The moment I came out of the theatres after watching the wonderful Dum Laga Ke Haisha, I knew there was something about this actress who hadn’t shied away from putting on weight for the sake of a role, particularly, for a debut. In a time when actresses like Alia Bhatt and Parineeti Chopra chose to debut with glamourous films, Bhumi Pednekar decided to de-glam herself.
And not only did she prove that she could pull it off, but Pednekar also delivered what could be touted as one of the best debuts in recent times. At least I don’t remember a debut performance as fine. And it definitely wasn’t easy. And I am not just talking about the weight issues and fat-shaming that a Mumbaikar Bhumi may have had to face but I am talking about a deeper complex.
While she played this overtly fat woman, Sandhya, Pednekar had to make sure that the audience did not pity both of them – she, herself, and the character she decided to play.
She also had to make sure that she lost all the weight she had gained for this character before she went around promoting the film, otherwise, she may just have fallen into the stereotype.
Pednekar would be one of the very few actresses who has gone through such a transformation and yet, her performance in Dum Laga Ke Haisha is spoken more about. After watching the film, I just knew that this actor has the potential to be the next big thing. But then she vanished. She lost all the weight to get rid of ‘fat roles’ and eventually ended up with no releases until August 2017.
She came back as Jaya in Akshay Kumar’s Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. Jaya is a strong, independent woman, very much like Sandhya, but you see them as two different characters, and not just because Pednekar looks starkly different in each of the films, but because she makes you believe that these are two different women, with their own battles to fight. I remember, in my review, I had stated that Pednekar is, in fact, Yash Raj Films’ best find after Anushka Sharma. And then she didn’t look back, she didn’t take a break, unlike last time, and just a month after TEPK, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan hit the screens.
When I watched the trailer of SMS, I had my doubts. I did not question the film or the issue it was dealing with, but I questioned Pednekar’s choice. I questioned that why did she agree to play a middle-class girl, who is about to get married yet again. This would be the third time she was doing this, but when I actually watched the film, I saw how different Sugandha was from Jaya and Sandhya. Even though the three characters had their similarities, in terms of their upbringing, Pednekar somehow proved to the world that these were three starkly different characters.
After this film, I had labeled her the next Vidya Balan; she was that versatile and maybe even experimental at the same time.
Pednekar may not have made the most conventional choices, far from that, but she has proved that even with these unconventional choices of hers, she definitely has made a mark for herself. And however unconventional her films may be, they aren’t wrong, and each one of them has not only done great business, but is also critically acclaimed. And if you wonder why she chooses to do such films, even her next, Chambal, she had said once, “I think have been very lucky after my first film that I am getting films that are very high on content, that are different, that break some sort of boundary or ideology and I hope that I keep getting scripts like that and I think that I naturally have an affinity towards films that are different. As an audience I enjoy watching those films so I naturally have a tendency to choose those films.”