Just like how Bollywood actress Nushrratt Bharuccha challenges patriarchy and fights for the dignity of labour in her new film ‘Janhit Mein Jaari’, she is forced to do the same in real life.
The self-made star, who has featured in the blockbuster movie series ‘Pyaar Ka Punchnama’ and in ‘Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety’, shares a telling anecdote about the rampant sexism in Bollywood.
During most star-studded events in Bollywood, Bharuccha regaled Gulf News about how her male counterparts are introduced onto the stage with bombastic adjectives such as ‘talented’ and ‘dynamic’, while actresses are merely described as ‘gorgeous’ or ‘beautiful’. Their physical attributes are talked up succinctly, while their skills like acting are glossed over. Their male heroes don’t face that issue.
“A female journalist recently asked me on my take on why female actors are reduced to being just beautiful or gorgeous instead of giving them credit for their achievements or acting before being called on stage … I looked at her and said: ‘Darling, the fact that they even called us ‘gorgeous’ is a lot’. Even having three words spoken about us is a lot,” said Bharuccha with a laugh.
Her sardonic comment is emblematic of rampant chauvinism in Bollywood, but she claims it’s her empowered character Manokamna in ‘Janhit Mein Jaari’ who has taught her to speak up about it. Before this film, she would have answered that question differently and given a sugar-coated or diplomatic response, but this film has altered something inside her.
In her new film, she plays a young woman and crusader who works for a contraceptive company but is facing pressure from her relatives and in-laws to quit her job as they don’t find it respectful enough. She’s a rebel with a worthy cause.
“Manokamna has so much zest and courage and she’s brave enough to say it as is. It’s true that male talents are described as actors par brilliance or cool, or funky. They are called the crush of the nation while the female actress who’s invited on stage is just gorgeous … I was inspired to speak up just like Manokamna and a bit of her has rubbed off on me,” said Bharrucha. Her latest character is winsomely fierce, she adds.
Bharuccha is equally open about how it isn’t easy to survive in Bollywood, an industry known for its hostility towards outsiders who have no film connections.
“There are days when I feel it’s totally worth it and then there are days where I feel it’s definitely not worth it. I don’t know what to do in those latter days! It’s the bare truth. I don’t what to do and I keep asking myself if I must keep going through those days or not … but I am a fighter and a survivor,” said Bharuccha.
The actress, who is enjoying a bullish run at the box office with her romantic dramas like ‘Sonu Ke Titu …’ doing remarkably well both critically and commercially, makes no bones about how she’s determined to stay strong in this industry.
“You may hate me for being around and I am fine with that … But when things are [expletive], I am going to say that and not play to the galleries,” said Bharuccha.
Here’s her take on …
What went behind the quirky title ‘Janhit Mein Jaari’:
“We can’t copyright or own this title as it belongs to the government, and it literally means ‘Issued in Public Interest’. The government uses it for matters they want to issue in the public interest. We have just borrowed it for our film … The sense of guilt and shame around buying contraception is deeply ingrained in our minds… There’s no normalcy around it. Playing safe and cautious is still spoken in hushed tones or it’s whispered in somebody else’s ears or how it’s surreptitiously slid down the counter … Sometimes, it comes packed in boxes with bows and I don’t get it! So, we wanted to take an important subject and make people laugh while tackling it. We want to use the power of cinema and not make it preachy … This movie is also the cleanest film you will ever see. There’s not a single shot of intimacy… At the max, the husband and wife have hugged in this film or held hands. There’s no abusive language. There are no jokes that have a double meaning in them.”
Her character in ‘JMJ’:
“It’s a simple story of a girl from a small town who’s struggling to do her job fearing judgment from her family, her in-laws, her neighbours, and her relatives. The only thing she tells them is to prove that her job is wrong or sullied. Her stand is simple: she’s not going to leave her job because people think it isn’t a nice job to have. She’s empowered and holds her ground.”
Being the most recognisable face in the film and doing the heavy lifting:
“I am nervous. But I genuinely believe that I may look like I am doing the heavy lifting, but the content is not written or directed by me. So, the writers, the director, the makers, and the presenters are shouldering the responsibility too. An actor may be the face of the film, but there are so many people who shoulder a film … Whether a film works or flops, I must share the responsibilities.”
Her bond with writer-producer Raaj Shaandilyaa:
“We enjoy such a pure friendship and mentorship. When he came with the offer to direct me in ‘Dream Girl’, he was a first-time director and I had just come off a Rs100 crore ‘Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety’ success. But my next film was with him, and I remember how he sat across the table and said I was a brilliant actor and not just your typical girl-next-door … He also claimed he won’t go to another actress for ‘Dream Girl’ because I was the only actress he wanted to cast. He said it with so much honesty and earnestness, that I went: ‘Chalo [Come on], let’s do this and have some fun’ and we did. After pack-up, our team used to light a bonfire, play some music, and chit-chat about life … We shot for two hours when we took a break from having fun. Raj sir loves singing, and we had live karaoke sessions too at night after pack-up. We both took a leap of faith with each other.”
Her career’s upward climb:
“I am very happy with the way my career is going. I could not have asked for a better reality. From ‘Ajeeb Daastan’ to ‘Chhorii 2’, it’s been a great ride. I am also doing films that excite me as an actor and as a woman … We can never ignore a box-office success of a film. It doesn’t matter if I think it’s important or not, because everybody around is only having this conversation about how a film is ‘tracking’ on a Monday. There are tracking agencies in Bollywood, and I don’t follow them or look them up. Even though it’s not my modus operandi nor can I work from that point of view alone, you can’t ignore it. I believe artistic or creative individual boxes themselves in when they just look at numbers … Did anybody ever know how much ‘The Kashmir Files’ or ‘LSD’ would make at the box office? But, box office success matters a lot and that’s the harsh truth.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Janhit Mein Jaari’ is out in UAE cinemas now.