July 31, 2021
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My Industry Doesn’t Define Me, I Define Myself, Says Aahana Kumra

Actor Aahana Kumra speaks to Lachmi Deb Roy on why it was important for her to get back to work amidst Covid-19 scare and why one should never lose hope.

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My Industry Doesn’t Define Me, I Define Myself, Says Aahana Kumra
My Industry Doesn’t Define Me, I Define Myself, Says Aahana Kumra

‘The Lipstick Under My Burkha’ actor, who was once on the verge of committing suicide, opens up about how she got inspiration from her mother and her first mentor, Naseeruddin Shah. She advises the youngsters not to lose hope, to believe in themselves and at the same time they should learn to trust the right people. Excerpts:

 Resuming work and the precautions taken for shoots…

I am on my second show now. I finished one web show already which I started in August, the minute the lockdown was pulled down. The name of the web show is Sandwich. The title might change. The fact is that in a shoot it is difficult to maintain social distance because the makeup artists are going to come close to you and you are going to have your actors and team close to you. The actors can’t wear the mask all the time, but the rest of the crew wears masks all the time.

When you resume shooting you need to be hundred per cent sure that you will take care of yourself because by the end of the day this is not in anybody’s hand. If you know that you have decided to resume work, you should know about the situation and take the needed precautions. The day I got a call that the shoot is going to start, I was completely sure that I will start work.  In fact, my spot boy also insisted that we should start work because at the end of the day we all need money.  He said very clearly, “Madam if work doesn’t start how am I going to run my kitchen?” So, when he said that to me, I decided whatever work comes to me I will have to pick it up. My immediate makeup artist refused to work, so I had to find another person. A lot of people are in need of work and the last few months have been a very difficult situation for everybody.

The show was shot like a play so we used to have rehearsals and we used to work non-stop for fourteen hours. We shot for two months and made sure that we will not let paranoia set in. We fearlessly went into shooting because life has to go on, otherwise how will my poor light man, my set man, the production people and even the actors pay the bills? At the end of the day life has to go on and for that the show must go on.

Not taking things for granted…

Honestly, I have never taken anything for granted. I had to really work very hard to reach where I am today without any producer father or producer mother and I don’t even have any friends in the film industry.  I have always been very thankful to my entire crew, the unit that works with me and my managers. I have learnt a lot of lessons from senior actors because I have started working with them much earlier in life. And the experience and enthusiasm that older actors have, younger actors somehow lack that. Getting back to work after the lockdown was so much fun and a relief too.

Working with Makrand Deshpande…

He is unbelievable. I sometimes feel that he doesn’t belong to this earth. I have always got to work with people who have always nurtured me. I started my career with Naseeruddin Shah. When I met Makarand Deshpande and started working with him for Sir Sir Sarla, I realised that he has a very different way of working. He allows me to make mistakes on the stage. I have been working with him for 10 years and he allows me to be “me”. From him I have learnt that if you don’t experiment, you really don’t grow as an actor.

Every stage show I am discovering myself and nothing can bring me that joy of growing as an actor. You can only grow with such people. Makarand is like my guru and he loves and teaches you so much that you are ready to cut an arm for him. And when I play the role of his student in Sir Sir Sarla with him, I want to remain his student in real life too.

Being an outsider…

My mother is a CBI officer, she has been in the police for 40 years. After her retirement she completed her LLB. So, for me my inspirations are right at home. My industry doesn’t define me, I define myself. I am a success story for myself. I don’t like to look at other people’s success and then evaluate my success. Coming from a non-filmy background, I don’t see it as a problem. I did my debut with Amitabh Bachchan. I have worked with Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak. Nepotism doesn’t make any sense to me because that is not my world.  I really love the stage and that is my world.

You had once been on the verge of committing suicide, how did you come out of it and what is your message to the newcomers in the industry?

I think when in doubt, rely on your training. I remember Naseeruddin Shah telling me, “If you are good, you will be picked up no matter what, where and how.” And I really believe in what he said. My family was my biggest support then. Friends cannot be family and in the film industry, they are not even friends, they are all colleagues. Remember everybody is your competitor and everybody is fighting to get work. And this struggle among colleagues is understandable because that is the nature of our work.

I feel there is so much more for the youngsters today. When we started there was no social media. We didn’t have a voice and we didn’t know how to be heard. Imagine you are doing a play and nobody is coming to watch your play because you don’t have a platform to market yourself.



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