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Interview Hindi

LIFFT India: We used to hide our sex appeal, says Kunickaa Lal Sadanand

On the sidelines of the LIFFT India Awards & Filmotsav, the yesteryear actress spoke about the changes in the film industry and her new avatar as associate producer in Priyanka Chopra 's Purple Pebbles Pictures Pvt Ltd.

Kunickaa Lal Sadanand. Photo: LIFFT India

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Kunickaa Lal Sadanand gained popularity in the 1990s when she was frequently seen playing negative roles, the gangster’s moll or the sexy siren. She started her acting career at a young age in television serials. She then moved on to acting in films and her negative roles in films like Beta, Gumraah and Khiladi are remembered even now.

In an exclusive conversation with Cinestaan.com on the sidelines of the LIFFT India 2017 Awards and Filmotsav, the actress discussed the changes that have come about in the film industry and spoke of her future projects. Excerpts:

LIFFT India is a unique festival as it involves all the arts and it is encouraging to see so many people from the industry supporting the endeavour. Tell us about your association with the festival.

There are people who know Rijuji [festival founder and director Riju Bajaj] and support culture and the arts, so there are several people who have come to support the festival and I am here for that reason as well and hopefully the momentum will pick up. I think not many people can take out the time and drive down from Mumbai for the festival at present, but if it becomes a hub of activity then people can perhaps plan their weekends and come down here once in a year. It’s also great for the area here and its development. Filmmakers also need to be supported as it’s not just about big-budget films but about smaller films with different stories that need to be told, which is being done through the festival.

The opening film of the festival was Parched. Increasingly, films are talking about women’s stories. Do you feel the market is more accepting of these stories as opposed to some 10 years ago when you were still active in films?

Absolutely. Films and literature project what is going on in society. The fact that women came forward to fight the triple talaq system shows there is a socio-economic change underway and there is an acceptance of a woman’s voice. Which does not mean that men should not be represented, because sometimes I feel that the men are not being adequately represented. I am not a feminist as I am not prejudiced against men, and being the mother of two sons, I know that there are sensible men as well.

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My problem, however, is with films that project empowerment through sex. Is it only sex that we need to be liberated from? There are so many other taboos that we need to be liberated from, so those are the stories that I would like to see. For example, with respect to women in the corporate world, there are judgements that she must be sleeping with the boss, so again it revolves around sex. It’s almost like a woman only consists of sex. That is what I would like to see changing.

Why do you say that you are not a feminist? Is it a resisting of labels?

I don’t believe in the bra-burning type of feminism, but I believe in soft power. I think that a woman can say so many things in a very nice and soft way through her behaviour. She doesn’t need to do the bra-burning and sloganeering. I also believe that energies have to be together — those of yin and yang. You can’t just have the feminine energy, but you need the male energy as well and the balance needs to be maintained. The balance had been disturbed, but now slowly that is being restored.

Also, most of the women filmmakers whom we see have the support of men in their families etc so we must recognize the contribution of men in the success of women as well. So, it can’t just be one journey.

You have played several negative and wicked roles in your films. But over time we have seen the disappearance of the vamp. What are your comments on that?

The heroine has taken over. There used to be a vamp when I started out 30 years ago. Now there is the anti-heroine. We don’t call them vamps anymore, which is wonderful in the sense that the barriers and the lines have dissipated somewhere. The films have also changed, which has enabled these transitions.

There is tremendous nostalgia amongst audiences to see older stars on screen again. Are there acting projects that you are looking forward to? Will we be seeing you on screen soon?

Fortunately, I have always been offered roles but I have grown as a person. When I came into the industry, I was young, thin, sexy, which I didn’t really see as being sex appeal, but these labels were put later. Today, it’s a great selling point. A woman like Sunny Leone is doing so well and sexiness is appealing, while we used to hide our sex appeal. For example, I would not wear a miniskirt outside. I would wear it for a role and immediately wear a gown on top of it.

Nowadays, it’s different and that’s great. But I digressed because I got bored of the same type of roles. After Mohra (1994), I started taking it easy, took a mother's role in [television serial] Swabhimaan and wanted to change my image. I went into politics for a while, which was a big waste of time, but I did learn from it. Now I am back in the fold. I was working with Priyanka Chopra. We did three big films and I was the one heading the projects and Ventilator (2016) was one of them. But now I want to get back to acting, so hopefully there will be good roles that I can do.

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