So, it’s been a while since I did a personal post on the blog. I finally have a story worth sharing with all of you. Those who know me closely would already be in tune with what I’m about to share today…
I was at my first job about 1.5 years ago when I got that fated call from one of the most powerful women in the casting industry. There it was, Shanoo Sharma – the casting director at Yash Raj Films was calling to get in touch with me. I answered and … “Do you want to act?” is all I heard in a jiffy.
My jaw dropped at the very thought yet I wasn’t surprised as interestingly, this was the second time she had approached me for a casting opportunity. The first was when I was still at NIFT in Bengaluru and leaving mid-way was never an option…
So back to that call… I was asked to come in for a screen test even before I could respond to that almost dream-like question anyone would love to hear from one of the most sought after casting directors in the industry. Grinning to myself, I said… “I’ll be there.” This was a whole new experience I wasn’t going to miss out on even though I was never aspiring to be an actress. But when an opportunity like this comes knocking on your door, you open it and welcome the blessed thing with open (and in my case, jittery) arms, just to see where it could take you!
After some amount of coordination with Shanoo’s assistants, I was at the YRF casting office in Juhu. For the first time, the narcissist in me had no time or sense to check myself out in a mirror, because well… I was dead nervous, obviously!
Without further delay, I was asked to come into the room where they perform screen tests. There were lights, camera… all that was left was some action and this time, I was going to be responsible for it. I jotted down my name and other details on the white board and got ready to be interviewed on camera by the assistant. I was told to answer all the questions in Hindi and that’s when it really hit me. My Hindi isn’t as strong as it should be but well, I knew I had to give it my best shot!
Aapka pura naam kya hai?
Aapka phone number kya hai?
Aap kahan se ho?
Aapko actress kyun banna hai?
Aapka favourite director kaun hai aur kyun?
(a few more questions)
I answered all the above questions to the best of my abilities and well, it was over and I could finally breathe! *phew* The assistant then shared basic details about the film although he couldn’t reveal much. I was told the role requirement was that of a naturally overweight girl, that too for the lead role. I couldn’t believe what I was being told… These were my precise words of reaction, “WOW! Since when did this industry need an overweight girl for the protagonist’s role?!” He was equally amused and we had a hearty laugh.
The assistant was kind enough to let me know that I will get a call back for an audition once Shanoo had a good look at the screen test tape and if I fit the requirement of the role. I knew I had enough reasons to be beaming at this point in time, only because this entire concept was unheard of and I was somewhere going to be a part of this new venture.
5 days later, I got a call back from Shanoo. She sounded rather hassled because I was short-listed for the audition but wasn’t informed of the same. She instructed me to go through the audition scene dialogues and meet her for the same at the earliest. 2 minutes later, I got a call back from one of her assistants – Deepna who asked for my email address so she could mail me the audition scene’s dialogues. There it was… the scene in my personal inbox. I opened it with a million thoughts in my mind and read through it…
Pure Hindi and that too in a dialect I wasn’t familiar with, it was a 3 page scene between Sandhya and Prem’s bua – characters from the film. It took me a while to get these lines into my system but I managed after a lot of practising. 2 awful yet awkward auditions later, Shanoo called to check what was wrong. I looked the character by face but wasn’t feeling or exuding the same. My dialogue delivery didn’t sound authentically convincing and I had to condition myself to feel like Sandhya to be Sandhya. Not being a trained or passionately aspiring actor, this was definitely quite a struggle for me but I was determined to do my best.
Audition attempt number 3 was about to happen as I was dressed in character when Shanoo and I had a conversation that I thought I’d never have with anyone.
Shanoo: Have you lost weight?
Me: Yes! *grinning away* Glad you noticed! I’ve lost 10 kgs and a whole lot of inches!
Shanoo: Noo… this isn’t what I need right now. Why have you lost weight?!
Me: *baffled* What?! I have been on a weight loss journey since a while now… Felt the need to get healthy as I had gained way too much weight.
Shanoo: Oh, ok… But Sandhya’s character is much bigger. She is a typical overweight girl.
Me: But I am still overweight. I’m clearly not “skinny”…
Shanoo: Will you consider putting on some weight for the role?
Me: Woah… What? Why? And how much weight would you want me to gain?
Shanoo: Atleast 10-15 kgs minimum.
Me: *shocked* and … speechless…
Shanoo: Think about it and let me know? It’s a requirement of the script and the character you’ll be playing.
Me: *terribly disheartened and confused* I’m not sure…
I had a word with my mother about this. She knew every little detail and sacrifice I had made during this one long and difficult weight loss journey. Was I going to give up on all the efforts I put in? The opportunity was so big, I couldn’t help but consider it strongly. I have always been an overweight girl. It wasn’t so much of an issue until the people around me made me feel like I wasn’t “ideal”. Being tall, fair and thin is the delusional lie everyone, blindly believed in. I would invariably eat more than I was hungry, at odd hours and let’s not forget – genes! Being overweight is a natural phenomenon in my family. We truly live to eat and aren’t afraid to show it! The damn thing is anyway hereditary so why was I being made to feel inferior? I hit a point in my life where being obese was my scary reality. Suddenly my health needed attention and I became aware. Losing weight was my only agenda and I set a target for myself – a realistic one where being skinny wasn’t on the cards. I was aware of my body structure and its limitations. I began my weight loss journey and trust me, being a food blogger wasn’t helpful at all. But my health was important. I struck a tough balance and worked on my body without depriving myself of the simple pleasures that food gave me. Other than diets and workouts, what truly got me through was the reality of self-love and acceptance. You will never be good enough in the eyes of society because they are blinded by the world we’ve created for ourselves, but you have to believe that you are the best of what you can truly be.
“You are a smart, confident and beautiful woman who is aware and absolutely in love with her inner beauty.”
Although I rarely tap the spiritual in me, positive affirmations like the above statement can bring about an unconscious change in the way you see yourself and the world beyond.
In retrospect, this entire YRF opportunity would have made complete sense if I was an aspiring actress. Moulding and getting transformed for a character or a film’s requirement is a part of an actor’s life. Bhumi Pednekar – the girl who plays Sandhya did it by gaining quite a few kilos. I would’ve done it too, but was I that person? No, I wasn’t. I was and still am a happy writer who writes for a living as well as pleasure… something I know I am really good at. Communication has always been my strength and I learnt that at an early stage of my student life. I pursued what I was passionate about and made a career of something I absolutely love.
Shanoo was rather disheartened but then she’s so darn good at her job, she found Sandhya in Bhumi – Bhumi Pednekar, a true, passionate actor, who once played a major role as Shanoo’s assistant in the past. It was her time to shine… her destiny was about to change because I chose to be where I am.
This was one experience I couldn’t talk about for a very long time as being discreet was essential for the well-being of everyone involved in this project. Now that the film is finally a reality, I wanted to share this dreamy experience with all of you.
Yash Raj Films’ latest project – Dum Laga Ke Haisha has brought about a ground-breaking change to the otherwise superficial film industry we all love. I’m sure we all agree it isn’t real but reel life we’re talking about, but the industry can be as ruthless as the magazine/print industry when it comes to the idea of perfection among women. The size zero fad came and went, only to prove that it’s not meant for everyone. This time, true beauty came alive on the big screen for a woman who is gorgeous – inside out!
The character of Sandhya – played by debutant and YRF’s newest face, Bhumi Pednekar is a well-educated, smart, witty and lovable girl who believes in the simple joys of life but also has inhibitions about her weight. Not because it’s her personal belief but because society has made her conscious of it. A perfect groom who will love and respect her is all she ever asks for but fate has a special plan for her.
If you haven’t watched Dum Laga Ke Haisha yet, please do! It hit the theatres a week ago on 27th February 2015 and continues to run successfully. Here’s the trailer incase you haven’t seen it yet.
This is that one Yash Raj Films project I would have been extremely proud to be associated with. I know I still am. The film is extremely close to my heart and I hope it makes the right kind of impact this society truly needs.
PS. This post was to go up sooner but today being Women’s Day, I thought there’s no better day than to celebrate this exhilirating feeling with all the women out there!
Until next time…
The Potpourri Girl