Renuka Shahane opens up about being typecast after her role in Hum Aapke Hain Koun, her children’s reaction to it and working with Madhuri Dixit in The Bucket List after decades.
Q. What kind of response have you got for The Bucket List?
The response has been very good. Madhuri has such a huge fan following across the globe. They all were looking forward to it. I think even a lot of non-Maharashtrians have watched the film, especially in Mumbai. They were curious to see Madhuri on screen in a full-fledged role after a long time. It was a double bonanza. It is a very simple film with a simple message and it talks to the audience irrespective of language and age group. It feels great.
Q. Marathi cinema, in fact, regional cinema is finding more takers. Do you see it giving a good competition to Hindi films in the future?
Both are different and cater to different demands. Marathi film industry is content-based. Hindi films are more about box-office viability. Though niche cinema is doing well now but there are certain considerations you have to plan to make a pan-Indian film. In regional cinema, you target a specific audience and can handle varied subjects. You have budget constraints, so you have to be creative. I think necessity is the mother of invention and that is why regional cinema requires to be original to make a mark. That is why the script is the king here. Somehow Hindi films do not stick to the script with conviction despite the kind of budget they have. Certain films do that like Tumhari Sulu or Queen or Kahaani, they have done well.
Q. After a long gap, we have seen you on-screen. You have been somewhat active in Marathi cinema but been away from Bollywood. Is there a reason?
I am a hands-on mother. My bio reads – I am a fulltime mother and halftime actor-director and the rest. So, in between, the choice I made dictated the kind of work I did. Now, I am much more open to doing films on a full-time basis. For me, the people in the project and the script matter a lot in taking the decision on a film. While I am open to films, I am a bit choosy about television as I might not be able to give that kind of time. I will be anchoring for Shemaroo for a show called Cinema Ka Safar, a show on the entire history of cinema. This will telecast on Tata Sky platform. So, I want to do finite work.
Q. Do you think you were typecast in Bollywood?
Often people would come to me with similar roles that had nothing to do or explore. I would refuse because why would I want to do similar stuff over and over again. Thank god, I had choices. The kind of roles I was getting on television was path-breaking. It takes time to break the mould. You need to give that time to the audience. Like 3 Storeys surprised everyone. People had not thought of me to do something like this but they appreciated the character. If I had done it back then (in 90s), the effect of Hum Aapke Hain Koun would have been diluted.
Today, people do not associate you with a particular character. They appreciate you as an actor and move on. That time, we were those characters. When I took to television with series called Sehlaab, I played a role of a woman having an extramarital affair. People did not believe it. They would come and say “Aapse ummeed nahi thi”.
Q. Have your kids watched Hum Aapke Hain Koun?
For the longest time, they did not. When they grew up, their friends told them, ‘Your mom is in Hum Aapke Hain Koun. They thought it might be something important and worth watching. They watched it and both were very aghast that I died in the film. From then onwards, every time I sign a project they would say, ‘I hope you are not dying.’ Even before 3 Storeys, they asked me the same question. By the way, they loved 3 Storeys which was a relief.
Here’s a glimpse of Renuka Shahane as Pooja from Hum Aapke Hain Koun:
Q. Watching you in 3 Storeys was surprising. What made you take the risk of making a complete shift of personality on screen?
It was very exciting to be offered that role in the first place. Not many know that I come from theater and in theater you do varied roles – good, bad and ugly. On television too, I portrayed many shades. Now, character actors or even main actor or actresses are getting the opportunity to show human nature in the right way. There are shades of grey to one’s character. I was praying I get 3 Storeys. When I auditioned, the makers loved my role. It was a leap of faith. As an actor, you cannot create opportunities, you have to get them. So, whenever you get something like this, you have to convince the audience. A lot of my Hum Aapke Hain Koun fans were happy.
Q. Do you feel a change in the eco system of the industry in comparison to what it was a decade ago?
A decade ago women were not at the helm of things like they are now. A lot of films have women as heroes and such films have done really well. Economic viability is, unfortunately, a necessity for Hindi films for the producers to put in their money. I think the newer generation of female leads are doing a great job. They are making bold statements through their films, stretching the inhibition around heroines and accepting challenging roles. The change also assures that I would also get a producer for my film irrespective of whether the lead is a woman or a man.
Q. Coming back to The Bucket List, was it the same to work with Madhuri Dixit as it was back in the 90s?
Even better I would say. It was nostalgic journey for the entire crew to watch us on or off the screen. We were talking all through and beech beech mein giving shots. She is very graceful and down to earth.
Q. You came back on television with comedy series Khichdi.
Oh, it was amazing. I am a close friend of Aatish. I had to stop myself from laughing on the sets because I love Khichdi and was really happy to cast in the series. I loved working with Hansa (Supriya Pathak), Jayshree Ben (Vandana Pathak) and Bapu Ji (Anang Desai). Anang and I go back a long way. So, it was amazing to collaborate with him.
Q. You received mixed reactions for your character in the series.
It is okay. Some people will like your work, and some won’t. I am extremely critical of myself. So, in that case, people cannot say ruder things to me than I do to myself. So, criticism doesn’t affect. Personal criticism is what I do not entertain.
Q. You have been active on social media. What do you have to say about this culture?
I have always had an opinion. I love democracy. You should take the chance to make good use of your voice. Initiate a discussion. We all should have a healthy discussion. People who abuse and troll should get a life. I feel pity for them. I feel pity for people who are doing it as employment or job. If that is the case, how much can you sell your self-respect? Twitter is worse! So negative!