There are some iconic images attached to certain stars that they can never shake off, even if decades have passed.
For Bollywood actress and cancer survivor Sonali Bendre, that emblematic scene that shaped her career could easily be that steamy rain song with Aamir Khan in the 1999 blockbuster ‘Sarfarosh’.
It was a dream sequence where Bendre dances in the rain with the man of her dreams lip syncing to ‘Jo Haal Dil Ka’, loosely translated as ‘What happens to my heart’. Her character in that terrorism thriller is expressing her love amorously and that song became symbolic of a young woman smitten with her boyfriend and top-ranking fierce police officer (Aamir Khan).
“It has worked very well for me for a long time. But it’s time to move on from there. I am hoping in the coming days, I will some new images for you,” said Bendre with a laugh.
In less than two days, this fierce cancer survivor and bibliophile will turn a new page in her life as she makes her web streaming debut with ‘The Broken News’.
She plays a high-ranking journalist who faces ethical and moral dilemmas in her daily grind of delivering news to millions. ‘The Broken News’ is the Indian adaptation to the critically-acclaimed and popular BBC show, ‘Press’.
So is Bendre, 47, feeling particularly vulnerable or rusty since it’s been several years since we have seen her act?
“I don’t think vulnerable is the right word. I am excited about it. I am nervous because I have put so much work into it. And I like what I did and I am so kicked about the story ... I have come to a stage in my life where this is not about doing a job or taking that paycheck home,” said Bendre.
She also lets us in on a secret. In the past, she has done films where she didn’t particularly get affected by its failure or success.
The wife of producer Goldie Behl, who last had cameos in films like ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, claims ‘The Broken News’ is different and is a significant turn in her life and career.
“Although I got into this profession by accident, it’s always been a happy accident … It’s taken me a long time to understand that if I were given a choice to do something else, I wouldn’t want to do it … This is what I want to do. I want to act,” said Bendre.
Excerpts from our interview with Bendre as we talk about her new show, her talented co-stars Jaideep Ahlawat, and how the media industry has turned murky ...
You have always maintained that change is the only constant. So is your debut on a streaming platform with ‘The Broken News’, the change you were alluding to?
Yes, it’s long overdue I say. And it’ a change that will remain a constant. I am hoping to do a lot more work now and I am enjoying it. It’s so good to be back and face the camera again.
Earlier, I faced the cameras for my reality shows. But it’s so nice to finally do a character and it hit me just how much fun it’s to play these different characters. It made me wonder: ‘Oh, why did I not do this earlier?’. But I am waiting for something would be meaningful to me. I was waiting for some story like the one in ‘The Broken News’.
So, we will be having some vicarious fun with what happens in the world of newsrooms which is full of drama, dilemma, and deadlines. I love the series ‘The Morning Show’ with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. How will this show be different?
I have not seen ‘The Morning Show’, but I think it’s a completely different show. We have taken the rights to adapt the hit BBC show called ‘Press’, which was about two newspapers. But ‘The Broken News’ is set in the world of news channels [broadcast] and reflects all that’s happening around us. You will identify with the issues that we have covered.
And you play a broadcast journalist who’s facing some sort of an ethical dilemma …
I play the editor-in-chief of a news channel and my name is Ameena Qureshi. She’s very humane. And when you think of an editor-in-chief, you realise that she has been through this whole journey to come to a certain place. She has won awards for her line of work, but she’s reached a point where she is questioning her own thought process and the way she’s lived her life. She’s questioning the decisions she is making and the calls her team are making. So there’s all that drama. Then there’s Dipankar Sanayal (Ahlawat) who’s the editor-in-chief of another news channel Josh 24/7. We are two different personalities, but there were at one point in the same newsroom. But today, they run two different newsrooms. So now you can imagine the scenario.
Are your characters based on real news anchors who are notorious for their news presenting style and political slant …
The characters and the story is fictitious. But life can be stranger than fiction and you can’t often compete with the amount of curveballs that life can throw at you. Having said that, the show and its characters are real enough, but it’s a work of fiction. Remember, we play characters who are human beings with the same frailties …
The show will also hold a mirror to the society that we live and not just pontificate on the state of Indian media or its journalists. It throws a spotlight on how viewers often determine what’s served to you in the garb on news.
They hold immense power. So, ‘The Broken News’ is just trying to explain the story behind the news stories. You also realise the compulsions that drive journalists. They are all human beings who are real, warm, and flawed … The show will compel you to question information overload and how viewers process that information that’s doled out to them. Questions such as how are they going to verify it is explored … This show will be a great conversation starter.
‘The Broken News’ also features Shriya Pilgaonkar from the hit web series ‘Guilty Minds’ and Jaideep Ahlawat from ‘Pataal Lok’ fame, who are having a shining moment in their careers with their superb turns as actors. Was it a co-incidence?
I was very clear that I wanted to work with new voices because it’s so exciting. These new voices and what they are doing is so exciting. I wanted to be a part of a show with these talents because I wanted to learn from them.
You have always re-invented the proverbial wheel by dabbling in movies, reality shows, and television. Plus, you have been a portrait of resilience on social media as you battled cancer, life, and more …
I am glad social media kept me in people’s collective conscience. Perhaps, it’s also because I was a part of a reality show that dealt with kids and I entered people’s homes and hearts through that medium.
I remember, when I did my first television show, I was one of the first few female actors to plunge into television at that point of time with ‘Kya Masti Kya Dhoom (2001). The other actor who did it was Mr [Amitabh] Bachchan for ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ back then. I had just worked on hit movies like ‘Sarfarosh’ with Aamir Khan and done director Sooraj Bharjatya’s ‘Hum Saath Saath Hai’.
So I was at a certain point in my career and it was shocking to the industry that I went ahead and did television. They kept asking me why I was doing TV, when my movie career was on a rise. But I liked the concept of that show. It was fun and so did it. I never viewed television as a step-down or something lesser or more than movies.
I have been brought up to believe that’s it is all about how you do your work rather than what work you do. I am earning my money honestly. I have always believed that TV is an honest day’s work and it’s good work. By doing television shows after being on the big-screen, I went straight into people’s living rooms.
So it has all paid off?
Today, I meet kids who used to watch ‘Kya Masti Kya Dhoom’ at home. They are all grown up now, but I have this whole generation who identify with me. I call that a happy accident or a happy coincidence. It was never a planned thing. But when I look back now, it was a nice move. Even with social media, I have been on people’s minds. I am not doing a web series because everybody is doing it. I wanted to do it because it meant something to me and that’s the reason why it took so long to like a script.
Don’t Miss It!
‘The Broken News’ is out on Zee5Global on June 10