'Miss India was a do-or-die situation for me,' says Neha Dhupia | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Neha Dhupia: Miss India was a do-or-die situation for me, haven’t done as many auditions as you’d think

Feb 17, 2022 08:14 PM IST

Neha Dhupia talks about her journey in the film industry, sharing babysitting duties with actor-husband Angad Bedi and more in this new interview with Hindustan Times.

Neha Dhupia has said in a new interview with Hindustan Times that her choice of films have a lot to do with what she was offered. After making her Bollywood debut in Ajay Devgn's Qayamat: City Under Threat in 2003, she went ahead and featured in all kinds of films. She is now gearing up for the release of her latest outing, A Thursday, in which she will be seen playing the role of a pregnant cop.

Neha Dhupia talks about her new film, and more in a new interview.
Neha Dhupia talks about her new film, and more in a new interview.

In her conversation, Neha elaborated on how director Behzad Khambata re-worked the script to incorporate the pregnancy angle for Neha's character. Neha signed the film before she conceived and was pregnant when the shoot began. However, the filmmaker tweaked her role to accommodate her changing looks.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

You debuted with Qayamat, did films like Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local, but also Kya Kool Hain Hum and Singhh Is Kingg. How did you look back at the varied choices?

Honestly, my choices are subject to the kind of roles that are offered to me. It is not like the entire industry, any and everyone is waiting to sign me up for roles and saying ‘okay, let us wait for Neha, let us do this’. I never had that privilege, but I also never had the flip side of it and I am in my 19th year as an actor. I also modelled for four years before that. I never had a time when I had not had work.  As a self-employed person, it speaks volumes about what I stand for.  For the work and opportunities given to me, ones that are not given to me, I create them. I do all of it without hurting anyone because I believe in it. My varied choices are because I was fortunate enough to change my path. And, maybe, it is about timing as well. When I came in, there was the mainstream commercial cinema that has always been there and we were oscillating between good projects to good cinema. 

Right now, we are oscillating between good cinema to great and outstanding content. Initially, all that (popular films) was great, so I did all that. Now I feel like the industry has opened up to giving opportunities to women. There was also this idea of an actress on camera 10-15 years ago and now we are not put in a box. With time, I have changed and I also had the opportunity to change. If I was struggling to look like or be like or aspire to do roles like like I did when I joined the business in my 20s and the industry was still where it was, I may have not had work right now.  

You have been in the business for long. Do you remember an audition where you were nervous or scared?

I have not done those many auditions as many as you'd think. I have not done years and years of rounds of auditions. I did Miss India, and that was a huge platform back then. Dia Mirza, Lara Dutta, and so many others got into the industry so it was kind of given. The audition I was nervous about, was for Miss India. It was a do-or-die situation for me. I was like great if it happens fine, but this is the only chance I am going to take. If it's not gonna happen, then it is not meant to be. Apart from that, some (auditions) I failed at, some I succeeded. I remember there was one audition I did on Zoom recently. I was doing all four parts because no one was reading the lines to me. I was so disappointed.  

While working on A Thursday, did you realise the privilege of being an actor working during her pregnancy, opposed to a real cop working during her pregnancy?

I salute the cops because of the work they do, but I would also like to say that actors also work really hard. I remember I was shooting an ad at my home and my contractions kicked in. So I was holding the product and they had to dab out the sweat many times. When I realised I was in pain, I asked them to stop and said ‘I want Angad (Neha's husband, Angad Bedi) to fly back’. He was in Delhi at the time and I called him immediately. If you talk about the privilege,  I think the physical conditioning is different and I am not sure if they will actually be sent out on an operation in the field, when they are as pregnant, in real life. Our pregnancies do not make us weak, they make us stronger. Whether you are a pregnant cop or a pregnant cop on camera, you are the strongest person when you walk into a room. You are giving life, that is my superpower.

After having your first child, Mehr, you started this whole discussion around the need to negate body-shaming and normalising breastfeeding. What inspired you?

As far as the body-shaming was happening, it was really sad, I still remember, the journalist was a woman.  Not to say that it is okay if a man does it, it is not okay if anyone does it. You do not understand what a woman goes through when she herself goes through these changes. For me, more than being a certain size, being fit is more important. But you are not the one to decide when I should go on a diet, when I should stop feeding my child, when I need to be a certain size. You are not allowed to have an opinion, and if you do you are not allowed to hurt anyone while putting that out. So some people needed to be put in their place. 

I started (the campaign) Freedom To Feed in August 2019 as an Instagram page. It was a conversation that needed to be had. I remember I was on a flight and my daughter needed to be fed. I felt odd, felt that breastfeeding was not something that is normalised in our country. Why did I have to go inside the airplane toilet to feed her? Of course, when mums need to feed their children, they all do it. I am one of them, I am not going to hold back if I have a crying baby and worry about who is looking and what is happening. I just felt, why did I have to go inside an airplane toilet to do that?   

Also read: Neha says A Thursday script was changed for her: 'Cops also get pregnant'

With two kids and work, do you have moments when you and Angad are fighting over babysitting duties? 

We do not fight over babysitting duties, because we were never people who were extremely conscious of routine. We are actors and we are wired to function in irregular schedules. We used to understand that a planned four-day shoot can extend to six days. But now things are different, those things trouble us. Our children have actually taught us how to follow a schedule and respect time like never before. Time management is the most important thing. No matter where he is and where I am,  if we can, we manage. Of course, we can't move dates for a film but we can ask that we would prefer a Monday shoot instead of Sunday for an ad. As much as we can, from Saturday morning to Sunday evening, we spend time together, just the four of us. Our kids are young right now so we can manage their schedules. It will be tough once they get older. We do not fight, but we try to work our schedules around and it is very tough to manage when you have two kids and also jobs where you do not have a routine.

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