A brand-new Swara Bhaskar

With two screenplays in her bag, the actor is planning to turn producer. Her ‘real aim’ is to write is to a 1,000-page novel in the George Eliot style

Swara Bhaskar

There was a time, at some point in the early 90s, when Swara Bhaskar’s idea of entertainment was Doordarshan: ‘Chitrahaar’, ‘Superhit Muqabla’ and whatever ‘80s films the channel managed to get its hands on. 

That changed in 1994 — she was six at the time — when she watched her very first film at a theatre, ‘Hum Aapke Hai Kaun’.

“I was blown. I had not seen an image that size and I was like ‘What is happening here?’. I think somewhere in me, there was a secret desire to be on that screen and in those songs and on Chitrahaar,” Swara says.

Her parents, though supportive, were on a different plain. Her mother Ira Bhaskar, professor of film studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, asked her to watch not just masala Bollywood but also international cinema. 

She instilled in Swara a love for the Bengali auteur Ritwik Ghatak.

Swara’s father, Commodore (retd) Chitrapu Uday Bhaskar, was at the other end of Bollywood fandom: he was once in an elevator with Govinda and did not recognise the actor.

Swara today has made a mark not just in Bollywood, but also on social media, where she is described as a politically ‘outspoken’ voice. (By the way, ‘outspoken’ is a word she hates).

“My parents and brother are always scared I will do something on Twitter that will land me in jail,” she told Showtime.

But people she runs into at airports, clubs and film screenings thank her for what she does on Twitter.

Swara is all set to stretch her wings even wider.

She has written a screenplay, is working on a second, and has become a semi-regular columnist in newspapers. She wants to turn producer. As for direction,  she wants to learn the craft and make a couple of short films before she plunges into a feature film.  

“At least for the next 10 years, I am clear I want to be acting,” she says.

On the world front, she is not so optimistic: “But let’s see, man, with all this climate change and all, I don’t know how long we are surviving here as a planet.”

Changes are afoot on the online front, too. In stark contrast to her very political self on Twitter, she has carved a lighter, quirkier self — and in her own words — “cuter” self on Instagram and elsewhere.

However, the reasons for this are not entirely non-political. “I went through this whole phase after the Lok Sabha defeat of the various candidates I campaigned for,” she says.

The best example of her quirky self was a recent video with her father titled ‘Cyberdad’ released on Father’s Day. Swara and her father picked out questions people on the Internet were too shy to ask their own fathers, so that they could ask Swara’s father. And many of the questions were on sex, and a question even touched on fetishes and BDSM. Swara’s cringing was real, and perhaps in a first for her, was relatable for people across the political spectrum.

She had posted a similar video of her and her mother on Instagram with the caption, “Because my mom telling me to shut up should be on the records forever!”

In the video, ostensibly posted after having bugged her mother, Swara says, “Mom, nice sari.” “Shut up,” replies her mother, annoyed.

It was, in fact, Swara’s parents were the most worried about the threats her Twitter handle got.

“They hate it. I have told them not to read the comments. They have got into this masochistic, self-flagellating tendency to read all the comments,” she says.

“My mom stalks me on Instagram, my father stalks me on Twitter. I have told them 10,000 times not to read comments. I myself don’t read the comments,” she says.

Swara’s mother sometimes gets so upset she breaks into tears. She stopped checking on the posts only when Swara threatened to block her. Her father has tried to protect her by asking her to not tweet. On some mornings Swara gets a message from him: ‘This happened in India today. Please don’t tweet’.

Her father even got her to delete the Twitter app on her phone a couple of times, once when she had gone on a holiday to Europe.

“And that became news, that I deleted my app,” she says.

For all her outgoing ways, she describes herself as “a home bug”.

“I hate the red carpet, but I do it because I have to. I hate wearing heels, but I do it because I have to,” she says.

She has three cats, Kulfi, Leila and Utpaati (meaning: chaos-maker). She doesn’t have more cats only because her brother Ishaan has told her she is not allowed to have more than three at a time.

“I will be that shady cat lady. Sometime in my life, I will have a big farmhouse that will have a fox,” she says, “Remember Enid Blyton and those country-side farm stories?”

Her goal in my life — and she has never said this to anyone — is to write a novel.

“I want to write in the George Eliot style. Though I am not sure I am equal to it at all,” she says.

The 19th century novelist is Swara’s inspiration, and she is aiming high. “I want to write a full thousand pages,” she says.

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