Actress talks Dum Maaro Dum, Media Intrusion and Hollywood
BOLLYWOOD actress Bipasha Basu is back on our screens in the suspense thriller Dum Maaro Dum. We caught up with the actress to talk movies, journalists and Hollywood.
Bipasha tell us a bit about ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ – what type of film can we expect?
DMD is a unique film in every sense – from its characterisation comprising four central characters as opposed to more traditional “leads”, to the script which explores the darker, more sinister side of Goa that most people are unaware of, to the film’s edge and narrative pace and structure …it’s certainly a film out of the stable of new-age thrillers and is definitely not the quintessential Hindi cinema offering that people might be used to.
What attracted you to the film?
A number of factors which collectively presented such a unique and fresh film project – I couldn’t say ‘no’! For all of the reasons just mentioned, coupled with the fact that I was extremely keen to work with Rohan (Sippy). I’ve always admired his work. He’s from a new stable of filmmakers with a fresh vision and he brings a different form of energy to the screen. ‘Bluffmaster’ was a prime example. He truly is an avant garde filmmaker with a unique panache for re-positioning the way Hindi cinema is seen, expressed and experienced.
DMD is a multi-layered thriller with a lot of depth – the way it has been presented, scripted and delivered is very well crafted and I’m sure it will appeal to a wider audience beyond India. And of course, I was attracted to my role – it’s so multifaceted and empowered, a major thread that holds the plot line together.
‘Dum Maaro Dum’ deals with dark and very real issues – are films like this more appealing to you as an actress?
I am certainly drawn to films that challenge me artistically, but I am also mindful of my fans and what they want or expect from me. My portfolio in Bollywood has been quite varied and at the same time as meeting the expectations of my fans, some of my roles have also been critically lauded.
Although certain roles have required a more glamorised image, I don’t feel that has hindered my artistic growth. Also, feedback that I got from fans following my film ‘Aakrosh’ was that they are happy to see me portray a small town girl, so long as she is empowered, rather than submissive, in character. That’s what drew me to the character of Zoey in DMD – she may be a small town girl, but she is a strong female character who has experienced a lot in life and grown as an individual through those life experiences.
The film is shot in Goa – one of the world’s top holiday destinations! Did Rohan Sippy allow the cast to have a bit of ‘holiday’ time during the shoot?
That would have been amazing, but it was a pretty intense filming schedule. The evenings were wonderful though – relaxing with good food, good company and enjoying the beautiful Goa sunset after we’d wrapped.
Goa is certainly among my favourite holiday destinations and I have shared many good times in Goa with my family and friends – memories I will cherish for life, that have defined my relationship with the city.
Talk us through your character ‘Zoey’ – is she an all together different character to what you’ve played previously?
It is one of the most interesting characters I have essayed in my career thus far. She is a lady full of life and ambition, who tragically follows the wrong path. I loved the part, right from the storyboard stage. There’s a rare earthiness about her and the role is very real. I hope audiences will connect with her in the same way that I did.
Did you have to prepare for the role in any way?
You know, Rohan so adeptly inter-related such strong character shades for each of us that in order to deliver our respective roles with conviction we had to get into the head space of each other’s characters, in addition to really inhabiting our own character’s shoes. It was quite a challenge portraying such strongly interlinked character sketches, to the extent that I was living and breathing DMD. But I enjoyed every minute of it.
We see some new faces in Dum Maaro Dum – Rana Daggubati, Prateik Babbar – what have they brought to the film?
Rana brought a fresh insight and energy to the film, although he’s certainly no newcomer given his family lineage and illustrious history in the South Indian film fraternity. He himself is an established and reputed star of South Indian cinema.
Prateik is certainly rising in the ranks in our industry and quite rightly so. He also brought a dynamic new energy to the film and is most certainly one to watch out for. It was such a pleasure working with them both.
As newcomers did you find yourself or Abhishek having to guide them in any way?
You know, as much as we shared our experiences with these guys, we gained, as well. It’s such an enriching experience working with artists who bring a fresh and unique perspective to the industry. As much as they may have learnt from us, we too gained a lot through working with them.
Your main co-star in the film is Rana Daggubati and not Abhishek surprisingly. What was it like working with Rana?
It was great to gain insight into the sensibilities of the South Indian film industry vis-à-vis ‘Bollywood’. He brought a lot to the table including, as mentioned before, a fresh insight and energy. As much as I love working with artists I share a rapport or established working relationship with, it is always fulfilling to work with new artists and to understand their way of perceiving things and working.
There are a lot of media reports surrounding your on-screen chemistry with Rana, suggesting there is more than just an on-screen relationship. How do you handle situations like this when the media try to pry into your private life?
You have to develop a thick skin to some degree and let such things go over your head. There will always be journalists that like to sensationalise things and misinterpret or mispresent a rapport you may share with a fellow actor and co-star. For all of the professional, hardworking journalists that work with integrity, there will always be those few who deem it acceptable to fabricate stories for the sake of selling copies. It just reflects a lack of skill and professionalism.
I try not to worry about such things as I guess it comes with the territory and being in the public eye. You learn to differentiate the things that are worth worrying about from those that aren’t.
Do you have to accept the media intrusion as part and parcel of your career as a Bollywood actress?
You know, I am so blessed and truly thankful to be where I am, by the grace of God as well as through the unconditional support and affection from my family, and extended family of fans and friends. My profession is such that I’m continually in the public eye, and I’m lucky to be there. It’s natural that with the territory, there will also be a few down sides, such as the media intrusion. As mentioned earlier, you need to learn to differentiate the things to worry about from those that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to. The longer my time in the industry, the more I get used to that.
Abhishek lends his voice to a song in the film – what’s your take on his attempt? Could he give up acting and become a singer?
I think it is wonderful and just goes to show how much of an holistic artist he is. I’m not sure I would want him to give up the acting though as he is such an exceptionally talented actor and it would be a travesty if he were not to appear on screen. The singing is fine, but first and foremost, he is a seasoned, gifted and outstanding actor and a huge asset to our industry. In front of the camera is where he belongs.
Can you see yourself following in Abhishek’s footsteps?
Hm, I think I should save my singing ‘skills’ for the privacy of my bathroom and leave the real singing to the amazing playback singers that save us actors from embarrassment time and time again.
Dum Maaro Dum isn’t your only big film of the year – tell us about ‘Singularity’ – your first Hollywood film?
Singularity is my first International film and it has been an amazing journey. Although I have worked in the industry for 10 years now, this film has presented me with a completely fresh perspective towards acting as it’s introduced me to a new genre of cinema which, for an artist, is a must. It’s paramount to challenge yourself and to venture out of your comfort zone. Singularity has been an amazing project through which I have been able to do so.
Was it an opportunity you couldn’t turn down?
Without a doubt. The script, my role, the director, my co-stars… Again, holistically it was a project which I couldn’t possibly have turned down.
Is Hollywood something you would consider doing more of?
Yes, as an artist, it is important for me to be open to new challenges and opportunities and to extend my capabilities. I am more than happy and thankful to be working in Indian cinema, but I would always be open to new filmic experiences, be they through the vehicle of Hollywood cinema, Indian cinema, or indeed any other film industry from across the globe.
Dum Maaro Dum is on general release now