I don’t desire to pander to the hero. I am an actress; I am not the hero’s play toy. - watsupptoday.com
I don’t desire to pander to the hero. I am an actress; I am not the hero’s play toy.
Posted 19 Sep 2017 10:32 AM

This has been a notable year for Aditi Rao Hydari. An impressive diversity of roles and a chance to cooperate with filmmakers she has always wanted to work with — this almost seems like a turning point in her eight-year-long career. She was the leading lady in Mani Ratnam's film 'Kaatru Veliyidai', is the protagonist in Omung Kumar's 'Bhoomi', which also marks Sanjay Dutt's comeback, and also has a cameo in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus, 'Padmavati'. In a freewheeling chat with BT, the star talks about how perpetrators of sexual crimes should be severely beaten, how women should believe that their dignity or self-worth is not confined to their body and the way she is combating sexism in the film industry. Excerpts... ou play the title role in 'Bhoomi'. Do you think with this film, you have finally got your due in Hindi cinema?
I don't know if I can ever say that and it's not born out of any bitterness. I am making my way into the industry on my own and there is no hero recommending my name. There is no producer ensuring that my next project is published the moment the trailers of 'Bhoomi' hit the airwaves. There is no plotting as such. I have seen this happening with some of my peers. Even as one of their films is coming out, their next project is announced. That's done by the (PR) machinery and I don't have that. Whether a film comes out or not, some actors are still in the news. I don't imagine stories about myself. I don't know if things are going to get better, but my belief has always helped me. My dream of working with certain directors has always fallen into place. I want to carve a niche for myself and I can't be part of the race where one person is shouting louder than the other. I want my actions to be louder than my words. When the promos of 'Kaatru Veliyidai' and 'Bhoomi' came out, everybody said, 'We didn't expect this'. Instead of me shouting about how good I am, I want people to appreciate me. There is always a lot of work, but getting good work is always a struggle. I probably would be struggling till the very end because of the way I work. But, if I am getting to work with the directors I want to, then the struggle is worth it. Whether it's Mani Sir, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Anurag Basu or Vishal Bhardwaj, I want these filmmakers to call me because I want to work with them.
This year, we have seen female characters in Hindi films like Bitti ('Bareilly Ki Barfi'), Sugandha ('Shubh Mangal Saavdhan'), Jaya ('Toilet: Ek Prem Katha') and Praful ('Simran'), who are outspoken, opinionated and have a strong identity. How would you describe Bhoomi?
Bhoomi stands for many things. It means the Earth, which is nurturing. But the question is, do we nurture her? There is a question that my character asks in the film, 'I have my parents' home and my in-laws' home, but where is my home?' Home is where the heart is and heart is where there is love. There should be love and support in every girl's life. The film is set in Agra and Bhoomi is a simple girl. The film aims to say that a simple girl, who lives in a small town, can be empowered so that when she faces adversities, she can stand up for herself. It also highlights the fact that just because you are simple or you have a modest life, you are not weak. Somewhere, I know that strength comes from within and not the machinery around you. A girl's belief in her stems from a father treating the mother well and every family treating the girl and boy equally.
Sexual violence against women is a deep-rooted problem. Your co-star Sanjay Dutt believes that perpetrators of sexual crimes should be given capital punishment. Do you agree?
I can't comment on something that falls under the legal purview, but, I can tell you one thing — I felt tortured and humiliated while shooting for 'Bhoomi'. I felt wretched and it used to be difficult for me to disconnect from what was happening on the set. I was only playing a role and I am a switch-on-switch-off kind of actor. If the role affected me to such an extent, can you imagine how it would be for a person who is going through it in reality? We read newspapers and our blood boils. A lot of people don't speak up about sexual crimes because they think it's part of the curse of being a woman. That's what needs to change. I believe that the punishment should be as severe as possible because people have to be dissuaded from committing such crimes. Women need to realise that their dignity or self-worth doesn't lie in a body part. There is a sense of having lost everything when the truth is that you haven't lost anything. The shame belongs to the person who has treated you badly.
Sexism is something that women always deal with at work and on the home front, too. Have you faced it and how do you combat it?
I have faced sexism when I lost out on a film because the hero didn't want me in it. I don't want to pander to the hero. I am an actress; I am not the hero's play toy. I am not a two-in-one. Also, why are item numbers not called dance numbers? Does it imply that a woman is an item?
It is brave of you to say that, but do you feel that if you speak about these issues openly, there will be an attempt to muzzle you?
In my industry, I don't think people want you to shut up, but they will slut-shame you. But, ultimately, if the person believes in herself and her family stands by her, the slut-shaming won't have any effect. Then, the ones indulging in it look like idiots and not the person who is standing up for herself. A lot of actresses have spoken out against a lot of these issues, but I guess some people don't want to address it. I don't judge them at all. They are working with certain people and they don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. On one hand, they say that I am talented and on the other, they want me to be their play toy. I have actually been even told that I am talented, but I probably won't get too many films because I don't spend time with them. So, I didn't get those films, but I did other films. Ultimately, you have to be comfortable with yourself and I guess it comes from my upbringing. Having said that, I am not sitting on a high horse and judging anybody.
After playing the lead in Mani Ratnam's film and now in Omung Kumar's film, you are doing a cameo in 'Padmavati'. Is it tough for actors to dabble in supporting and lead roles at the same time in Bollywood?
It's a cameo. If Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman can do it, why can't I? The point is to be part of good cinema. This is how I think and I may be wrong or right. Of course, Deepika (Padukone) plays the title role and I am opposite Ranveer Singh. They are all great actors and I am happy to work with them. It was my dream to work with Bhansali sir, and he has given me a beautifully fleshed-out role.

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