Updated: June 17, 2021 9:02:36 pm
“Entertainment, entertainment, and entertainment”.
Vidya Balan’s Silk sure knew what makes the showbiz works, and the actor herself is quite clued in too. After making a remarkable debut in Parineeta, she has gone ahead to shoulder films like The Dirty Picture, Kahaani, Tumhari Sulu, Bhool Bhulaiya, among many more. Last year, she immortalised math genius, Shakuntala Devi, in her biopic and is now set to don the uniform of a forest officer for Sherni.
The actor, in an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, said that Sherni will help people take a stand for nature. “The balance between development and environment is very important,” she said. Directed by Amit V Masurkar, the film revolves around Vidya Vincent (Balan), who is assigned a special job in the forest of Madhya Pradesh. Apart from the pressure of her work, she also needs to change the mindset of her team members who believe that a forest is no place for a woman.
Excerpts from a detailed conversation with Vidya Balan about Sherni, sexism and how OTT has become an alternative medium for Bollywood films.
What was your reaction when a film like Sherni came your way?
I was quite amazed that someone wanted to tell a story that’s not just set in a jungle but is also about the jungle. It’s a first of its kind, at least from what’s offered to me. Sherni also had an unusual director in Amit Masurkar, with an unusual story, and I knew this is something that I have to do it.
You also met real forest officers to know more about their lives. How was the experience?
I was actually surprised to know that there are quite a few female forest officers. All of them have to undergo three years of grueling training before they get posted. And sometimes it’s quite tricky and tough postings, like in Naxal areas. There are enough women posted in these areas and all of them told me that there is inherent sexism that exists in their world, just like around all of us. Sometimes it even comes from their loved ones, however, they do find their way around it.
The film was shot during the pandemic in real locations. What were the challenges?
I didn’t miss the convenience or the sets at all. The production team really made it comfortable for all of us. We worked in the fresh air, and I could take a walk during breaks. Also, Amit and his team were so well prepared. It was actually the easiest shoot I have done so far.
Many people would vouch that you are a tigress in real life when it comes to your career choices or even your personal life. Do you have a moment, when you felt like a tigress and knew you could take on the world?
(Laughs) When I am angry, I do feel like that. When I get really angry, I am like wait, I will teach this person a lesson or show them what I am made of. That’s when I feel like a sherni. But to be honest, you don’t need to roar to be a tigress. I think every woman who is trying to navigate her way through this thick jungle, which can sometimes turn quite dangerous is a sherni.
Who is the sherni in your life?
My mother undoubtedly is a sherni. She is absolutely fearless, she has been a homemaker all her life but I have seen that fearlessness in her throughout. She is also so adventurous and like a true tiger mom, very protective of her children. She has a lot of interest and as her kids were growing up, she used her time beautifully to pursue interests and hobbies. My mother is not scared to learn and actually knows technology better than me.
In the trailer, we also see how your character faces gender disparity at work. As an actor, which is not really specified as a gender role, have you ever felt it or came across something sexist?
I think that’s not true for the film industry or as actors. We as women have faced it everywhere all our life, sometimes even with our loved ones. It is a result of protectiveness at times, and mostly out of ignorance. I think we have all experienced it.
There is also this scene where Ila Arun (who plays her mother-in-law) is asking you to wear some jewelry before heading out of the home. As a society, we have evolved and grown but women are still asked to flaunt symbols of marriage. What is your reaction to it?
Not just symbols of marriage but also adhere to an outward appearance of femininity. There is a certain mould in which we want to see our woman, especially after marriage. And it’s very common, my mother keeps telling me to wear some jewelry but I don’t think it’s a big deal. I think we are all changing a bit on that.
You seem to have become the new OTT queen with Shakuntala Devi last year and now Sherni. As a Bollywood star, how do you look at the web space becoming an alternate option, especially in such times?
Thank god for the OTT (laughs). The reach of this medium is really wide. During Shakuntala Devi, I was told we had a worldwide release at the same time in 200 countries while with Sherni it’s 240. It’s an unimaginable feat and wider than any theatrical release. Sherni is a universal film with a universal theme and I couldn’t have asked for anything better for this film.
Starting June 18, Sherni will stream on Amazon Prime Video.
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