Anushka Ranjan (left) and Vaani Kapoor. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Just like the spirit behind the annual Gr8! Women Awards ceremony in Dubai that honours achievers in fields such as politics and arts, Indian actors Vaani Kapoor and Anushka Ranjan believe that women in Bollywood have made strides with their bold choice of roles.

“Look at Alia Bhatt, she will be honoured this year because of the variety of roles that she has done. She hasn’t stuck just to mainstream glamorous roles… There are so many women in the Middle East who have achieved so much,” said Ranjan, an actor and a part of the Indian Television Academy panel who institute these awards every year.

Diganth and Anushka Ranjan in Wedding Pullav.

“It’s our seventh year in Dubai and we wanted people to realise that women are doing a lot in their respective fields such as politics, science and arts and often they are not getting their dues. Tonight will be about celebrating women from all walks of life — be it science or politics — who are achieving excellence despite various hardships,” said Ranjan, who made her acting debut with the romantic comedy Wedding Pullav.

She is in Dubai along with her best friend and colleague Kapoor, who showcased her Bollywood romance Befikre at the Dubai International Film Festival last year. Kapoor will be honoured this year at a glittering ceremony at the Al Bustan Rotana.

Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor in Befikre.

Befikre was my second film in Bollywood, but it’s my nth visit to Dubai and it’s so beautiful. People are so welcoming and I still remember the euphoria of premiering Befikre at the festival. People from all walks of life and nationalities watched it. It was surreal,” said Kapoor.

But it’s not just the love for films that unite them. They are neighbours in Mumbai and get along like a proverbial house on fire. Ahead of the awards night that will be attended by actors such as Lindsay Lohan, Esha Gupta and Bollywood director and choreographer Farah Khan, Gulf News tabloid! sat down with this dynamic duo to get their take on several burning topics…


On nepotism and connections overruling merit in Bollywood…

Kapoor: “No two people will have similar journeys in Bollywood. I am an outsider and I am grateful that Yash Raj Films discovered me. I am just grateful that I met their casting director Shanoo Sharma and I have such high regards for this production house because they choose you for their talents and everything depends on what you can bring to the table as an artist. It was very fair and square for me. But when I look around, I do see aspiring actors at cafes in Mumbai who are perhaps more attractive and talented then me. It’s a tough field.”

Ranjan: “People believe that if you come from a film or television family, then it is easier. But remember, the expectations around us can be astounding. There’s a baggage about actors in that family achieving a certain level of fame that rubs off on that new kid. It is unrealistic. Every individual is different and everyone should be given a new start. Having said that, it isn’t easier for people outside the industry. It’s a struggle for all of us and trust me, it’s hard. Now the Bollywood industry there is so much competition, it is not enough to know how to sing, dance and act.”


Casting couch, the practice of demanding sexual favours from actors in exchange for roles…

Both: “It must exist but we haven’t experienced it first-hand.”


On actresses and the expectation to maintain a perfect front...

Kapoor: “As an actor, I feel you don’t have to be a certain height, measurement or a type of an open face. We are not a beauty pageant. Ideally, actors need to have a certain charismatic appeal. I love watching people who aren’t perfect but have an enigmatic appeal.”

Ranjan: “A part of me would be relieved if an actress is shown in a film with a pimple. We are not some gods that we have to look perfect all the time.”


On actresses speaking about mental health and body-image issues...

Kapoor: “More power to them… What is always important is to be true to yourself. I am just happy that my parents brought me up with morals and ethics. It’s that grounded upbringing that helps me stay true to myself. It’s important to have substance beneath all that glamour.”

Ranjan: “When you are in the film industry, everyone feels it is their right to be negative towards you. So if I am going to listen to everybody and their opinions, I might go crazy. My father has taught me to glean the positive aspects from life. No matter what anybody’s opinion is regarding my clothes, food or tastes in life, I am still going to do what I like. Otherwise, it isn’t easy to survive.”


On critics and nasty reviews surrounding Befikre and Wedding Pullav...

Kapoor: “Befikre got polarised reviews. They either hated it or loved it. You either connect with a movie like that or you don’t because it’s a character-driven film. So if you didn’t connect with my role of Shyra, then you will never feel invested in that. And personally, I truly enjoyed watching Befikre. Usually, I am overly critical of my own films and it may sound unfair, but I loved the film. Perhaps, if you aren’t too judgemental and don’t come with any preconceived notions then you are likely to enjoy that film.”

Ranjan: “I still have people who message me about enjoying Wedding Pullav… We have just started. Our every film is one step forward.”


On plastic surgery…

Kapoor: “I wouldn’t get anything permanent done on my face. People think plastic surgeries are a piece of cake. It’s not that simple. Nobody can walk in and out of it. Surgeries are a big deal. But each to their own.”

Ranjan: “Go for it. I wouldn’t pass judgement on people who opt for plastic surgeries… I struggle with weight loss. I am a foodie and I gain weight. But that’s the way it is.”


The details

What: Gr8! Women Achievers Award

When: April 19, Roda Al Bustan

Time: 7pm onwards, the red carpet opens followed by the awards presentation