#ELLECoverStar: Bhumi Pednekar, A Star With A Difference
The actor lets us inside her world of films, inspiration and social work.
Chatting with Bhumi Pednekar feels like catching up with a friend. It’s rare for a celebrity to make an interviewer feel so at ease, but then, it is this very quality that flows into Bhumi’s work, making each of her characters so relatable. Her cinema portfolio includes an impressive list of 12 movies, 10 awards, and three upcoming films. The last year saw her make a seamless transition from the big screen with the release of her film Durgamati on an OTT platform. She will soon start shooting for Aanand. L. Rai’s Raksha Bandhan with Akshay Kumar. “Now is the time when disruptive work is happening. With the experiences that people have been exposed to in the last year, cinema is bound to see a change,” Bhumi shares. “It’s a great time for a young actor. I love it because I am constantly looking for challenges and the kind of work that pushes boundaries.”
This year also marks Bhumi’s sixth year in the industry. I ask her about her most significant learning. “I think I’ve gotten a lot of clarity around the kind of life I want. Bollywood gave me many choices, and I have identified the ethics I want to live my life by. The last six years have shaped me into the woman I am today. I want to live on my terms, in a moralistic, ethical way,” she says. Films, Bhumi recalls, have always been a part of her life. “I have always wanted to be an actor. I was very clear about this, right from when I was a child. I didn’t know how it would happen or if I would have the opportunities but I eventually did. I think I manifested this thing,” she laughs. “Fortunately, my mom has very diverse sensibilities when it comes to cinema, and so we grew up watching some amazing movies. Some of my best Bollywood memories are dancing to Shahrukh Khan’s songs or going to a theatre every Friday to watch a new film. It was a true treat,” shares the 32-year-old.
From playing a body-positive woman in her debut film, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, to playing the real-life role of an octogenarian sharpshooter Chandro Romar in Saand Ki Aankh, Bhumi’s characters portray strong, feminist women fighting for their space in society. Is that a conscious choice, I ask? “Honestly, there’s never that one thing that you like about the character. It’s that feeling you get—20, 30 pages into reading the script—when you know you can relate to this person and feel like you can portray her on-screen. For me, the length of the character does not matter at all. Of course, I do have certain don’ts when it comes to the characters I play, but what is truly important is taking on roles through which I can empower my gender and also send out positive messages.” Her focus on picking strong feminist characters ensures that she leaves a mark with each role. From playing a supportive girlfriend helping her fiancé deal with erectile dysfunction in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan to the domestic help who is unapologetic about her sexual needs in Lust Stories, Bhumi is Bollywood’s first choice for on-screen characters that go far and beyond.
Reflecting on her journey in the industry, Bhumi shares that the driving factor is the nature of the job. “The fact that I can transform into a new person every day is what keeps me motivated. I feel like that in itself is so empowering; each day, you are creating your little world. And then you are convincing the people to believe in it too. I get to live these lives and learn so much from other people’s experiences. That’s the beauty of it.”
As one of the few actors who are walking the talk when it comes to feminism, Bhumi stresses the importance of calling out injustice when one sees it, a habit that got her to raise her voice against pay disparity in the industry, and sexism. “It’s not just me, but we, as a family, ensure that we call out sexism or any other injustice wherever we can. At times we are so conditioned that we don’t even realise the things we let go of. It is the small things that we need to be aware of that makes all the difference,” she shares.
While Bollywood has always been her first passion, what also drives Bhumi is working towards making the world a good place. “I aim to create an environment around me where everyone can flourish. It’s not just about my family and me, but also the ecosystem around me; I make sure everyone has the same values, and we are all creating an environment where people can grow.” A lot of this sense of responsibility and compassion, she adds, comes from her mother. “I learn from her every day; she has worked hard to ensure that both my sister and I are responsible individuals, and a lot of what I am today comes from the brilliant upbringing I’ve had.”
As we sign off—Bhumi is eager to go back to her vacation, with her sister, in Budapest—I ask Bhumi about her me-time. What does a relaxed, self-care day look like for her? “In bed, watching TV, with lots of good food.” Same, Bhumi, same!
Content Director & Editor: Kamna Malik; Photographer: Kay Sukumar, Fashion Editor: Zoha Castelino; Hair: Amit Thakur; Make-up: Sonic Sarwate; Cover Design: Ashlesha Sanjiva; Production: Imran Khatri Productions; Marketing Head: Ekta Ashar; Assisted by: Siddhi Dolas, Rajvi Jhaver; Editorial Assistant: Aliza Fatma; Artist’s management agency: YRF