Swara Bhaskar has been travelling quite a bit of late, doing city tours to promote her upcoming film Nil Battey Sannata. She is just back from a tour of Delhi, as she takes out a little time for this interview. It’s quite an ungodly hour of the night when we sit to have this chat, but Swara appears to be energetic enough to crack us up with her witty banter.
The film, which has been directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, has Swara playing a mother for the first time. The mother of a 15-year-old is not an obvious choice for an actress Swara’s age. She says, “When Ashwiny offered the role to me, I had assumed it was for the 15-year-old and then Ashwiny just spelled it out, that no, it was the role of the mother. When she said that, I got a little offended. I was like, ‘do I look like an aunty to you?’ So that meeting ended within a few minutes.” However, Swara thought to herself why not read the script once, before rejecting it altogether. “When I read it, I found the script quite interesting. Any actor in my place would be quick to understand the potential of the role that was offered to me. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is a really good script and a really good part’. It was a huge challenge to play a mother. I believe that as actors to grow, you have to be in uncomfortable situations. That’s why I decided to do this film and I accepted the offer.”
Age has always been a tricky subject for actresses in this industry. It’s a common perception that playing a senior person’s character could be detrimental to the shelf life of an actress. Swara agrees. “Of course it is a concern because actresses have a much shorter shelf life. We tend to get into that bhabhi and ma bracket very easily, while somehow our actors continue to play heroes even at 60. To some extent, things are changing now. I have never been the conventional heroine in that sense. I didn’t have a starry launch nor am I a star child. I have worked my way up through smaller roles. If you look at my filmography, pretty much everything is taboo. My first film Madholal Keep Walking (2010) no one watched. My next film Tanu Weds Manu, that was supposedly my big break, was where I played the heroine’s best friend — again a role you don’t do. Salman’s sister’s role in Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo everyone rejected because they thought that if you play Salman’s sister, you cannot romance him on-screen.”
Swara adds, “I have realised that let your career be a list of don’t dos. Do everything that people say no to.”
That’s perhaps the reason why this actress has never shied away from small films. “I have worked very hard. I have never been concerned about the audience perceiving me as a supporting actress. And for this film, we finally have a big studio backing it up — it has Aanand L. Rai’s name attached to it and that’s a wonderful thing,” she says. While everyone says that the industry has taught them a lot, Swara gives us a unique list of things she has learnt from the industry. “It taught me to wear heels, it has taught me the art of diplomacy, it has taught me to lie, now I know there’s something called the airport look — I used to wear pyjamas and shoes to the airport earlier.” She adds, “Of course the industry is hectic and it’s a very strange world, you don’t understand its dynamics all the time really. But I love being a part of it and I love my work.”
Not many know this but Swara shares a close bond with Sonam Kapoor. While the two may appear like chalk and cheese, there’s one thing that these best friends share — a passion to voice their opinion freely. When asked what Swara doesn’t quite appreciate about the industry, she replies without a moment’s hesitation. “I dislike the fact that there is a difference of treatment towards bigger stars and other stars. That’s kind of pathetic. And I don’t like having to wear heels.”
Back to her bestie Sonam, Swara reveals that she gets a lot of fashion advice from her. “There are times when she tells me, ‘O my God Swara! What are you wearing!’ She gives me a lot of fashion tips. When I was going to China for an awards function, she let her stylist come with me, when I asked her for her fashion advice. But what is amazing is that we have this really nice bond and that’s the bond Sonam has created. I hope it stays like that always. She even spoke of my film at an awards function recently and I adore her for the support she has always given to me,” Swara says.
Reflecting on her journey in the business so far, the actress says that she wants to take her work beyond acting and beyond cinema in general. “I think right now I am stuck in a very selfish mould, that is acting. I need to do something beyond and other than showbiz also. I want to open a library for slum kids in the near future. But right now I am only thinking of how to be a bigger star.”...