Women who make Bollywood.
Thanks to casting for the roles of Laxmi and Tikli for my upcoming film ‘Tikli and Laxmi Bomb’, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with some of Bollywood’s leading ladies. It’s been a beautiful experience to say the least.
To see how an actor interprets a role, to see how the woman in front of me, who’s a star in her own right, finds a bone of connection with the character, how she understands her plight, her motivations, adds to them, makes them her own, how as an actor she uses her empathy for that character, to be able to enact that pain, so that an audience feels it too; how she forms a kind of sisterhood with that women on the pages of the script, to bring her to life on screen.
Because if this actor isn’t going to connect deeply with the character, the audience won’t connect with the character at all. These women, these actors, are the only conduit between the character and the audience.
And they all know how to play the Bollywood Game. They’ve all created not just a body of good work, but also a brand for themselves. And that means a certain imaging, a certain positioning of themselves and yet they’re able to take risks and do roles that will keep changing and modifying that image. They all handle various social media accounts and you might be sitting with them talking about a role while they’re dressed in pyjamas, and within a few minutes of you leaving you’ll see a social media post from them dressed to the nines at some event styled in the best clothes good sense can buy.
In my limited experience, women stars in Bollywood read a lot more, so they’re already better equipped at understanding nuanced characters more than their male counterparts. They’re also handling roles of motherhood, marriage, homemakers and yet have been able to make careers which require a fair amount of sacrifice. But that means that they can not only play the role of a working professional, for they’ve lived that in their lives, but also that of a mom, a wife etc. as they pretty much ace those aspects of their lives too. Being multi-dimensional helps them as actors too.
One actor I met comes from Pune every week for her career and goes back towards the end of every week to spend time with her daughter and family. She has a supporting partner in her husband and together they’ve made their marriage work for both their careers and for their daughter. And she has made a career out of limited but very good roles and carved out a good body of work despite living in another city.
Another lady used to be a corporate lawyer and gave up a successful career to become a method actor. She enrolled herself at acting school much after her peers had and had the guts to shift careers midstream. Now she helps whet her co-actors contracts to see to it that there is no clause that is unfair to them, along with acting herself.
And most of these actors have come from outside Mumbai. They aren’t locals. So they’ve come at some point in their lives, braved the monsoons, braved the madness of Mumbai, faced crazy discrimination and still made a mark for themselves in a mostly male dominated industry.
I hope, in the coming months, to keep sharing the experiences I have as a male writer/director, in a mostly male dominated industry, working with 99% of women on this film. As the cast, and crew are almost all women.