It had to be fate, says Aahana Kumra, one of the four leads in this year’s most controversial film, Lipstick Under My Burkha. The 32-year-old actor nearly missed being part of the ensemble cast. “I met Alankrita [Srivastava, director] and read the script of Lipstick… and was blown away. But I had to let it go because I was shooting for Anurag Kashyap’s 2014 TV show, Yudh, and my dates with Amitabh Bachchan had been locked,” she says.
The film ran into some difficulties and was delayed. “Half of Mumbai had already auditioned for the role. I knew I had to nail the part,” says Kumra. She did, and the later this month, Lipstick hits the big screen after a long battle with the CBFC. When we meet in Andheri, Mumbai, Kumra’s excitement is contagious as she talks about her multi-medium career, parlour tricks and what’s next.
Excerpts from a conversation:
In the last two years, you’ve performed in different mediums — television, sports anchoring, short films, web series and feature films.What has been the take-away from these experiences?
Last year, I did not waste my time at all. I did theatre as well. Each medium offers something different. In TV, the joy is when you get the cheque; there is nothing else to be happy about. But I had a great time working with my team in Agent Raghav: Crime Branch for &TV. After that, I immediately went to anchor Pro Kabaddi 2016. I workshopped for a month — learning the sport, understanding what live anchoring is about. I learned that compared to acting, live anchoring is not something that comes naturally to me.All these mediums have helped me understand how an audience thinks. I went to Vadodara for a play and kids there recognised me from a web-series I’d done called Official Chukyagiri. A lot of men I meet have watched Agent Raghav and Kabaddi. The year ended with going to Tokyo with Lipstick, which won the Spirit of Asia prize. I hope a lot of women recognise themselves in my character when they watch the film.
What drew you to the character? How did you prepare for the role?
It was how absolutely unapologetic, and fierce Leela is. Her attitude towards life is very similar to mine.She’s a pataka. She’s a beautician in Bhopal and the parlour is a kind of space where women really talk and share their lives. They might not be from the same economic class, but women’s problems are the same everywhere. They want more from their lives, and Leela will do everything to get what she wants. I know how to do my own beauty work, from my make-up to a Brazilian wax. The only thing I had to learn for the film was threading, so I did. After that, I became everybody’s parlour lady on the set.
What was going through your mind when the CBFC refused to certify the film in February?
The cast and crew have a WhatsApp group and Alankrita wrote saying that the CBFC has refused to give us the certificate. We started laughing when she sent us the letter — because we were prepared for cuts, but not this. I didn’t understand what the letter said. Was it even written in English? Are you telling me that only one kind of cinema will be made in India — of a family that eats, sleeps, does everything together? There are so many other stories. What about films such as Gangs of Wasseypur, Masaan and Titli? There is an audience for these films as well. How can you ban a film in the digital era?
What are you working on now?
I have a part in Inside Edge, that premiered on Amazon Prime yesterday. I’ve dedicate this year to theatre, so I’m rehearsing for a play with The Motley Theatre Group. We’re opening in September.