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Bhumi Pednekar, who plays Chandro Tomar in Saand Ki Aankh, got candid about doing small town roles, not getting into a comfort zone and aggressive controversy around her films containing playing a dark-skinned girl in her next, Bala.

Bhumi Pednekar, who’s created a name for her kind of cinema accepts that being in the business for four years has humbled her. She believes in not getting into any comfort zone, even if she has to put in ten times more backbreaking work than her contemporaries.

Bhumi recently won a lot of critical appraise for portraying Chandro Tomar in Saand Ki Aankh, based on the lives of India’s oldest sharpshooters. The Tushar Hiranandani directorial also stars Taapsee Pannu playing her onscreen sister-in-law, Prakashi Tomar. In a candid chat with indianexpress.com, Bhumi spoke on audience expectations, playing small town characters and choosing relevant scripts.

Here are some fragments from the conversation:

Q. Being a city girl, how did you settle into playing small town characters in your films?

Bhumi: The way I have accomplished rural and small town India in the last 4 years, I’ve never experienced in the last 24 years. It has really been like an alert for me because my experiences have really humbled me as a person. Because I’ve realised that the world that I have lived in for the bulk of my life was a bubble. And now I’ve blast that bubble. Now, I want to make a difference through my work. I want to have a voice because I want to boost women to have an belief, to stand up for their right. I’m not a bra burning feminist. But I do believe in equal rights for both the genders.

Q. Does that mean doing socially appropriate films drives you as an actor?

Bhumi: I think so because I really feel today people want to go back with an experience. Who wants to spend three hours of their valued time doing nothing, you would rather sleep. The idea is not to be a part of films that only have a social message. The idea is to be part of films that are realistic. I want them to get me when they think of that film.

Q. But Saand Ki Aankh could pass as just another biopic.

Bhumi: Where have you seen a biopic on two women? You’ve always seen people changing their life at a young age. Have you ever heard of people doing it when they’re 60-65 and becoming international names? They’ve lived in ghoonghat (veil) their entire life. They didn’t know that they matter in this societal structure, and then suddenly one day they realize that they don’t want their daughters to have the same life and for them, they start shooting. They made a career out of it and changed the lives of 50,000 women. While a biopic is made on somebody who’s changed their own life. This one is celebrating the basic human spirit.

Q. How did you react to the entire ageism debate?

Bhumi: We were somewhere expecting it. It was a little demoralizing because when Neena (Gupta) Ma’am and Soni (Razdan) Ma’am (opposed), they are people we love, and I’m sure they will really be grateful us too. I don’t think it was a personal attack. It was just their belief, and why not. There aren’t enough roles written for women, particularly women of that age. So I’m sure they must be demoralized. But what we feel is that by the end of it we are actors, it is my work to be able to do different kinds of roles. This is the definition of being an actor.

Q. You are joining with Ayushmann Khurrana in Bala. Can we call him your favourite co-star?

Bhumi: Now Taapsee and Ayushmann are kind of fighting for that because I think the best chemistry I’ve had to date with any co-actor has been with Taapsee. It is beautiful. We are like soul sisters.

Q. But your funereal look in Bala has also appeal to criticism.

Bhumi: Yes, but I’m not going to comment on it because my answer is going to be the same as the age-based discrimination debate. I’m not going to let go of a good part. It is the director’s privilege. And the thing is that you’re performing her colour. I am the one who’s telling people, it is not that any anybody’s making fun of it. She is that change that needs to happen with the fair skin fixation. That’s why I’m very assured that I’ve come from a very honest place.

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