Speaking about her latest film Aamhi Doghi, the actress shares her criteria for choosing films and recalls the time she did a cameo in Munna Bhai MBBS (2003).
Priya Bapat: Instead of randomly signing films, I believe in doing ones worth remembering
Mumbai - 22 Feb 2018 6:00 IST
Priya Bapat is one of the leading actresses in Marathi cinema today. An interesting feature of her decade-long career is that she has climbed the ladder of success despite doing a limited number of films.
Bapat's filmography indicates her tendency to give importance to quality over quantity. Kaksparsh (2012), Time Please (2013), Happy Journey (2014) and the recently released Gachchi (2017) are some examples.
Bapat will now be seen in Pratima Joshi’s Aamhi Doghi, where she stars with Mukta Barve.
In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, Priya Bapat spoke of how she chooses her film roles and recalled the time when she had done a cameo in Sanjay Dutt's Munna Bhai MBBS (2013). She also spoke about her latest film, Aamhi Doghi. Excerpts:
From the trailers it appears that Aamhi Doghi is about the friendship between your and Mukta Barve’s characters. Is there more to it?
No, we are not speaking about any such relationship. I feel people like Amala and Savi are present in everyone’s life. The film is about different relationships actually. Ami and Savi are just mediums to show this visually. We have different relationships with different people who come into our lives. Some are temporary, some are lifelong. But every person provides us with something and also takes away something. So, Aamhi Doghi is about the combined journey of all these things.
You are also playing a 16-year-old in the film. How challenging was it?
It was challenging, not just for me but for all of us on the team! It is very rare that we play characters 15 years younger. Generally, we cast other actors to play our younger selves. But [director] Pratimatai trusted me to show such a wide span on screen. It is the most important thing for your director to have trust in you.
Everybody in our team contributed towards it — from the costume, hair and make-up departments. But the first and foremost contribution was by the writer. She worked on the language used by a 16-year-old and a grown-up Savi.
A 16-year-old behaves a lot differently from someone over 30. How did you address this behavioural aspect?
Actually I had seen a picture of myself when I was in the 10th standard. I kept that in mind to get my body language right. But I never wanted to make the character appear childish in any way. If you try hard to behave like a little girl, it appears fake. To keep her innocence intact was our main concern and we tried doing that.
I worked a lot with Parulekar sir [fitness trainer Shailesh Parulekar, who runs the Parulekar Gym chain] on body fitness because our physical attributes are different. And our body moves rapidly at that age. There is quickness in the body actions and expressions. We react quickly, run and show movement. We don’t spend time on them. Such laziness happens after we grow up. So, we kept all this in mind.
You must have answered this question a lot in the past few days. How was your experience working with Barve, on and off the set?
It was a beautiful experience. She works with a lot of intelligence, focus and precision. She is also a very supportive and cooperative co-artiste. She is always concerned about bettering her co-star’s work along with her own. She thinks about the entire project instead of just her task.
I felt like she was my elder sister. She used to point out if I went wrong and would appreciate it whenever I did well. If there is a good give-and-take, it helps your work.
Going by what you all said at the press conference and the 'making of' video, it seems as if you had a lot of fun on the sets.
Actually, the fun activities, about what we said and what you saw in the video, was only for some time. Over the 27 days of shooting, it lasted only for about 10 hours. Barring that, we were only working. There were so much work that we had no time. In between, when the five minutes of fun is captured in the making, people feel we only had fun (laughs). But those five minutes of relaxation in between are also important as you get the energy for the entire day.
Your filmography suggests that instead of signing too many films, you believe in doing only quality work. Has this been a conscious decision?
I don’t think it is possible to have a plan in mind. But I have always kept in mind that one should do films that stay forever in the audience’s minds. I believe that my current work is going to be history. Years later people should pull that film out from the archives and it should bring back happy memories of it. So, we should make sure our work stays forever in people’s minds. Hence, I believe that instead of randomly signing films I will only do those that are worth remembering. I don’t know if the strategy is successful, but I always try doing that.
So what do you look for before agreeing to do a film?
A lot of things, actually. First, I should like the story. When I feel I would like to watch this film, then I prefer being in that film.
The choice of director is way too important for me. His or her vision in making the film is important for me too.
Thirdly, I consider the role offered to me.
Your very first appearance in a film as a grown-up was a cameo in Munna Bhai MBBS (2003). What do you feel when you look back on the time you had just entered the industry?
I was actually not in the industry then. I just did it for fun. Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy (2009) was my first official work when I decided to make this my career. Till then I was not doing it as a professional. I was doing it just for fun. I was in the sixth standard when I acted as a child artiste in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar (2000). For me, Munna Bhai was also one such work. I felt it was fun, so I did it. I had no thoughts [of becoming an actress].
Today when I see my role in Munna Bhai MBBS, I feel if I had made up my mind to be a full-time actress, I would have diverted my career in a different direction. But I didn’t. I was in college and I didn’t have clarity. I was getting a lot of offers in Hindi after Munna Bhai. Not as a heroine as I was young then. But I would have made myself ready for that sort of thing. I realized it much later and I did Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy and my journey started. Else it would have started five years earlier.
As you said, you weren’t clear whether you wanted to enter films then. What was your plan at that time as far as your career was concerned?
I was only studying then. I was doing mass media in advertisement and journalism. So, if I hadn’t become an actor I would have had a career in advertising or photography.
You are married to actor Umesh Kamat. Do you discuss films at home and give healthy criticism on each other’s work?
Of course we discuss films and provide healthy criticism. It is very difficult to impress me and Umesh. We have seen so much of each other’s work and know each other so personally, including how each would react. So, it is very hard for Umesh to surprise me and vice-versa. We always keep that as our bar. If Umesh is impressed, I know I have done at least something good enough.
Your film is set for release. Are you excited or nervous about the box office?
I am just excited. I don’t think of the box office ever. I don’t think of the Friday collections. All that I do is only for excitement. I have done my work. My job is to act and do promotions, which I have done. Now it is up to the people to come and see the film. If they are waiting for it to come on TV, I can’t do anything.
Nowadays it has become routine for two or more Marathi films to be released each Friday. The same is the case with your film. What do you think of this situation?
This is bound to happen considering the number of films being made these days. I feel we should look at the quality of films. There are a lot of films that get made but don’t get released, or if they get released, they aren’t able to do anything. All I feel is that producers should think about the quality of the project before investing in it.