From essaying unconventional characters in short films and web series to playing pivotal roles in television and movies, Aahana Kumra is an actor to reckon with. The actor who is riding high on the success of Inside Edge and Lipstick Under My Burkha opens up about her choice of scripts and the challenges faced by Hindi cinema.
Q. The kind of work you have been a part of over the years has been mostly non-commercial fares featuring challenging characters. Was there a deliberate effort on your part to be a part of meaningful cinema?
Initially, I worked on only those projects which were offered to me at that point in time. And I am happy to be a part of such films. I was fortunate that none of the characters I have played so far have been repetitive, be it Yudh or Lipstick Under My Burkha. At the end of the day, I am an actor and my job is to be honest and true to my work. I have always wanted to be a part of cinema that has a powerful theme and a well-written script. Even in future, I would prefer to be part of content-oriented movies that requires actors to showcase their talent.
Q. Talking about Lipstick Under My Burkha, did you expect the film to be so well received by the Indian audience despite its unconventional theme?
I think the Indian audience has widely related itself to the film. All the characters portrayed in the film reflect our society. Hence, a lot of people could connect with the story. It is conveyed in the most subtle way. Like my character in the movie, I am also an independent and broad minded person. I believe in living my life on my own terms. Although I have been living in Mumbai, my childhood was spent in Lucknow where girls are not allowed to step outside their homes after 5:00 pm. It’s such a frustrating and regressive life. So, the film depicts a realistic perspective of social norms and customs.
Q. When you were offered Lipstick Under My Burkha, were you apprehensive about doing it, since it required certain on-screen intimacy? Weren’t you nervous about being typecast?
Initially, I was apprehensive. Since I was aware that doing such kind of cinema can end up being labeled as bold. But as Alankrita had narrated the story to me, I did realize that the intimate scenes were not supposed to titillate. It’s not those kinds of films where you show intimacy in order to attract the audience to the theaters. And as I started working on the project, I got along with my co-actors and it was easier to shoot those scenes. Also, since my director herself was a woman so I had full faith in her. I personally felt that the scenes were an important part of the story and there is nothing sensational about it. Whosoever watched the film liked it because of its content and not just because there is a bold scene. Thankfully, I have not been typecast after the film and the audience took my role as just a character. And I am someone who has never been calculative about my work. I just do my work with honesty irrespective of thinking about its outcome.
Q. As an actor do you consider pushing the envelope further if the script requires it?
Why do we talk about pushing the envelope? For ages, we have been denying the truth. Some films have been made in the past just to titillate the male audience and to objectify a woman. We just squirm at the mention of ‘nude’. The taboos have made people ashamed of their own bodies. In Hollywood, there is no such fuss about an intimate scene or a nude scene. The problem is in most Indian mainstream movies there is hardly any scripting. All they need is pretty faces and outdoor shoots. Merely sharing a picture on social media might land you in trouble. That’s the kind of society we live in nowadays.
Somewhere I feel it will lead to change since there has been so much debate on different issues in the country. It’s a clash between two generations. One is addicted to daily soaps; the other prefers Netflix and Amazon Prime. It’s been 71 years of independence and we are still evolving as a nation. Women are being suppressed. And not just here, it’s a global issue. Malala was shot in the head just because she went to school.
Q. Do you think Nepotism is prevalent in Bollywood?
Of course! Nepotism is everywhere. And in Bollywood, it’s their family business. It’s quite obvious that sometimes outsiders like us have to struggle way too hard because of it. But for star kids, there’s far more pressure than us since they have to live up to the expectations. That’s quite scary.
Q. Do you feel that digital media has played a crucial role in providing a platform to unconventional cinema in today’s time?
Undoubtedly, it has given the young audience a choice. What AIB, TVF and Alt+Balaji are doing is commendable work. Today, people have become bored of watching song and dance. The star system is slowly diminishing. At present, even the mainstream actors are realizing that at the end of the day it’s only the script and the content that matters. You’ll see five years down the line digital media is going to take over and filmmakers will be compelled to make movies where the focal point is the content and the script.
Q. Which Bollywood directors do you look forward to collaborate with? Who do you think has been doing exceptional path-breaking cinema?
There are lot of filmmakers who are doing a great job. I like Vikramaditya Motwane, Anand Rai, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Farhan Akhtar. These are the directors I would like to associate with. I would love to work with Alankrita (Srivastav) once again.
Q. What do you think has led to the lack of content-based cinema over the years? Is it the writers, filmmakers or actors?
You can’t blame any one side. The actors are nobody to decide the script. It’s entirely the writer and director’s call. But now gradually the narrative is changing. It has already started. I hope to see far more sensible cinema in future.
Q. Who are your favorite actors among newcomers?
Absolutely, I am an actor and would love to work in different genres. As long as I am being asked to act, I shall do whatever comes my way. So, if a good role is offered to me I shall consider it. But there should be a really strong script. That’s something I always prioritize as an actor.