Updated: August 24, 2021 1:14:33 pm
Lara Dutta’s first brush with cinema was during her growing up years with other “fauji brats.” She recalled how there used to be screenings at an airport near the place she was living as a kid. “The screening used to be at the airport where everyone used to be invited. It was never a latest film but a movie that released a couple of months ago. However, it was great fun because for all of us fauji brats, as we used to call ourselves, it used to be the ultimate outing. The first time I ever went to a theater was when I moved to Bangalore. Just like any other Indian family, the greatest treat as a family was to be able to watch a film at the theatre together. And I don’t think that feeling has changed even now. Watching cinema has been an integral part of our culture I would say,” Lara told indianexpress.com.
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Lara’s film BellBottom is all set for a theatrical release. In the Akshay Kumar starrer, Lara portrays the role of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The actor says even she couldn’t recognise herself when she saw herself in the mirror for the first time.
“I couldn’t recognise myself. First of all, being offered to play the role of a personality like Indira Gandhi is a dream come true for any female actor. You wait for years to play such an iconic role on screen. But it is also needless to say that it is a tremendous amount of responsibility as you need to portray a legendary figure correctly on screen,” Lara expressed, adding, “Getting the resemblance was an integral part.”
Complimenting the prosthetics team for their great job in transforming her, Lara said once the look was put together, her job was to take her performance a notch up to justify playing Mrs Gandhi on screen.
“When it came to performance, I knew I had to pull up my socks to make myself believable on screen. There was a lot of prep that went into that as well. I watched a lot of footage and archive videos of Indira Gandhi. I was also lucky to get notes from my father. While he was in the Indian Air Force, he used to serve Mrs Gandhi as her personal pilot. So, he became an integral source of information for me. Through him, I got an insider perspective rather than just what was available to me through the makers and what existed on the internet,” Lara said.
She even recalled that as soon as she would transform into Indira Gandhi, people around her used to behave differently. In fact, her daughter Saira and husband Mahesh Bhupathi had funny reactions.
“My daughter was amazed with the whole concept. She was around during the whole process of my transformation. But when they had put mould on my face for the prosthetics, she got worried. She was like ‘What are they doing to you Maa! You cannot breathe. You are going to die!’ For my husband, it was very unsettling. Once he saw me transformed, he was like ‘I don’t know if I can hug you or not,” Lara laughed.
“Even when Akshay saw me for the first time as the character, I remember he sat next to me and kept staring at me. I was like ‘What is wrong with you? Why are you staring at me?’ He replied, ‘This is so strange. So uncanny.’ So, such were the reactions on the sets of BellBottom. And these reactions kinda tell you the kind of aura and impression Indira Gandhi has even now on people. People were behaving in a very different manner. They were suddenly polite, suddenly standing up for me. For me, it seemed like they have forgotten who I was and what I actually look like,” Lara continued.
When asked if she shares any qualities that Indira embodied, Lara tagged herself as someone who is totally opposite to the legendary political figure. “The film deals with a hijack situation that happened during her tenure. Given the dramatic events that were unfolding, she was somebody who was very centered, poised, in control and not prone to any dramatics. So it was important to portray her in that form. When Akshay offered me this role, he told me he was looking for an actor who has a certain screen presence and a certain kind of restrain on screen. He had the belief that I will be able to pull off the role. But as a person, I am far more dramatic, which is why I had to do a fair amount of work on myself to portray someone like Indira Gandhi on screen. It sure was a challenge. But now, when I watch myself on screen, I think I have done a good job. I am happy. I cannot wait for the audience to see the film,” the former Miss Universe replied.
Interestingly, Lara started off her career with Akshay. The two have featured in several films including Lara’s debut film Andaaz, which released in 2002. Tagging Akshay as her friend, Lara said work with him has always felt like a vacation. “With Akshay, work doesn’t feel like work. It is more like a vacation. He has been my supporter and someone who has constantly challenged me and pushed me to do better. My equation with him goes way beyond co-star. We share a special relationship,” Lara smiled.
Lara is all set to complete two decades in the industry. When we asked about her journey in the film industry and if she happened to witness any inside politics of Bollywood, the actor said, “I have always been an outsider. In fact, I still am. For me, being an actor or being a part of Bollywood was not like the end of the world. It was not a definition of who I am. I love the craft and I respect it a lot. But I have never put all my eggs in one basket. So, to be very honest, I never encountered petty politics that happens inside Bollywood. I have been very lucky in that sense. Of course, you have your share of successes and failures but when I look back, I don’t think I have ever experienced anything that scarred me or suffocated me. It maybe because of my attitude of live and let live. So, Bollywood has been extremely kind to me. I don’t regret anything.”
But why she has kept herself away from the big screen? “Well, there are a lot of things going on in my life. I am a producer, entrepreneur and a mother. Today as an actor, I want to take up role that is challenging enough for me to take out time from the things that are already happening in my life. It is not about being seen on the screen. It is about doing something that is worth your time. There will be time when you will see a lot of me, there will be time when I will not do as many films as others. That is me. That is how I want to balance my life,” she concluded.
BellBottom, a Ranjit Tewari directorial, is slated for an August 19 theatrical release. The film also stars Vaani Kapoor and Huma Qureshi in the lead role.
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