as a person?
An army background is something that makes people more adjusting, easygoing and more ready to experiment life. You study in different schools in different states and cities. That definitely broadens your horizons.

You were born Rachna Chawla, but adopted the screen name Bhumika. Any particular reason behind this name change?
Well,my cousins, friends and I were chilling out. And when Imade the decision to enter the entertainment industry, they felt that Rachna wasn’t the right name. Bhumika is a name that randomly came up. I loved it and so here I am!

What’s the biggest misconception that people have about you?
Most people consider me as someone who is very coy and petite. What they don’t know is that I’m a very adventurous person at heart! I ride bikes, have done snorkelling and underwater walking. Recently, I bought a Rip Stick, which is quite similar to a skateboard. Everybody in my building from the age of six to 16 has been having a great time with it. Everyone except me, that is. I’m waiting for the promotions of this film to get over. Then I’m going to have the time of my life with that Rip Stick! And probably, I’ll break a couple of bones too(giggles).

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