'Big' screen surprise

debut date

'Big' screen  surprise
Eighty-five kilos-plus on screen, and a mere 64 kilos when we meet: Bhumi Pednekar, the latest in a long line of Yash Raj Films’ female finds, is a woman of substance — no pun intended.

Part of the casting team of the banner for six years now, Bhumi, 25, has played Sandhya, the new bride from Haridwar, overweight, comfortable with her flab and yet a self-respecting, educated woman, who just wants a nice husband and a job in this year’s surprise hit, Dum Laga Ke Haisha (DLKH).

Staying grounded

The actress is fun, warm, grounded and effusive, and informs us that she has always been cool about her weight. “I weighed a little more than this, but had to put on weight for the role by eating outside khaana. Those were the happiest days of my life for I am a great foodie even at home, and also because I did the other thing that I loved — acting!”
Today, Bhumi has a three-film contract with the banner. But that’s where Bhumi reveals to us that she had this flair for acting since she was 12.

“But I never joined YRF with such hopes, or even told my bosses about it. I knew that for someone my size, a conventional lead role was not practical. And I was okay with that,” she clarifies, adding, “I do not know what they looked for when they chose me.”

So untroubled was Bhumi with her lack of acting ambitions, in fact, that like the rest of her team she too was most excited about finding the perfect girl for DLKH when the time came. Providence made her superiors decide that Bhumi herself could be a candidate, and she was told that she had to record a ‘mock’ audition as a guide for applicants from outside Mumbai. When she was told finally that she had ‘passed’ a real audition, Bhumi’s only reaction was, “Really?”

But that, she confides, was only the first test. More stringent auditions had to be undergone before the role was finally hers, as director Sharat Katariya was not sure if an urban, Maharashtrian lass could be Sandhya from Haridwar. “That became my biggest challenge, to convince him that I could do it,” laughs the actress.

When she was finally on, Bhumi began workshops with theatre actress Seema Pahwa (who plays her mother in the film), sharing life experiences rather than reading the script. And then she took off to Haridwar to get to first base with the town and its culture.

Bhumi stayed with a line producer’s joint family, cooking, even sweeping the floor and changing his small children’s clothes. “I also spent time in the houses shown as my husband’s as well as my parents’ in the film, as it was important to feel like my character,” she explains. “They were all real locations and there were no sets. I even went twice to local beauty parlours to do my facials and shopped for my on-screen clothes to get the right feel.”

Many inspirations

Bhumi is grateful to her co-stars for inspiring her. “Besides veterans like Sanjay Mishra, Seemaji, Alka Amin and Sheeba Chaddha, there was Ayushmann Khurrana, who was so cool yet hardworking that I soon realised that it would be alright to ask his advice, discuss scenes and even make mistakes sometimes.”

Laughing at the memory, she also raves about Ayushmann’s caring concern for her during the five-day shoot for the climactic outdoor race. “Yes, he actually carried me and would continuously ask me if I was comfortable. They had hired a body double for the long shots, but he wasn’t as fit as Ayushmann and could not even pick me up.”

Basking in rave compliments from people she cares about, like colleagues Parineeti Chopra and Ranveer Singh, Bhumi treasures her mother’s words the most: “I am proud of the actor you have become, and the maturity with which you played Sandhya. You were so comfortable with your body.” Bhumi’s starry stock, we predict, will be rising — fast!


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