Bhumi, Rebel Belle

Bhumi, Rebel Belle

There is persona and there is reality in Bhumi Pednekar. She has approached both life and work on her own terms and transcended stardom by igniting a green mission.

ARTICLE BY : Nupur Sarvaiya


Change is an intimidating word, riddled with effort, expectation, fear and failure. As a kid I was taught small steps equal big differences. But I am definitely hardwired to resist change. Bhumi Pednekar gives me some sage advice with a relatable metaphor. When driving a car if you shift the wheel just a little, it can change your path. One-degree shifts is the actor’s inherent way of life too, be it style, state of health or sustainability.
“Begin with simple steps. Carry a cloth bag to the market. Say NO to single use plastic. Buy what you need and re-purpose and re-cycle clothes, accessories, bags etc. Plant a few house plants, and care for them. Watching them bloom and grow is special. Switch off unused power points and unplug your electronic devices when not in use. If possible, switch to electric vehicles. Recycle your waste and adopt composting. Simple changes that can save the planet, save you money and time, go a long way,” Bhumi tells me. Despite being an artist with access to almost everything, her choices have been informed and intentional. A climate warrior, outspoken feminist and voice for change, Bhumi was an early adopter of sustainable fashion, focused on advocacy for women and those marginalised, cracked open taboos with cinema, positively used her impact and influence to promote and rally for brands and causes that represent her beliefs, and has looked for connection and resonance everywhere she can find it.

From joining hands with Young Earth Champions to partaking in beach clean-ups, she has been a dedicated climate warrior for over three years. In February 2022, Bhumi was invited to speak at the prestigious Harvard University to highlight the impact of the youth in climate change. “I have worked to highlight the continuous, untiring efforts that environmental activists have done in India. I have spoken to them, given them a voice on my social media platforms and I have also engaged my friends and co-stars from cinema to speak about nature conservation and environment-friendly ways of life. I want to focus on everyday conservation by citizens in the long run—recycling, repurposing, reusing and reducing one’s carbon footprint—as a cause,” she elaborates.

As we inch towards a new year, Bhumi is determined to uphold old commitments and conversations. “I want to draw attention the Sustainable Development Goals that our government has promised to work towards, while encouraging people to follow an eco-friendly lifestyle that helps meet those targets. I also want to engage with kids and young adults in being environmental protectors and change drivers in their homes and communities,” she paints a picture of her 2023 plans.


Celluloid Charm
The multi-hyphenated filmography is evidence that she carries the same sense of responsibility for her cinematic ventures too. She evoked empathy playing a fat newlywed in her debut film, ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’. She made me want to shed some inhibitions and fight my fight with stride in ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’. At some point in the biographical drama film ‘Saand Ki Aankh’, when Bhumi while essaying the fierce octogenarian sharpshooter Chandro Tomar states rather affirmatively, “Regardless of her achievements, women hesitate to reveal their real age. Not because it’s a big deal, but because no woman will be able to calculate the years, she has truly lived for herself.” The hard-hitting crudeness of it all and the urge to defy ageism and patriarchy was impossible to ignore. Naturally, it released to unanimous acclaim.

When I ask what motivates her to choose characters that don’t conform to conventions, she is characteristically frank: “I love playing the quintessential girl. But luckily, in my films, I have always had a character arch. Generally, I feel the path for female actors today are far better—we aren’t just there for objectification. And I feel fortunate that that the roles that have come my way gave me an opportunity to be more.”

Bhumi has 6-7 film projects in the pipeline for 2023—a mix of various genres. Highly anticipated is her upcoming endeavour ‘Govinda Naam Mera’, slated to premiere in December 2022 on Disney+Hotstar. “It’s a high-pitch, high-drama comedy thriller. It has a fantastic ensemble cast with some top-notch performances that I know people will enjoy. Personally, I did the film because every character is very well-written. I’m playing Gauri, who is this brash, ambitious woman. She has this femme fatale quality that I went crazy about. Taking the project on was a no-brainer for me because I grew up watching hardcore entertaining films, and at the crux of it, I am that person. So, when I get that opportunity to be part of this out-of-out entertainer, I go back to the basics and the reason why I became an actor. Additionally, I got to collaborate with Shashank [Khaitan], who is a very dear friend,” she reveals.


Woman to woman
In a who-did-it murder mystery, Bhumi will be seen alongside Vicky Kaushal and Kiara Advani. When female actors work together on a film, everyone expects there will be gossip and catfights. I ask her about the optics of women working together. “It’s a myth that women don’t support each other. It’s the other way around actually,” Bhumi quips. “For instance, whether in India or internationally, if I am on a film set during my period, I know my female co-star is going to understand it a lot better than any man on the set. Not that women are looking for sympathy, but at certain point we have all had similar experiences and there’s a certain amount of empathy that we have for each other. There isn’t a bone of jealously. Instead, there is healthy competition, which I also have with my male co-actors, that helps you to do better.”

To top it all, it’s the strong bias in favour of male actors that gets to her. Bhumi is quick to call spade a spade. As she puts it: “To start with, there’s the pay disparity. There was a time when I was paid 10 percent of my co-actor’s fees. Even for female producers or filmmakers, the kind of budget they get is not the same. It’s a constant struggle to trying to prove your worth.” The problem is deeper than the wage divide, she says. “There’s generations of social conditioning. This isn’t just within our professional arena, this is a global problem. It is assumed that a man deserves more and a woman should be happy with what’s offered to her. This ideology upsets me. But things are changing in media. I must also give some credit to some of the male actors that I have worked with. They are all progressive and realise there needs to be a certain amount of equality for art to strive. The idea is to keep working harder so we create a safer space for future generations.”

Home & Heart
In this binary world, Bhumi got boundless love and respect at home. “I come from a very progressive family. My parents never undermined my intelligence or ambitions. These ethics also encapsulate my idea of a marriage today. It is the coming together of two compatible people who love and respect each other’s personal and professional lives. Pick each other up when things are not good and bring out the best versions of ourselves. The perfect marriage needs to have a lot of peace of mind and security. There will inevitably be ups and downs, but in your lowest of low if your partner understands you, even for the mistakes you have made, then that’s a successful one. Being progressive for me means, you get to make the choice. If you get married, it’s because you chose to get married,” she shares.
Sure, Bhumi’s not taking the plunge any time soon, but I ask if she has a mental image of how her wedding will look like. “My perfect wedding keeps changing from time to time,” she laughs. “There are times when I feel I just want a court marriage or a simple temple ceremony. Other times I want to get married in a palace. When the time is right and when I have a partner, I will know what kind of a wedding I want. Regardless of the details, I know that my wedding will be a sustainable one. I will try to make it as eco-conscious as possible.” She’s sure of keeping waste to a minimum, but maximum is the word when she speaks of her dream bridal ensemble. “I am an extra person, so I will definitely not be a subtle bride. I love to dress up, I love makeup.”
And a bookmark-worthy honeymoon destination according to Bhumi? “Italy or Switzerland. There are so many things you can experience with your partner that you can’t possibly do with your friends. Go on a road trip anywhere in Europe. In India, Kashmir is my favourite. It is so stunning. You can walk anywhere on the street with an ice-cream in your hand. That’s the kind of person I am. I would want to go to museums, go skiing, grasp as much history as I can.” 

Wardrobe: Mrunalini Rao, www.MrunaliniRao.com
Jewellery: Dhirsons Jewellers, www.DhirsonsJewellers.in

Editor-in-chief: Sonia Ullah

Photographer: Vansh Virmani
Creative Director: Manni Sahota
Fashion Editor: Vikas Rattu
Fashion Stylist: Tanishq Malhotra
Makeup: Sonik Sarwate
Hair: Seema Khan

Assistants: Bhavya Jain, Farheen Kaur, Garima, Archita Elwadhi
Set Design: Phoolandevi Events
Production: April Studios

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Tags : Bhumi Pednekar  Khush Wedding  Indian Fashion  Couture  Mrunalini Rao  Dhirsons Jewellers 
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