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Shweta Basu Prasad on playing a sex worker in India Lockdown: ‘To give a voice to a suppressed community…’

Shweta Basu Prasad talks about playing a sex worker in India Lockdown and how she feels it's her tribute to the community, who is otherwise always supressed.

shweta basu prasadShweta Basu Prasad plays a sex worker in India Lockdown. (Photo: Shweta/Instagram)

Madhur Bhandarkar is all set to retell the story of how the country came to a standstill after Covid-19 hit the country with his next feature India Lockdown. His ZEE5 original will relive the horrors of the time that affected people of all strata, as they fought for basic survival. Shweta Basu Prasad will essay the role of Mehrunissa, a sex worker who is left devoid of a living during the lockdown.

In the trailer of the film, Shweta’s character is seen asking women around her how they will work given the government has announced social distancing. Talking about how playing the character made her aware of the difficult times these women faced, Shweta said that it gave her a chance to voice a community, who are otherwise marginalised and suppressed.

“As much as we were aware reading about migrants and other people suffering, we didn’t have much to complain about. We were posting about our day on Instagram. But there were a lot of people who lost jobs and the worst was the kids not being able to step out, and left with online schooling. It’s also so sad that the community of sex workers was highlighted so little. Getting a chance to represent their community was what struck the chord for me,” Shweta told

She added that the women couldn’t work given the social distancing norms. Their survival was at stake as they did not know how they would get their next meal. The actor shared that whoever did try to earn by alternate means was exploited. “To give a voice to a community who is otherwise suppressed was very important for me.”


Delving into details of her character, Shweta Basu Prasad said that she was heavily inspired by the films she’s grown up watching. Naming Kareena Kapoor’s Chameli, Smita Patil’s Mandi and Sharmila Tagore’s Mausam, the actor said that Mehrunissa is a livewire, who will never come across as a ‘bechari’. She said that the character is the symbol of the human spirit, who no matter what will continue to fight. For her, the film and the character are a reminder that life is unpredictable and a pause button can come any day. Even then, one has to keep looking forward to the next day.

On getting into the skin of her part, Shweta said that she wanted to dig deep and visited a couple of sex workers in Mumbai’s red light area, Kamathipura. As she spent some time with them alone, they let her into their world. “I cannot give a lot of details but I did pick a lot of mannerisms and lingo from my time there. Just the way they sat, spoke, and their body language. I also remember how they live in a room with beds cramped together, and use a single bathroom. The place reeks of the strong smell of talcum powder, a cheap soap, and detergent. Throughout the shoot, I actually used only talcum powders, ditching my expensive perfumes so that it helps me stay in the character. I was also applying chameli oil and speaking in the same language,” the actor revealed.

Calling it a fun experience, the Makdee star added that the film is her way of paying tribute to these ladies, who do their best for a living.



The actor said the film will also act as a documentation of what happened during that time. Calling it the beauty of art, Shweta Basu Prasad said, “The film is a reminder of the time when the world stood still, and everyone came together. It stands relevant in any generation. Cinema is an art form, and art’s beauty is to document the time you have lived in. A kid who is born now or even a toddler can go back and watch this film 10, 20, or 50 years later to know what happened during the pandemic. Also, it did not affect a particular section and was a global issue. In this film too, the characters are so different and come from different backgrounds. So it’s very versatile.”

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Also starring Prateik Babbar and Ahana Kumra, India Lockdown will start streaming from December 2.

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 08:10 IST
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