Exclusive Interaction with Swara Bhaskar

1967
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Q: How surprised were you by the success of the movie?

A: I was not surprised by I mean I always had this gut feeling that the film would do very well but I was very happy. I was surprised at the opening numbers for sure

Q: What were the opening numbers?

A: The opening numbers we did 10.07crs on the first day which is pretty stupendous actually because I think it is the first female led Hindi film to open to double digit cr on first day which is a big think because there has always been this sort of now myth at that time it was understood as given but there has always been a feeling within the trade that female centric films maybe very high on content maybe very good but they don’t open to big numbers and female centric film don’t make money in a hurry maybe overtime they slip a hits and so on but i think we’ve really without first day figure we’ve really smashed that myth and I think it’s bit of a crack in the glass ceiling you know the idea that commercial ,masala entertainer is sort of a male thing. So I think that’s whats really exciting about Veere Di Wedding. So I was surprised that the numbers like I was expecting it would do well like I had that gut. I was also very relieved

Q: Why relieved?

A: Well I was relieved because you know there had been a lot of controversies in the run up to the film

Q: What were the controversies about because people hadn’t seen the film and they were already calling for boycotts.. So what was that about?

A: Well that controversy was because me and Karena and Sonam and Shikha had all participated in the placard campaign to protest the gang rape of the girl in Kathua and yeah so basically the sort of right wing trolls or i don’t know what to call them, I think they kind of took umbrage to the fact that the placard mentioned that the child was raped in a temple and it said Hindustan instead of India and they sort of constoped that by some kind of twisted logic that is Anti-Indian or Anti-Hindu and so they called for this boycott of the film

Q: And why not the people who said the film should be banned and in response to this right wing Hindu demands the government of Pakistan probably banned it

A: I mean it would be D-day when the government of Pakistan starts listening to them. Hindu right wing parties. Maybe that is the way for indo-pak peace

Q: Yeah maybe that is the way. But did the boycott affect your box office prospects at all? Clearly not no

A: Maybe it spurt some people to go and watch the film. So maybe I should be thanking the Hindu right wing tolls for that. I think I’ll send them a gift hamper if the film touches 100

Q: But a sanskaari gift hamper

A: No no

Q: But one of the scenes that has caused enormous controversies called a second lot of boycott. You know the scene I am talking about. Were you nervous about doing it?

A: Yeah of-course I was nervous. I think as an actor you are nervous about any scene that is complex, any scene that is challenging and my big worry with the scene was that it shouldn’t look vulgar and it shouldn’t gross people out. I wanted it to adhere to the comic. I knew the scene had shock value that’s why it is probably there.

Q: yeah. You are probably the first actress in the Hindi cinema to do a scene where you pleasure yourself

A: Well, I don’t know if that is an honorable title to hold, a notorious title

Q; It is fact- for better or for worse

A: Well yeah, I guess. So my concern was I spoke to Shashank our director as well and I said you know I was no one, I’m doing it but you make sure it kind of weird to the comic even if it means going towards a little OTT

Q: Was it written as a comic scene or was it written as a serious scene

A: The film has an ongoing comic thing to it right. So I think it is written as it’s part of this whole character as a sort of brashness and also about this character – you don’t know what she is going to do- she is nuts. She is you know rich and titled spoilt brat and she is wild. So what I liked about it is the most typical thing to expect from a girl like that she cheated on her husband, she must have had an affair with someone. So that was a nice twist to that

Q: That she had an affair with herself

A: yes. Because that’s okay to do so. So that was our concern was to keep it towards the comic. I knew that there would be shocked reactions. I wanted the shock to be like ‘WHHAAAAATTT’ but you know not like ‘OMG CHII’ Didn’t want that and I think that it kind of largely worked because everyone who isn’t abusing me for it said me that we were shocked, we didn’t expect it but it was funny

Q: So you didn’t face any sensor problems introducing the vibrator to the Hindi screen

A: Well I think that Ekta, Rhea and the producers were quiet- they knew what they were getting into because this is what the script was. It’s not like they changed the script or something. This is the script and that script only works as long as we can talk openly about the things we are talking about. Whether it is sex whether it is cuss words, whether it is relationships, whether it is vibrators. So I think they managed to convince the censor and I think they did a very responsible thing which is we never asked for U/A certificate. We asked for an A certificate. We don’t want children to watch this film. I think that was a very matured call on the part of Rhea and Ekta Kapoor

Q: But then there was another lot of trolling after the boycott failed saying that somebody had taken their grandmother and it was one grandmother I think whom many people had taken the same old lady and she was really shocked

A: Well what could i say? Well yeah it was funny. I actually found it funny because i think it got caught out and a lot of people on twitter, a lot of comedians picked that up and made some genuinely good satire out of it. So i actually found it really funny and i wish I mean it’s amazing how trolls don’t even use the most basic imagination to re-arrange the sentences

Q: or correct a spelling

A: There is something called a spellcheck I think we should all use it

Q: So did you mind any of this? Did any of you get to you or were you sort of detached and abused by it?

A: No I mean the thing with umm I expected to be trolled on this masturbation scene issue because i think the kind of society we are, we don’t let any opportunity to slut-shame a girl or women in a public sphere and specially if those women are already “inaudible” in otherwise. So I think i am a sort of troll batter in that sense and I figured they are going to pick up on this opportunity and so it’s fine, Some of the and as i said you may not be gender-equality anywhere but in the business of trolling there certainly is. I’ve gotten trolled from men and women equally on this issue

Q: And grandmothers

A: And grandmothers of-course. So I mean its fine. I expected it. Sometimes I take the on like I quote, retweet and share

Q: In terms of your own personal life people have said things like how do her parents cope with her doing scenes like these. Has there ever been a problem?

A: No I don’t think so because i think that my parents have umm well my parents made the early mistake of being liberal and democratic when they were bringing us up and they are paying the price now. But I’ve always been very honest with my parents. They’ve known everything about me from boyfriends to suspension in school or failing in exam

Q: You were suspended in school?

A: no like bunking a class or getting into trouble

Q: And you failed in exam as well?

A: Oh yes I have. Not alot but yes. I failed in my math preboard actually in the12th and it was a big disaster and I passed in boards

Q: Were you suspended?

A: No I was never suspended but i was held up for bunking a couple of times

Q: And your parents were okay with all this?

A: I mean they were not okay. I used to get into alot of trouble with them but they knew about it. I’ve always had this philosophy that whtever I do my parents should hear it from me and not from someone else

Q: Were they okay with you joining films? I know your father his background is very, very different

A: They were scared. Yes. My dad was actually terrified. My mom was a little more chill because she is just the cooler of the two and she teaches films so she was actively interested but umm both my parents were very supportive and i was completely shameless. There was no khuddari ke mai bees rupaye leke ghar se nikli hu nothing like that and i was regularly running out of money and regularly calling them and be like can i have some money

Q: And they were supportive?

A: And they were very supportive. I told them i am like the Indian railways. I am a heavy XXX. you put the tracks first and then you can get a return after 20 years

Q: but the railways give no returns. So are they even sure they are getting the returns

A: They are getting returns no.

V: what are your politics?

S: I don’t know. I am not a member of a political parry, i never have been. i was never even a member of a political party eve when i was in college; JNU.

V: there comes again JNU

S: I never joined any political party at the JNU..

V: Were you like a popular girl at college?

S: No, I was not actually. In JNU actually they said i was too centrist and that i wasn’t left enough for a lot

of my..

V: which is quite left by the standard of the rest of the world

S: ya, outside JNU. But I always voted left in students politics. And i think i will consider myself someone who..i don’t know, i never thought about it. If you ask me who i admire in politics in India, i would say Gandhi. i think he a tremendous figure. Whatever the critique of him maybe from whichever quarter, i think you and we cannot deny the greatness of Gandhi

V: That’s like you have to be pretty hysterical not to like Gandhi. so that not controversial

S: and i think again that today he is become a of a lot of slander, but i think that Nehru is actually someone who is a man of tremendous great qualities. And the more i read about him, the more I think that i am quite impressed and admire him a lot. I also, he is a lesser known figure, but i think that one of the forgotten figure of our freedom movement is Badshah khan, who was also known as frontier Gandhi. He seems to be a tremendous person and then of course there is a lot of people like of course the usual, Mandela, martin luther king, even Che as well.

V: why Che, i mean the poster i understand but the man??

S: no, not the Poster., if you look at just the idealism that he represented and if you look at some of his, philosophically some of things he was saying, i mean the critique of money and i know it may not seem practical but at the level of ideas, its actually a potent critique. I’ve read marx a little bit and i think that there is a lot critique of capitalism which is of a lot of value in Marxism even if i don’t subscribe to the communists sort of ideology in that sense. And largely i do feel that, i todays time to put it simply. i think that we have a great sort of idea in our constitution. and i hosted shayam benegal’s series samvidhan, so i got a chance to read a little bit, know a little more than i would have and i think it is a tremendous sort of vision. It is such a progressive document largely speaking and i think if we were to stick with just that, we would be in a good place as a society and i think the preamble of our constitution embodies a lot of relay really sound values, and so yes. And i am a staunch secularist and a libtard, sickluar..all those descriptions that are rife on twitter. I suppose could be ascribed to me. I am a feminist so ya..

V: That’s no so outrageous, so unusual is it?

S: i don’t think so

V: so why are you trolled do much?

S: i dont know, i think people just don’t like.. i don’t think.. we are in a point a society today where there is just so much whitewashing going on.. there is so much.. i don’t now sometimes i think it is a bit surreal because it is like.. There is so much wrong that is happening, like i can’t believe that this year or last six months a man was set to fire alive and someone recorded it this is where we are at it in our society today. i can’t believe that people would tie up dalits to a jeep and flog them and record it . i dont understand so sometimes i feel are we in this calf cast place where we as a society don’t know what is right and what is wring anymore or what is truth or false.

V: let me give a contrary view, people have been burnt to deaths for decades, dalits have been flogged, wives have been raped, their home have been burnt, it is just not been reported the way it’s been now because of so much media and social media. You are responding to something that always happened that you didn’t know about and now that you know about it, you are making some spurious connection between that and the right wing

S: no i don’t think so, i know that has been happening but for me what is sick is that the perpetrators of the crime feel emboldened enough to record it themselves and publicizes it. A lot of these crimes are coming to light because the perpetrators or their supporters have recorded themselves. The Rajmasand case is the man who burnt the Muslim person alive and recording it himself. The una case was the supporters of those who were flogging those dalits recording it themselves. Thereare so many such cases, that is what is scary. I don’t think it has ever happened before that a cast affiliated group felt that it was okay to sit in a TV studio on this channel as well bring a sword and threaten to behead a film director and cut off the nose of an actress that is the problem. the problem is that criminals in our society today feel emboldened enough to actually make their hate public, to make their crimes public, to celebrate it because there is this feeling in a lot of sections of society that hate is acceptable, that we can do whatever we want and we will get away with it. And I don’t think this country has ever seen a place where sitting mlas have participated in a rally to defend rapists. So I think that is what is scary. Of course the crimes have always happened. i mean this is a country that has had caste system for thousands of year. so I am saying this is the psychology of what is behind the crime is what to me is scary.

V: Also the degree of shamelessness that people now brag about them

S: absolutely, you know there eas a time when if you were anti minority, you did it quietly with people who you

V: or if you wanted to defend Godse?

S: i mean ya, exactly. But now you feel that it is okay to stand on top of the roof and yell about to. So that is way am saying there is a normalization of hate in our society which is very worrying, i mean i can’t believe that we are actually at a point that some people are actually wanting to reopen the case of Gandhi’s assassination, are we actually at that point where we may think that godse was actually right? It stuns me

V: and you see this on social media a lot

S: of course

V: one of the thing they did on social media was to boycott the movie, which actually has backfired spectacularly but they asked amazon to also get rid of you, tell me about that what happened?

S: That was the after math of the kathua placard campaign and i had done a Social media tie up with amazon and ya there was this whole , if you continues with this anti national person, we will boycott, delete the app. I dont know what they actually wanted amazon to do, but amazon did delete the tweet so ya.I mean and it was seen as a great victory by these people

V: so what kind of society are we living in?

S: This is the question we must ask ourselves that what kind of a society have we become and do we want to be this society that silences people or punishes people for giving their opinions. You know social media is a space which actually is liberating in some sense , it is also dangerous, it is so widespread, it is so immediate you can reach the phones, of well the prime minister we are at a point where we can tag the heads of states and say whatever we want to say them anywhere in the world so in that sense, i think there is a certain freedom and exhilaration about the reach that it gives us and i think we should be a little responsible about it and i think our govt, whichever is in power, should be mindful of what is going on and i think companies should also be careful. i think that social media platforms should be careful that their platform should not be the place where hate and violence can be propagated easily and the companies should be responsible on how they respond to bullying, i think OLA did a wonderful thing.

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