It is undeniable that Bollywood actress Bhumi Pednekar who catapulted herself to stardom with her first film ‘Dum Laga Ke Haishaface to face with Ayushmann Khurrana, has carved out a place for himself in the Hindi film industry with his phenomenal acting skills and his choice of relevant but independent and impactful screen characters in a very short period of time.
Over the past few years, Bhumi has achieved tremendous success with his choice of film and progressive roles and it is true that his characters leave a message to audiences.
During his five-year cinematic journey, Bhumi has entertained us with jaw-dropping performances in films like ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’, ‘Toilets: Ek Prem Katha’, ‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’, ‘Saand Ki Aankh’, ‘Sonchiriya’, ‘Pati, Patni Aur Woh’ and ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitaare’. All of these films sparked a conversation about the company.
And just like her films, in real life too, the self-taught star enjoys creating conversations around topics that seek to bring about change or at least spark discussion.
So, on this International Women’s Day, at DNA, we spoke to Bhumi about what this day means to her, the women who shaped her life, her definition of the woman of this decade and more.
Here are some excerpts:
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I think International Women’s Day is basically for me a reminder to the world that even though on this particular day of the year we celebrate being a woman or femininity but every day we all have to, to our own actions, keep somehow spreading the message about equality, do away with the prejudices that exist in the world. I think it’s very important to celebrate femininity. The idea today is basically to reach out to those women who may not be so empowered, sharing stories, anecdotes, a personal journey, making so much noise that anyone who is deaf doesn’t understand that the inequality that exists, even in 2021, is simply not acceptable.
Do you think there should be just “one day” to celebrate womanhood?
Not at all. Even though there is a particular day and rightly so, but every day all of us through our different actions, and through everything we do through our work, through the conversations that we have in our ecosystem, we must continue to ensure that we take, even if they are small steps, that we take steps towards creating an egalitarian and more inclusive society. You know, I try to do it through my work. And I think it’s really important, if you’re an empowered woman, to pass the baton and keep helping other women, to keep the conversation going.
Plus, it’s not just about women, but also men who are often very uncomfortable about losing any kind of power. I’m just thinking to continue the conversation because unfortunately India is a country that is very deeply divided and most of the time people haven’t had enough exposure, maybe to knowledge education, people who are not evolved, it is very important to kind of hammer this into their heads. It could be like, maybe a housekeeper, it could be the gentleman who drives your car, it could be an office boy, or it could be someone in your family who thinks a girl’s good place. is to serve his family or any old school Orthodox believing that this person might have!
Who are the women who have shaped your life?
The only person I’ve given all my credit to has to be my mom. Often times we give our parents credit, but because my mom was a single mom, we lost her dad when we were very young, and even during those years I really saw her accompanying us. She never let us do our laundry or put any restrictions on us. When I wanted to become an actor, it was such an incredible thing in my family, but it was she who encouraged me. When my sister wanted to go to law school where she wanted to go, or for that matter any of our accomplishments, our mother was always literally the wind under our wings. Nothing was impossible for us because of her! While I give my mom a lot of credit, I also give my dad a lot of credit just because it’s International Women’s Day, I’m not going to take anything away from him. But I will specify to speak about my mother. She is our idol. We’ve seen her work, we’ve seen her take care of motherhood in a beautiful way, she just created that balance, even though it’s something that is expected, it’s something that is her. come naturally. She didn’t do it because the world expected her. She made mistakes and we are talking about it today. And I think that’s the beauty of being human. I think people expect women to be very perfect. I think this is the problem. Our gender cannot make us less human.
Do you think that even in a free world, women have less freedom when it comes to social media? What do you think of the hate, threats and online abuse that women regularly receive online?
Everything that happens in the world of social media is pretty much a reflection of what is happening otherwise, in society. It’s just another dimension thanks to the technology that has been added to the society we live in. So if we see hate or if you see abuse and violence against women on social media, it’s because it really exists in its entirety. The way women are physically abused, there is domestic violence, and just the lack of basic rights like necessities – it could be health, sanitation, education, food – the gender gap is very high and that is why you see it permeating all aspects of our life.
Many people confuse feminism with denigration of men. What do you have to say to them and how do you think this mindset can be changed?
Feminism is not at all about denigrating men, it is about the equality of both sexes. Sometimes people take the harder route and I’ve seen that also takes us away from the kind of gender equality we’re trying to create. But, I feel like women, in general, have been pushed into a corner for so many generations, since the beginning of history, that I feel like it’s okay to be a little hard. For me, the idea is not to find unrealistic amounts of equality. I think women can do things that men can’t.
Female stereotypes you’ve heard of?
In fact, I was very lucky to be born into a liberal family. But I had enough friends, enough people around me who unfortunately had to deal with a lot of prejudices. Even if it’s something like a girl I’m supposed to marry at a certain age or the idea that once you hit your mid-twenties or early thirties you won’t be able to find the perfect match. !
The biggest stereotype that is expected of women and it is very difficult for someone to understand which is why a woman would prioritize a career over marriage. I think, especially for a working class girl, it’s a constant battle. And I think it’s a constant battle at all levels. So I think this has to be by far one of the biggest stereotypes I’ve seen around.
How would the woman of this decade define?
The woman of this decade is going to be much more awake. She’s going to feel a lot more powerful because the last year kind of reset the whole world. The woman of the new decade is going to have a new voice because her community, her fellowship of people who support her is getting stronger and better.
Do you think it is important for women to empower other women?
I think it’s very important for women to empower each other, the reason being that there are certain experiences that only women would feel and understand. For example, I could be someone in Bombay, and I could talk to someone who is maybe in New York, I hope there can be some similar life experiences. So it is very important for a well-educated girl, who is doing quite well in her life and career, to get the message out to get the word out and to spread the love. And it can be done in the smallest of ways. For example, if someone is coming to help you at home, you can tell them your story or find ways to help them. One small action can have a huge impact on someone’s future. I think it’s so important for an empowered woman to discuss her life and struggles too.
The genre of film you have made in your career has had powerful female roles and overall in the film industry we have also seen an increase in the number of films shown from the perspective of a woman, an increase in films focused on women. film, directors, etc. How do you see the future of the industry from here?
I think this is a welcome change. Thank goodness more stories led by women are being told! I really hope that the conversation and the statement ends up turning from these “female led stories” to “good stories”. It will be like the ultimate achievement, where a person’s gender doesn’t matter in the art we are all a part of.
I think there has been a certain shift in the way people look at stories or what kind of stories they want to know, so we have to thank the audience for that. It’s time for us to share our stories because it’s the only way to create the kind of empathy we need the world to have.
I think it’s very important that people understand how a woman thinks and feels, and I believe there is no better way than the movies. I firmly believe that cinema has a huge impact on people and that is why the kind of work that I or my contemporaries have done has been truly revolutionary. Most of my contemporaries, most of the girls I can think of today, we all try in our own way to choose paths that really make our sex stronger. We try to fight to reduce the pay gap between men and women, we demand, in our work environment, equal opportunities as a male actor. We’re a long way from it, but at least we’re doing our part.