Toilet: Ek Prem Katha - Bhumi Pednekar reveals she bonded with Akshay Kumar over fitness
Bhumi Pednekar took the off-beat and unconventional route right from the start of her career when, in a size-obsessed industry, she played an overweight married woman in 2015's National award winning film Dum Laga Ke Haisha, opposite Ayushmann Khurrana. Never in her wildest dreams did she think the audience would accept an actress who had gone from “big to small”.
“After Dum..., people would say that I'll get stereotyped but luckily that didn’t happen and I kept getting good work. I have had constant influx of scripts and offers. I read some great material and took a one year break to lose weight,” says Bhumi, further adding, “Actually, I didn’t expect to get so many offers. I was being realistic and practical. I knew my struggle was going to be different and a long one. I did not think that our fraternity or the audience would accept me or that they have evolved to accept an actress going from big to small.”
Interestingly, Bhumi seems to be consciously picking and choosing quirky love stories. While in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, she played an overweight wife who battles patriarchy, her next and upcoming film is Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (release on August 11) alongside National Award-winning actor Akshay Kumar. It tells the real life story of a woman who leaves her husband just days after their wedding when she finds out that his home has no toilet.
In her third release (September 1), Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, she plays a chirpy Delhi girl whose husband (played by Ayushmann) suffers from erectile dysfunction. “It seems like I’m following a certain quirky pattern," laughs Bhumi, “but I have been lucky to be offered such roles. All these films are set in a similar mileau and how I differentiate myself in these three films is quite challenging. I am lucky to have entered when cinema of this kind is appreciated. If we have not had filmmakers like these today, an actor like me wouldn’t have found space in the industry.”
When Toilet Ek Prem Katha was offered to Bhumi, obviously she wondered about the unusual title. “But when they gave me a narration, I was blown away, I was so impressed. Initially, the film was about sanitation issues and when I read it I realised how grave the situation in India is,” said the actress, who hurriedly adds, “But it is primarily a love story between Keshav and Jaya. It’s about simple ordinary people who belong to simple set up and in this beautiful love story, toilet becomes a villain. The film is also special because Akshay has done a love story after his 2007 release Namaste London.”
Bhumi evidently doesn’t tire while talking about her screen hero, who she bonded with for two reasons. One, like Akshay, who is known for his disciplined lifestyle, Bhumi, too is a morning person. “When you are shooting with Akshay, the call time is usually 6am and I would be up by 4am. Secondly, I met Akshay when I was getting back to normal size. He would ask many questions like why did I gain weight, how did I knock it off, what was I thinking when I took up the role. He was quite amazed. He very passionately speaks about fitness. He would give me suggestions, I would constantly take tips from him,” she says.
The actress admits she was in a dilemma during the Toilet... shoot as she had never faced the problem (not having access to toilet) in her life. “It may sound gross but for two days I didn’t go to the toilet because I didn’t know how else to feel for those women,” she adds.
It appears that Bhumi has found a firm foothold probably due to her risk-taking abilities and choosing some challenging parts. In a latest development, she has also signed a film based on Chambal dacoits with Sushant Singh Rajput playing her love interest. Set in the 70s, both the actors will be seen playing dacoits and the Abhishek Chaubey-directed film is likely to be shot in Chambal ravines.
The 28-year-old actress will also feature in Zoya Akhtar's next which is part of an anthology of four shorts directed by her, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, and Dibakar Banerjee. Talking about picking subjects, she says, “When I choose a film I purely go by what I like to see. There is certain kind of cinema I am exposed to and there are certain kind of films that I like to watch as an audience. Those are the films I would like to be associated with. If I don’t want to watch certain kind of films, why would I do it? Choices make or break an actors’ career,” says Bhumi.