New Delhi: “I believe you should be so good in your work that no one can deny you,” said actress Bhumi Pednekar, known for her roles in films such as Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Saand Ki Aankh.
Pednekar was in New Delhi Friday to attend the launch of the second edition of Inspiring India, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India’s flagship magazine, where she was announced as the organisation’s ‘national advocate for sustainable development goals’. She has been associated with UNDP India since 2022 as its Women@Work Champion.
Clad in a pair of simple blue jeans and a black T-shirt with a UNDP logo — a far cry from her usual glamorous looks — she spoke to ThePrint on the sidelines of the launch, weighing in on various topics, such as nepotism in Bollywood, women and gender equality, and climate change.
Speaking of the need for all women to be “empowered” and “self-dependent”, Pednekar said: “The time has come for every woman to understand that she can do anything. This is the only way she can go forward and get the confidence to achieve whatever she wants in life.”
Since her debut in 2015, the actress has starred in several films focused on one social message or another. Her first, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, promoted body positivity; Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017) highlighted the problem of lack of sanitation facilities in India, especially for women; while in Bala (2019), she played the part of a confident lawyer with dark skin.
From a non-film background, Pednekar asserted that she has never felt “inferior”. “My first film came from India’s no. 1 production house (Yash Raj Films),” she pointed out.
“I am not saying that nepotism does not exist in Bollywood. But I must say that I never felt it. Opportunities kept coming for me, and I kept taking the right decisions. But this is my personal journey,” she said, adding she isn’t affected much by what people say.
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‘We must create a better world’
Talking about the importance of being the “voice of those who need us”, Pednekar said, “It’s our responsibility to create a better world for the next generation.”
“The issue (of climate change) is important to me and it also affects the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. We cannot ignore climate change. Our indifference towards the environment is coming to the fore. What will we give to the next generation?” she said.
Pointing to the “many heat waves in summer and winters so intense that water becomes ice”, she said, “Pollution is making people sick, and we have to change ourselves to deal with the changing environment.”
Stating that she is “honoured to be associated with the UNDP campaign”, she talked about the importance of being given opportunities. “I come from a family where I was given opportunities. I did what I wanted… I followed my dreams. My family’s mantra is that you give back what you get. Give back to society. And today, I can convey my message to people through my cinema,” she said.
‘Left everything for my passion’
Before turning to acting in 2015, Bhumi had initially tried her hand at direction at Yash Raj Films for six years.
“I am probably the sum total of what I learned while directing. No work is big or small. If you have a dream, a goal, then you should strive to achieve it by doing the smallest, most humble work. Because you do not know what will open which door for you,” the actress told ThePrint.
She also spoke about the difficulties she has faced in her life. “My difficulties were different. I was fighting for movies — they are my love. It was difficult for me to fight at home. I told my family that I will study and get a degree, but let me go to work,” she said, adding that “at the age of 17, I left everything for my passion”.
On her struggles in the film industry, she said, “Someone will always be better than you. Everyone’s struggle is different. My journey has been long and after a lot of hard work I have reached here,” she said, adding that going forward, she wants to be “more successful” and give back to society as much as she can.
Her next film Bheed is set to release on 24 March and deals with lockdowns and migration.
Talking about her own experiences during the Covid lockdown in India, she said: “In the first lockdown, I pursued my hobbies — from cooking and eating to reading and watching. I did everything that I could not do in the past seven-eight years. I used to do housework. But the second lockdown… everyone knows how scary it was. I went out and did what I could to help people. It was a busy time.”
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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