Bhumi Pednekar
The actress on her next release, working with Akshay Kumar and reuniting with Ayushmann Khurrana in Shubh Mangal Savdhan
Chaya Unnikrishnan (DNA; May 3, 2017)

She has been missing in action on screen since her debut film Dum Laga Ke Haisha in 2015. But that will change this year as Bhumi Pednekar has not one, but two releases and that too, almost back-to-back! Both Toilet - Ek Prem Katha, in which she pairs with Akshay Kumar and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, which has her reuniting with her Dum Laga Ke Haisha co-star Ayushmann Khurrana, will hit the screens in August and the actress can’t wait to see the response to both. Here, she talks about her next release, shooting for the two films, and playing strong characters...

It’s been two years since you made your debut with Dum Laga Ke Haisha. Don’t you feel the gap has been too long?
Not really. After Dum Laga Ke Haisha, I did need some time to knock off my weight (she had put on for her debut film) and I was lucky to get that. After that in the last one year, I have been shooting back-to-back for Toilet - Ek Prem Katha (TEPK) and Shubh Mangal Savdhan (SMS). In fact, I have been away from home for the last seven months and returned to Mumbai only a few days ago after wrapping up SMS.

You must have been feeling homesick?
While it’s amazing to be back in Mumbai — I love the heat and humidity — I am more happy being on the sets! I don’t feel homesick when I am away. Mom comes to visit me and I FaceTime with my sister all the time. Since I love home-made food, I have a cook, who prepares home-style food. I have been eating pure vegetarian poushtik food.

Apart from TEPK and SMS, you were also doing Manmarziyan with Ayushmann Khurrana? What went wrong with that film?
It’s on the backburner. But I really hope that this film gets made with whoever, whenever because the script is fantastic. The audience must get to see this beautiful film.

The fact that the film got stalled must have been a setback for you.
Not really. I was lucky enough to have signed other projects while Manmarziyan was happening. I had signed TEPK, so apart from the three-four months that I sat at home because Manmarziyan got pushed or didn’t happen, there was no setback. TEPK is on track except for the release being pushed by a few months and it was a great experience.

Were you nervous about working with Akshay Kumar?
I was more nervous about starting my next film. It was a positive nervous energy as a performer, as an actor. Akshay is so amazing, professional and inspiring. By just being around him you get to learn a lot. He has achieved so much, yet is grounded, punctual and passionate about his craft. Even at this stage he puts so many hours and poures his heart and soul into it. He is as excited about his work as he must have been 25 years ago!

What appealed to you about your role in the film?
Toilet — Ek Prem Katha is my relaunch. I am stepping away from a role that people strongly associate me with. My role in Dum Laga Ke Haisha had a big impact on people. I can’t speak much about the character I play, but she does many revolutionary things — it’s a revoulutionary film. There’s a lovely innocent love story, too. And my character is strong. Also, it gave me the chance to work with Akshay Sir, Neeraj Sir and my director (Shree Narayan Singh). The film conveys a strong message. I believe in doing films that do not necessarily have a message or are preachy, but are impactful.

What about Shubh Mangal Savdhan? Does it also have you playing a strong character?
Yes, I think I naturally attract strong roles. It could be because of my first film and that’s a great thing. Also, when I read scripts, I choose those that have characters with some sort of an inner strength. It’s subconscious. So, I guess it’s a combination of both. In this film my character may not have the biggest dreams or aims in life, but she fights her way for love and doesn’t succumb to pressure. It was a great experience shooting for it. I had a blast.

Did reuniting with Ayushmann on screen make things easy?
Definitely. I am sure part of the fun was because of him. We are great friends and complement each other well as actors. It’s easy working with him. He is a big positive energy. We have become closer and I look up to him a lot. We have no inhibitions and are open about everything. And, that honesty transforms on screen. He is constantly cracking jokes. He is blessed with a great sense of humour. I call him the king of PJs. Some of his jokes are bizarre! He just fits somebody’s name into a song and starts singing.

Do you see any growth in you as an actor now?
I think I have become more confident. The more you work and gain experience, the more your craft is polished. Right now, I am critical of my work.

Shubh Mangal Savdhan is a remake of Tamil film Kalyana Samaya Saadhal. Have you seen It?
No, I deliberately chose to not see it. Also, it’s not exactly a remake apart from the one-line story. After my film releases I will watch it because it is directed by the same director Prasanna. I would love to see the Tamil interpretation of the film.

The film deals with the subject of erectile dysfunction and you have to walk a thin line between being sensitive and funny. How did you approach it?
It’s about a couple and their respective families dealing with the issue of erectile dysfunction as compared to a boy who deals with it alone. It’s been handled with a lot of clean humour and sensitivity. It is not slapstick and the problem hasn’t been made fun of. It’s just an element of our film amongst other things. It’s primarily a story about a young couple that believes in the institution of love over and above other needs and wants of life.

When will we see you playing the glamorous Bolly heroine?
Once I get a good script in that commercial and glamorous space. I have grown up watching such films and that’s what inspired me to be an actor! I love it and I want to do it all.

No release in two years and two films releasing in one month. Your thoughts?
I am both nervous and excited, and want to see people’s reaction to this Bhumi — the way I am!