AD: First, I hail from Bihar and this is a story from Bihar. Second, I am familiar with how these women speak. It is like – ‘Jaise talwar se kiski ki garden kaat di ho.’ So whenever Anaarkali spoke, I tried to give her dialogues that no one can stand in front of her again. Swara brought in her own inputs and has improvised my script. She added a lot to her character.
SB: (Cuts in) I remember thinking that the script I had initially read could come only from a journalist. And by ‘journalist’, I don’t mean it in the traditional sense but someone who has travelled a lot and heard such stories for real. This was clearly reflected in the narrative. And I think that is amazing.
BOI: Each character you have portrayed has had very strong female values. In this film, what inputs did you add to your character?
SB: I think I really annoyed Avinashji a lot but since he is such a nice guy, he took note of everything I had to say. I got attached to this character and was hooked as soon as I heard the title of the film. I felt that with a title like this, the story deserves to be equally fabulous. As a woman and as an artiste, I was attached to this character on another level. Till the last day of the shoot, I had notations and questions written on the script, for him.
AD: Even though I have been a media person for so long, I am not used to being questioned so much. But, honestly, I liked it.
SB: The most special thing about this character is that, in the Hindi film industry, whenever you have a character like this walking a fine line, she is assumed to be a woman of no virtues… she is a prostitute but a good woman; or a bar dancer but doesn’t have sex with anyone; or a vamp but with a golden heart. We are not getting into that debate, we are saying, okay, according to your middle class morality and values, she is without character… so what? The point we are making is something else.
Once we had established and accepted that, we stopped being apprehensive. I remember discussing this with Avinashji, about whether or not we need to defend Anaarkali. And he bluntly said… and I believe it is the best line ever to have been spoken by an actresses… that, ‘Hum koi sati savitri nahi hain private ka baat alag hota hai hum sambhal lete.’ I love that moment in the film so much. But this is a character that the audience will find hard to relate to and I feel that is a challenge for us.
AD: Not hard for the audience but, after a point, the audience empathises with the character even though they might not be able to support this kind of woman in real life.
SB: Yes, and that is an advantage of our industry. The film will communicate with the audience in a commercial sense through its content-driven narrative
SB: It may sound odd but I was able to connect with a woman of questionable character, who sings vulgar songs and is in this kind of profession. The blurring of lines between an actor and a character is what happened with Anaarkali and me.
First, Anaarkali is an artiste and I am an artiste as well, I am a performer as well. So I am used to that gaze and that staring… you want people to watch you and appreciate your art. Second, I think the fighting spirit that this character has and the anger she has for fundamental reasons, for justice… I relate to that as well. After playing this part, I have become more of an angry young woman. Thank you Avinashji! And add to that, the ‘good’ virtues this character has given me… Now I abuse, I have learnt to eat paan and smoke beedis. (Laughs)
We were having an actors’ workshop for the film and whenever he used to come to meet us, the first thing he would ask me is that beedi pi kya tumne?
BOI: As a director, how did your team and your actors enhance your vision?
AD: I feel my team, especially my actors, have enhanced my vision more. I believe my film speaks more eloquently and portrays its message more beautifully thanks to my actors. It is ten times more substantial than the initial story was.
BOI: What kind of expectations do you have from this film?
SB: This is a Box Office India kind of question… about collections and release. (Laughs)
AD: I made the film and now it is about to release. Now I have shut my eyes and closed my ears. Jo hoga dekha jaega. (Laughs)
SB: Wah sir wah… apni creativity ki aad mein chhup jao.
AD: The trailers have got a much bigger response than I had anticipated, so I am very positive about the release.
SB: I think the audience will like the film. I think it will get good reviews… it is a commercial film, an engaging film and it will touch people’s hearts.