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December 17 2017
‘I feel like a kid in a candy shop!’
21 September 2017

Actor Aditi Rao Hydari on familial ties, fighting the fragile stereotype and bonding with Sanjay Dutt on the sets of Bhoomi

When she talks about what cinema means to her, actor Aditi Rao Hydari’s eyes light up, and she uses the word “magic” a lot. It seems all the more apt when it’s the elfin-faced actor who describes it that way. Hydari, who is used to being called petite, says, “A lot of people have this impression of me being this girl who is so fragile, that if you touch me, I’ll break.” She laughs before adding, “But if I may say so myself, I’m quite a braveheart.” This week audiences will see her step out of the image as a demure and delicate woman in Omung Kumar’s revenge thriller Bhoomi.

Family ties

Set in Agra, the film revolves around the relationship between a father and his daughter, and follows their journey as they deal with a difficult event in their lives. “Bhoomi is a spirited and loving single child of a single parent,” describes the actor who is playing the titular role in the film, that of Dutt’s daughter. Hydari was especially drawn towards the script because of the powerful bond the parent and child share, and because of the transformative journey Bhoomi goes through on screen.

This will not be the first time Hydari will be seen in a revenge thriller, having essayed the dancer Ruhana in Bejoy Nambiar’s Wazir (2016). As Ruhana she was a grieving mother — a character who got sidelined once the male leads began to unfurl the pursuit of vengeance. With Bhoomi, Hydari’s character actively participates in unleashing retribution. The actor is quite clear, that she doesn’t want to call the film a revenge saga. “There can be a clichéd understanding of revenge,” points out Hydari, “That it can be very male dominated. I would call this film a fight for justice,” she asserts.

Hydari loved that Bhoomi does not give up her narrative in the face of difficulties, and becomes an active participant in steering its course. “I’ve grown up around very strong women,” she says, reflecting on how she could take charge of her life. Initially, many viewed acting as an unlikely career for Hydari considering her family’s background in education and classical dance, along with the fact that she is an outsider to the industry. “[The women of my family] gave me complete freedom to create my space and live out my dreams.”

Hydari’s absolute love and admiration for her mother, Hindustani classical singer Vidya Rao, and maternal grandmother, late educationist Shanta Rameshwar Rao, is evident. Nearly every answer winds its way to how the actor owes everything to them. “They have been very instrumental in making me who I am today,” shares Hydari, while explaining that their upbringing enables her to be courageous. It seems the young actor credits her mother for moulding her that way: “My mother is extremely strong. She has brought me up on her own.” Hydari finds that she is very similar to her grandmother: “She had this bratty twinkle in her eyes and always did what she wanted to do.”

Shades of reality

I wonder if it is Bhoomi’s plucky character or her single-child-single-parent story that tends to remind Hydari of her and her own family, when she says, “[The role] was cathartic because I didn’t really grow up with my father.” She points out how even her on-screen father, Sanjay Dutt, has a daughter who didn’t grow up with him. “Every time I had his hand on my head,” continues Hydari, “or got a hug from him, it felt amazing, and I felt like the world was fine.”

Fatherly love

The young actor reminisces how on the first day of shooting together, director Omung Kumar told Sanjay Dutt that Hydari seemed a little nervous since she was quiet. Her promises of being fine once the camera started rolling were cut short when Dutt hugged her. “Sanju sir said, ‘Not just when the camera is rolling. Even off camera’ and then gave me a tight hug. It felt really comfortable from then on. We really had a father-daughter kind of partnership,” says a grinning Hydari.

While Hydari does say she is close to father Ehsaan Hydari, she clips the discussion short since she doesn’t like talking about her parents’ separation when she was a child. “I don’t like talking about it because it sounds like a sob story, and it’s really not,” she emphasises.

Beyond boundaries

Hydari’s other release earlier this year was Mani Ratnam’s Tamil romantic drama Kaatru Veliyidai. She has made appearances in other regional films like the Malayalam Prajapathi (2006) and Marathi Rama Yadav (2014), and believes films cannot be limited by barriers and boundaries. “Stories are about feeling, and feelings don’t have barriers of language, caste, or colour,” she explains. “I feel like a kid in a candy shop! I really want to work with amazing directors, and I don’t want something like language to come in my way at all. I would be up for the challenge!”

Hydari will next be seen in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama Padmavati , but she refuses to disclose anything about other projects. She says, “I prefer to keep quiet and work and surprise everyone.”

 

 

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