Bhumi Pednekar: A star is born

Bhumi Pednekar: A star is born

From behind the scenes to a starring role, Bhumi shares her story to stardom

ARTICLE BY : Sonia Ullah, Abha Shah


If you don’t know who Bhumi Pednekar is yet, don’t worry - you will. 2018 is her year.
The 28 year-old was plucked from relative obscurity as an assistant casting director for Yash Raj Film, one of Bollywood’s biggest production houses, and thrust into the spotlight playing overweight Sandhya Varma in Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015). That itself marks her out as a very different kind of actress - after all, how many would risk their perfect figures for a role? - but Bhumi's no one-hit wonder.

After bagging the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut for that film, she’s gone on to star in both Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Shubh Mangal Savdhan, stories revolving around poor sanitation and erectile dysfunction. Hardly bog-standard Bollywood, but movies that have put Bhumi on ‘One To Watch’ lists everywhere.

We spoke to her about her whirlwind ride, starring in socially conscious films and her dream bridal designer.

How did you get your big break?
I started working at Yash Raj at 17. It’s such a huge organisation that I’ve been lucky enough to try all sorts of filmmaking jobs. It literally was film school for me. I was working in casting for four years when my bosses hatched a plan to start training me. When the script for Dum Laga Ke Haisha came along, I read it as I was casting for it. I had no idea that they were even considering me! I agreed to what I thought was a mock audition which they sent it to the director who obviously liked it. They rang on my birthday (July 18th) to say I got the part.

What’s life like now you’re in front of the camera?
It’s been… phenomenal! I’m lucky to get stories that matter and characters that are important and make such an impact. That’s very rare for a female actor, especially in India. The films I’ve made aren’t going to be remade because they’re so unique, which means the characters will live on for a long time. I’m fortunate to have been part of them; it’s thanks to landing Dum Laga Ke Haisha because that role set the tone for all my film offers afterwards.

Soft sheer lace lehenga, with fitted embroidered bustier and finished with a champagne-hued dupatta: Shehlaa by Shehla Khan

Didn’t you have to put on weight for Dum Laga Ke Haisha?
Yes, quite a lot of it. My character Sandhya Varma was overweight so I had to really pile on the pounds. We initially thought 15kg (2.3 stone) would be enough but the director wasn’t happy with that. By the time we began filming, I’d put on 27-28kg (4.4 stone). It took almost a year of eating; lots of carbs, lots of sugar, lots of everything.

What was your diet like?
There was an abundance of food in my life; it was a time of total gluttony. I was eating constantly. And the funniest thing was, I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone so people thought I was depressed or heartbroken. They would offer help to knock off the weight, be gym buddies or recommend dieticians. In my head I was like, “It’s okay, in a few months, it’ll all make sense!”

But you slimmed down in record time afterwards!
It was very clear that I would have to knock off the weight if I wanted to turn this break into a career – I didn’t want to be a one-film wonder. It was really tough, but by the time the film was released, I was 30-40% lighter than on screen. That shocked people, and I was taken seriously rather than a novelty.

Modern cut lehenga, off-the-shoulder blouse, with sheer sleeve cape detailing and a high volume skirt finished with gold embroidery: Tarun Tahiliani. Jewellery: Amrapali at Harrods 

What’s your weight loss secret? 
For me, completely cutting out wheat and sugar. And working out, of course - there’s no escaping the gym – but it’s also about what you eat. 

Did you see any experts or recruit a personal trainer?
No, between my mum and I, we came up with a plan that worked beautifully. I also had realistic goals because I knew I wouldn’t drop the weight in two months! It had taken nearly a year to gain all the weight so it would take longer to lose it. I made modest, short-term goals – 3kg, 4kg a month.
The first 20kg went in less than six months because there was so much to lose. After that my losses slowed down, but slowly and steadily, I kept at it and here I am. There’s no miracle cure, you just have to be disciplined and work hard. 

Speaking of your career, Toilet was such a huge success!
Toilet has definitely been one of my best experiences professionally. Dum Laga Ke Haisha will always be special because it was my first film ever, but Toilet was a game-changer.
In Dum Laga Ke Haisha people weren’t sure if I had what it takes because I was so new. Here was this urban girl trying to play a small town girl and people were constantly questioning that.
By the time I did Toilet, I’d already proven myself. I didn’t have anybody second-guessing my craft. 

Did Toilet help shift attitudes in India around the issue?
It definitely made people more aware of the problems and of all the things that are lacking. I’m not bashing India, because there are so many wonderful things and I’m a proud citizen. But as a society, we’ve become more aware of social injustices and inequalities, like sexism, poverty, lack of education and sanitation, thanks to better reporting and movies like Toilet. India is in a very interesting phase right now.

Soft gold and pastel lehenga completed with extravagant embroidery: Manish Malhotra. Jewellery: Amrapali

What was it like working with Akshay Kumar?
It was such a lovely experience. He has amazing qualities that I adopted as a newcomer. He’s punctual, professional, and so passionate about what he does. 

Who are your favourite designers? 
Nikhil Thampi - he’s a very dear friend. His style is very strong, very bold, very sexy and that’s what I’m all about. Apart from him, all the greats; Manish Malhotra, Tarun Tahiliani, Anita Dongre and Shehla Khan. 

Describe your style
Edgy. Strong. Sexy.

Bejewelled long-sleeve Empire line gown with sequin embroidery: Anita Dongre. Jewellery: Amrapali

Have you thought about who you’d wear on your Big Day?
Obviously Nikhil! I have total peace of mind that he’s always going to make sure I look amazing.

Is marriage on the cards anytime soon?
Haha no. I’m too busy concentrating on my career!

Who’s your fashion icon?
Cher is my style icon, but in India, Sonam [Kapoor] is the most stylish. 

Floor length jacket with plunging neckline. Styled with mint sheer net sari: Anita Dongre. Headpiece: Ra Abta Jewels, nosering: Amrapali

What are your 2018 goals?
Just to do keep doing lots of great work, and working towards building a great community and making changes in India through my films making a great impact. Also becoming a better person with every year that goes by.

What kind of changes do you hope to make in India?
The best tool I have to make a change is with my movies, because in India, everyone goes to the cinema. I’m not consciously choosing socially relevant films, but they’re good because not only are they entertaining and commercially viable, but they also have a little message that lasts long after you’ve finished your cinema popcorn. As I said, there are things that need fixing in India. There’s an entire generation that’s working towards making things that are wrong, right. I’m very proud to be part of that generation.

Hand embellished floral skirt with thread and sequin details: Manish Malhotra Metallic beaded strap top: Payal Singhal. Jewellery: Amrapali


Editor-in-Chief: Sonia Ullah
Creative Director: Manni Sahota
Fashion Editor: Vikas Rattu
Guest Stylist: Mohit Rai
Photography: Michael Sheller
Makeup: Gini Bhogal

Hair: Aamir Naveed


As seen in Khush Wedding Autumn issue KW17

Tags : Bhumi Pednekar  Bollywood  Actress  Manish Malhotra  Couture  Fashion  Style 
  Previous Article
Next Article   

Get Our FREE Newsletter