Last seen in Nil Battey Sannata, actor Swara Bhasker is now back with Anaarkali of Aarah, where she plays a singer who performs and recites risque numbers at public functions and weddings. It’s a film for which she shopped from the streets of Arrah, in Bhojpur, Bihar; helped put together a team; and even attended late-night wedding processions in Mathura to capture the essence of her role. Currently working out of her professor mother’s home in JNU, Bhasker spoke at length about the film, her role and being an outsider in Bollywood.
How did you come on board Anaarkali of Aarah? Apparently Richa Chadda was initially offered the role.
Avinashji (director Avinash Das) comes from a journalistic background and he had interviewed me a couple of times in the past. At a mutual friend’s party he had asked me to read the script for another actor. I was like, ‘wow, you are a saucy man’. This was before the release of Raanjhanaa. I was sold on the working title — Anaarkali Arrahwali — and then over some months I read about 20 working drafts of the script. I came on board as an actor much later, when the other actor backed out. I knew right then that this was a very brave role.
Watch | Swara Bhaskar Reacts On Anarkali If Aarah Bold Scene Leak
Anaarkali is a paan-chewing, loud woman who is fearless about her sexuality. Tell us more about her.
Anaarkali walks a very thin line between what is realistic, tacky, sleazy and gimmicky. Yet she has to make a comment about what’s happening around her socially and politically. But she is also angry at the injustice meted out to her.
For this film, you even helped put together the team.
I recommended people with whom I had worked before. The first person I got on board was Ravinder Randhawa as an associate director — he also wrote the lyrics for the film; Rohit Sharma who did the music of Ship of Theseus, I knew his forte as a musician. Rupa Chourasia has styled me before so I got her as well. I spent many days shopping in Arrah (in Bihar), buying those 100 rupees saris from a thela. I researched and watched performances of these singers in Kosi Kalan, Mathura. I dragged my father to watch one such performance in Mathura. I think I am channelling the ghost of Anarkali, because I was so obsessed with the film.
You have been a student both at DU and JNU and have always been vocal about issues. What’s your take on the current unrest on these campuses?
The last two years have seen the phenomenal rise of the ABVP as an organisation of professional bullies. This is not the first time (the Ramjas incident) that they have bullied and roughed up teachers and students. But I am glad at the protest that such incidents are generating. It’s very heartening to see people defend students and campuses, which should be open and free spaces.
You have been in the industry for a few years now but do you still feel like an outsider? What do you make of the comments made by Kangana Ranaut about nepotism in Bollywood?
I think more than nepotistic, Bollywood operates on relationships. It’s not a sarkari organisation holding exams where you get through on the basis of merit. It’s feudal in its nature where certain people have the power to make casting calls hence relationships matter. Of course it matters if you are a star child. But look at Shah Rukh Khan, he is the biggest star and he is an outsider. So is Deepika (Padukone), Priyanka Chopra and Kangana. Talent doesn’t remain hidden in the industry.