Updated: August 15, 2019 11:46:25 am
Vidya Balan plays Tara Shinde, the Project Director of the Mars Orbiter Mission, in her latest release Mission Mangal. In this interview, she talks about how the film debunked her perception of scientists, and why it would be unfair to not give prominence to Akshay Kumar in the film’s promotional poster.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Q. After the launch of Mars Orbiter Mission, a picture of saree clad women scientists surfaced, and you are playing one of them in Mission Mangal. Tell us the highlights of your role.
Even though Tara Shinde is a Project Director on the Mars Orbiter Mission, she is like any other professional woman in India who is handling home and work. She is passionate about her work. Her work is her identity, and she is fully committed to it. She also handles home with as much dedication. So her balancing act is what really appealed to me as all around me I am I seeing women like her. Almost all women constantly play this game, and if something goes wrong at home she is told that it is because of her not giving her best at home. It is almost like you are expected to be a superwoman. But the fantastic thing about Tara Shinde is that she is not trying to be superwoman. She is beyond (chuckles).
Q. In the trailer, we see how home science laws are being applied for the Mars Orbiter Mission. How close to reality is that part of the film?
There is this Home Science theory on which this mission was based. Tara is a homemaker also. She handles the kitchen and is incharge of the groceries, even when she is a full time scientist. You know how it is with all of us (women)! I think this is to do with us Indians, how we are also told that we thrive on ‘jugaad’. What is ‘jugaad’? It is about how we don’t just follow the rules, we think out of the box. There are so many obstacles in this mission that she is constantly thinking how to make this apparently impossible task possible. That’s when it strikes her. It is such a simple way to tell the audience what the theory is.
I am also not a science student, so even I don’t understand all these terminologies and theories easily. Balki (writer-producer R Balki) narrated it to me in a simplified manner, and yet it didn’t compromise on the science. When he was narrating it to me, I felt it was such a wholesome story. It has every thing to do with the mission and along with it you see various developments in the characters’ lives – what all they have to deal with. It is also full of humour and entertainment because it has Akshay Kumar.
Q, What was your biggest learning while preparing to play a scientist on screen?
That they are not geeks. There is a general idea where people think that scientists must be nerds and they don’t laugh or must be speaking only in scientific terms. It’s not that! They are also just normal people with science as their profession. I don’t know really what a scientist does. So for me the learning was that they are not always too serious, don’t only talk about equations and theories and are also people who use ‘jugaad’ and creative solutions to solve a problem.
Besides that various facts about the mission itself were quite fascinating for me. Without going in too much details, the kind of obstacles they faced seemed like it really was impossible. The fact that even after a lot of difficulties, they didn’t give up and worked their way through the problem was amazing for me.
Q. You have emphasised that your character in the film juggles between work and life. Do you think portrayal of such characters can promote unreasonable expectations from women?
Tara Shinde is not a superwoman. It is we who have these expectations from ourselves. Then there are familial and societal expectations that it is okay that you are going outside and working, but you have to handle everything at home at the end. Which is why, if you have seen Tumhari Sulu, when the boy steals the mobile phone, and the father scolds him, the mother is asked what she was doing when the son turned out to be like this. It is almost as if he is absolving himself of the responsibility of raising his child. Even when we have jobs, we feel that our family and house is our sole responsibility. I am saying that cannot be the case anymore. Working mothers go through so much guilt because they are trying so hard to be at work and be there at home at the same time. Why put ourselves through so much pressure? We are only human beings. We don’t have multiple hands and legs.
When people ask me how do I juggle work and home, I actually keep telling them that I don’t. When I am at work, I am fully at work. However, I will say that at home, I am more in-charge because my husband feels that we have people to do the work, he doesn’t get into it. Whereas, I like to micro-manage. But when I am at work, I am fully at work.
Q. Did you find Akshay Kumar’s prominence on film’s promotional content over the women of the film unfair?
No, I will tell you why. It is finally the business of cinema, so I feel, as Akshay Kumar is the biggest star amongst us all, if having him more prominently on the poster of the film will bring more people to the theater, I am fine with that. As we women get more and more success our faces will be equal. Some day maybe our faces will be bigger.
There is so much at stake in a film that they rather do what has already been done and be successful than take a risk. So I didn’t feel bad at all because I know that we have prominent roles. But let’s not forget that I would use Akshay Kumar’s stardom to my advantage (laughs).
I also want to make a small correction. It is being said that the story is about us five women, but it is not about that. The mission was led by men and women. When Jagan (director Jagan Shakti) did the research, he realised that the image of the women we saw all over the internet on the day of Mangalyaan launch was administrative people apparently, not even the scientists. So, looking at that image people thought the mission was largely led by women, but it wasn’t. It has equal representation of men and women.
Initially we also wanted to call the film Mangal Mahila Mandal, but then Jagan realised that we can’t call it that because then it would appear to be a female oriented film when it is not. If it was, we would be true to it. So, it was absolutely not led by the women, and it would be unfair to not give Akshay his due.
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