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Bhumika Chawla on working in Telugu films ‘Seetimaarr’, ‘Paagal’, ‘Idhe Maa Katha’ and how there aren’t enough roles for female actors her age

Actor Bhumika Chawla will be seen in a bunch of films soon, but admits that not enough interesting roles are written for women of her age

There was a restraint and calmness with which Bhumika Chawla used to speak when she was one of the most sought-after leading women in Telugu and Tamil cinema a few years ago. The tide might have changed and she might be doing fewer films now, but the calm demeanour is intact even when she speaks her mind, without mincing words.

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This summer will see her in two Telugu films; she has completed filming a third one. “I take up a film only if it is worth my time. I want characters that give me scope to perform and make some impact. Not every story or character needs to have the potential to change society; sometimes I can do a film for fun, but there has to be something in it for me. I don’t want to be standing next to the hero doing nothing,” she says, on what keeps her going after two decades in cinema.

Short but pivotal

First up is director Sampath Nandi’s Seetimaarr, releasing on April 2, in which she is cast as Gopichand’s sister. She is then filming for a cameo appearance in director Naresh Kuppili’s Paagal starring Vishwak Sen, which is scheduled to release on April 30. “Kabaddi plays an important part in Seetimaarr and I motivate Gopichand to do his best. In Paagal, I have very few scenes, but they are intense.”

Bhumika divides her time between Mumbai and Hyderabad. When she had to begin work for the new Telugu film Idhe Maa Katha in October, amid the pandemic, she approached it with trepidation: “I discussed it with my family and we agreed that invariably, we all have to step out. Film units were also working with all the necessary precautions. Any time I spotted someone without a mask, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them. I would wash hands frequently, do steam inhalations and drink turmeric milk.”

She had spent the lockdown months near Nasik, with her father, and says it was the best thing that had happened to her in years. “It was a tough time for everyone. I am thankful to God that I could spend time amid greenery, and it had a healing effect on me. We all forget that we need to slow down. We have no time to stand and stare,” she says, quoting WH Davies’ poem ‘Leisure’.

Rider’s high

Bhumika Chawla

Bhumika Chawla

Director Guru Pawan’s Idhe Maa Katha is a road film in which Bhumika is one of the four principal characters. For this, she had to ride a heavy-duty bike. “I have ridden lighter bikes in the past, but never a Bullet. I trained for this film and discovered that there is better stability while riding at a speed of 60 to 80 kilometres/hour than at 20 to 40 kilometres/hour. I loved the adrenaline rush. Riding with the wind on my face gave me a high.”

She doesn’t want to divulge more about the story or her character, but states that she liked how it shows that women need to rediscover themselves and realise their dreams, when life overwhelms them with responsibilities.

Bhumika is also part of Tamil film Kannai Nambathey and the Hindi film Operation Majnu. She discloses, however, that she doesn’t come across interesting roles often. Film industries tend to slot female actors above 40 into sister or sister-in-law roles and she emphasises that those characters need to have depth and merit: “I am grateful for the opportunities I have had so far, but I also crave for the kind of films that Tabu or Vidya Balan get to do. Recently, I was also smitten by Sushmita Sen’s performance in Aarya. More stories and characters need to be written for women in our age group. It is not the audience that slots you, but the industry. As an actor, I want to do things I haven’t done before.”

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