Aahana Kumra in conversation with Anita Britto, reveals what it was like to work on the film Yours Truly, how she chooses projects and how the digital world is a liberating space
What was that one thing that attracted you to do Yours Truly?
That it was shot in Kolkata. (Laughs) The story was really nice. When they sent me the script, I was just, like, I haven’t read a story like this in a really long time. We don’t make films like this; we don’t watch this kind of cinema. It’s a very calm, composed, self-assured kind of story. And I always find it fascinating when two characters don’t meet and I think that was lovely about this script and that is what attracted me to do it.
How did you connect with your role?
I think the way she is so outspoken and the fact that there is no filter between what she thinks and what she says… that has a lot to do with the way I am. I tried to bring a lot of my personality into that character. The relatability factor that the two sisters have, I think has a lot to do with my relationship with my sister. It’s very unfiltered, sometimes we get drunk and speak rubbish with each other, so I have tried to bring those elements into this character. Thankfully, Soni m’am (Razdan) was such a sport, she did whatever I wanted to try.
Did you find anything challenging?
Yes, I had to do a Bengali song in the film. Madhubanti Bagchi, the singer in the film, came home and taught me this Bengali song. I was very happy to learn a Bengali song.
You are sharing screen space with Soni Razdan for the first time. What was that like?
I was very happy when I got to know that I would be working with her because I haven’t seen her for a very long time in films. We spoke a lot about theatre and food. I was, like, she is such an easygoing person, and she is really warm and very welcoming. Like I said, she was such a sport. When I used to suggest something, she never shied away, she would always try whatever I suggested.
Your choices with regard to shows are very unconventional. What do you look for in a script?
I need to enjoy reading the script. If there is no fun, then there is no point doing it. Yours Truly was a very easy read for me. So when I can breeze through a script, I think I will enjoy doing it. Also, the personality of my director makes a big difference. Here, my director was calm and composed and he wanted that kind of energy in the film. I bring a lot of noise and energy to the film. I think the contrast is interesting.
Do you find any difference working with male and female directors?
I would have never been able to do Lipstick Under My Burkha with a male director, neither would Ratna m’am (Pathak Shah), nor would Konkona (Sensharma). I think we needed a female director for that film. Alankrita Shrivastava didn’t judge you and it felt safe. We felt we could do the scenes without thinking twice about them. There was no male gaze. I think that is the difference and I felt it for the first time in my life, because before that film, I had only worked with male directors.
When I worked with her, I was, like, ‘Oh! She is not judging me’, and she is feeling what I am feeling at that point in time, which was comforting. So I think it’s the gaze that makes a difference.
How do you look at the digital space?
I think what is really changing is that the power is going to anyone who is making good content and that power is going to even those who are making YouTube videos. I mean, today, YouTube content makers are earning a great amount of money. They don’t need a box office; they don’t need a Friday to make them a star. They are stars in their own right. The power is in your hands now.
You have done quite a lot of work in the digital space. Has this world proved to be a boon for you as an actor?
Of course, it has given me the kind of recognition that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise got. If there was no digital, I would have been playing sister to all the main lead actresses and to all the star kids. I would have been playing bhabhiji roles and best friend roles. How long can you play that?
Today, everybody is getting roles because people are getting to see their performances. Vikrant Massey is getting to play the main lead opposite Deepika Padukone because everybody has been able to see his work. Look at the journey, it has been fantastic. I haven’t planned my journey, I work each day of my life and want to continue to do so and if I am getting to do that through digital, by all means I will do it. As long as I get to do different characters and get recognition, I am happy with that.
If I do films, they should be able to use me correctly and also I should justify myself. I don’t want to be just another pretty woman, because there are so many of them in the industry already. I want to do roles that challenge me.
What’s next for you?
I am doing a show for Voot called Marzi. This show is about consent and it’s a very important conversation and a topic of discussion that should start now. I took this show because I thoroughly believe in the subject.