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EXCLUSIVE: ‘Padmaavat’ actress Anupriya Goenka uncensored and unabashed
With barely a few movies to her credit, Anupriya Goenka has become a Force to reckon with. Her last two movies ‘Tiger Zinda Hai‘ and ‘Padmaavat’ gave her recognition and even though she had supporting roles to play, her characters left a lasting impact on the audiences. Be it as the brave nurse Poorna in ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ or Rani Nagmati in ‘Padmaavat’, Anupriya has earned praises. So, as her recent flick ‘Padmaavat’ is gaining all the limelight, we engaged in an exclusive conversation with her about her background, movies, her interests and future projects.
Coming from a corporate background, how easy was the transition to Bollywood?
It hasn’t been easy at all because I’m a corporate person, I’ve also done business in the past, so I was used to a very different life. I’m not from a very creative space in any way and I was used to a very structured lifestyle whereas here there is no fixed schedule.
Like, I said I come from a business family, I was always inclined towards business as a child itself. However, that was struggling and I had shut shop in my second year of college and I had started working in the corporate space which was again very new for my family or my relatives because none of the girls in our family had ever done a corporate job and I really enjoyed it. Because you know what you’re doing every day, how much money is coming in and then I moved to something which is completely the opposite of it. And that too people told me that I was already 25 and it’s too late and I didn’t have any friends, relatives or anybody whom I knew who was a part of this industry or to understand how to even start. I think most of the times all of us even suffer from not knowing where to begin from. So, all those things are there. It’s not easy because there is no right sense of guidance and even after you’ve figured, it’s not an easy process at all because it is so bound by uncertainty.
And you are really without work literally because you’re busy in giving auditions, meetings and running helter-skelter and it requires a lot of perseverance, self-assurance and faith in your craft. So, all these qualities really mark the journey of an actor.
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So, are you missing those good old days?
See, I have always loved acting and that is something which I discovered that the amount of happiness a good film, a good performance, one moment gives infront of the camera, being directed by a director or working with a team. So, those are the things you always keep in focus whenever there are moments of unsurety. Of course, I have missed my corporate life many times. The funny thing is when I’m in my corporate attire for a role or I’m shooting in a cabin or when I visit channels for interviews, I love seeing those cabins, I love those chairs. However, I know that what I do now, I love the most and I love acting. So, I’m happy doing that.
Speaking of acting, your last two movies ‘Padmaavat’ and ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ struck gold at the box office. How does it feel?
I feel blessed, I don’t have words to describe that feeling especially when people come and tell you that you’re a part of two big blockbuster movies back-to-back. That is an amazing feeling and God has been very kind and I would never know how to thank Sanjay Sir, Ali Abbas Zafar or YRF, because they are the ones who had faith in me. They kept faith in me for very important roles and gave me opportunities. It’s been a great experience of working with these stalwarts. So, it’s an amazing feeling.
Talking further about these two movies, while ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ had a smooth release, ‘Padmaavat’ faced several roadblocks. Did it make you nervous about the fate of the film?
It did make me nervous, not about the fate of the film, but about what the whole team was going through. I could imagine the struggle Sanjay Sir and his team has gone through in putting the film together and they have put in so much effort, so much love. I have seen him nurture this film. They have put in like 400-500% of themselves. It’s been a dream project. So my heart used to go out to just the hardships that they were facing and we all were facing. We always believed in ‘Padmaavat’ completely all through it. We knew what the script was, we knew what the film was and how it is an ode to the Rajput honour. So, that was even more of an unfortunate part that when you know that something like this happens, it’s even more disheartening. We don’t know what to say like how would you even comprehend that. But, we all knew that it will finally release and the day it releases, the audiences are going to love it. And it will only make the community proud and that’s exactly what happened.
Even though the audiences have loved the movie, members of Karni Sena have been continuing with their protests against the movie. What do you have to say about this?
Honestly, I’not very aware of the current scenario. I’m just hearing about the good numbers, the good reviews and how people are loving it, how they are loving Deepika, Shahid, Ranveer and all of us. And how Sanjay Sir is being applauded for his magnum opus, his masterpiece and it is a masterpiece. So honestly, I haven’t been that impressed with what’s happening.
Speaking about your character of Rani Nagmati in the movie, how did you bag the role?
Well, Shruti Mahajan is the casting director and she arranged the meeting between me and Sanjay Sir. So, that was very interesting because mostly we as actors first audition for roles a couple of times and only when you’re at a certain stage of the audition process you get to meet the director. Here, he met me first, he gave me his time, he narrated my character to me and you know briefed me about it. And then I was asked to audition. That meeting I can never forget. Then there were auditions for a couple of months, followed by a final look test and I got finalised. And for the preparation bit of it, I think whatever you see onscreen is all thanks to Sanjay Sir. He has been the biggest help in terms of making me understand Rani Nagmati, essaying her onscreen and it’s his vision.
What sort of preparations did you do for the historical character?
I did do some diction classes, for a certain tonality in my voice. I watched films like ‘Mughal-E-Azam’ and period films, a lot of Sanjay Sir’s films to understand him better and I fell in love with him again. I read a lot online too, like the poem ‘Padmaavat’ that the movie is based on, read a lot of interpretation of that and whatever I could find about Nagmati, about Padmavati online. And I’m myself a Rajasthani, so I’ve heard about it all through my life and it’s pretty much the same of what I have heard. And I have in the past visited Chittor and the fort too. So, all that was very interesting for me because Padmavati is a character which I’ve always heard of as a child, kind of imagined and visualised. Rest, I never knew I would be a part of the film.
It was amazing, I didn’t unfortunately get a chance to work with Ranveer. But with Shahid and Deepika, it was really nice because both of them are such hard-working actors, very down-to-earth and extremely supportive. Deepika, I can just keep watching her, she is so gorgeous and beautiful and very simple and of course, extremely elegant and hard-working. I learned a lot of those qualities from her, by just watching her work and she was always very encouraging, so was Shahid. He gave me a lot of support, guidance and he would always make room for his co-actors to grow and perform equally well as him. So, that was amazing.
Okay, so now that both your movies have turned successful, people have started noticing you even more. How are you coping with all the success coming your way?
It feels amazing, of course it feels much more responsible and now what happens from here is a huge journey. There are so many other characters in movies that I would portray, a whole list of dream directors that I want to work with and co-actors.
Okay, so could you name those dream directors?
Well, there is Vishal Bhardwaj Sir, Imtiaz Ali, Zoya Akhtar, Raju Hirani, Anurag Kashyap. I’ve always wanted to work with Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. As an actor, it’s important for us to try all sorts of genres and different characters. And I think this is a very interesting time for us. Content is better than ever before and such beautiful projects are being put together and sensibilities have really grown and advanced. So, it’s a very interesting time.
When you speak of content, don’t you feel that freedom of expression is getting curbed in our country and it could prove as a deterrent for filmmakers to come up with interesting content?
You know I think it lies in our hands, in the whole team of artistes, of media, even they have a very important role to play and of educating people around us and so all of us need to work as a team, as an industry to a time where people are open to ideas, open to concepts and sensibilities and they are ready to give it a shot and then have discussions. The point is that I am creative because I want to express myself. However, that’s my wish. As a viewer, as a reader, whether you want to indulge in it or not, it’s your choice. It’s very simple. But, it’s a job that all of us have on our shoulders to create a space, create an environment where such exchange of ideas can happen frequently. And I think media has a great role to play in that. Also, I think this is a better time than any other because there are so many plus points. We have all sorts of actors, directors, writers, artistes who are coming forth and doing such interesting work. So, I do feel that this is a great time for our industry and though there are roadblocks, different avenues have also opened up at the same time.
So, you aren’t afraid to be a part of another historical in the near future?
Of course, not. I have always loved period films, historical films. I would love to be a part of another historical. It’s been a dream come true to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali because he is the master in it and I hope that I get a chance to work with him again.
Talking further of ‘Padmaavat’, the movie has been amassing praises but there have also been debates around it. Like, Swara Bhasker’s letter for instance. Did you get a chance to read her letter? What are your thoughts on the same?
I did read her letter and honestly I think it’s her right to have an opinion. I totally respect her opinion because as an artiste, she is just presenting what she felt. However, I feel that this is a story based on the 13th century about the practices that were prevalent in those times. And it very aptly portrays that. So, when a Kingdom was falling apart and the men were there fighting in the war and dying, the women would have been taken as captives and been abused. Life would have been brutal for them, so the women back then didn’t really have a choice. So in comparison to a life of that, to choose death in honour was a choice that they made as a community and which I totally respect. And that is what has been depicted here. You cannot compare it to a 21st century scenario. Now, if at all these practices are prevalent, I completely abhor them, they are completely wrong and not happening in the right context. It’s a depiction in the right context of that era, not glorification of it.
Finally, what next after ‘Padmaavat’?
Well, there are few interesting things lined up, however, I don’t think that this is the right time for me to talk about it as certain things are still in the pipeline and we are working upon it. So, lets’ see, hopefully, you will get to see something very soon this year.
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