When after 11 years of dabbling in short films and TV shows, you get to play Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter in Yudh, it’s an unlikely dream come true! But after such a high, going ahead you may get bewildered and ask yourself what went wrong! But Aahana Kumra did not fall into this trap. In fact, she understood that crests and troughs are a part of one’s career. This beautiful and talented lady continued to run her race – not like a jockey who keeps looking behind, but like a true winner who reached the finish line with a hit like ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’. Aahana Kumra has been a part of the industry for 11 years and here she opens up about her journey with ETimes in an exclusive interaction for the #HowIMadeIt series.
AWhistling Woods student (2006-2008), who had the privilege of being taught by stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak, Benjamin Gilani, Akash Khurana and Makrand Deshpande, Aahana says she started at Prithvi theatre watching plays and doing workshops. Her first workshop was with Neeraj Kabi, also our first guest on #HowIMadeIt. She also went on to assist Sanjana Kapoor. “After I finished studying at Whistling Woods, we were all by ourselves trying to figure out the real world and luckily Shanoo Sharma (casting director at Yash Raj Films) came to our institute and I went on to assist with ‘My Name Is Khan’. I took and monitored auditions there and learned how actors are cast,” shares Aahana.
It would be interesting to note here that Arjun Mathur — who was our second guest on #HowIMadeIt, was twice added to the final auditions list by Aahana — once for ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ where he finally played Rahul Gandhi, and for ‘My Name is Khan’. Aahana was delighted to feel that her opinion mattered when Karan Johar asked her whom she liked for Raj Burman’s role in ‘My Name Is Khan.’
In 2014, when the TV show ‘Yudh’ happened, Aahana was on cloud nine. Reminiscing her shoot, Aahana says, “It was really nice. I was standing in front of a mega star.” Aahana reveals that Amitabh Bachchan had asked her if she minded rehearsing, “Bachchan sir is always so prepared with his scenes and dialogues and he loves to rehearse.”
However, life is not a bed of roses. Most stories have a struggle and Aahana’s has been no exception. ‘Yudh’ surprisingly and unfortunately did not live up to the expectations. Aahana says, “I think it was suited for a streamlined platform and we didn’t have one in those days. It was ahead of its times. I had thought that after ‘Yudh’, I’ll get a spate of roles. But I didn’t want to play a hero/heroine’s sister or friend. I don’t think such roles have a life; they don’t lead you anywhere. I hadn’t taken formal training in acting to play someone’s sister,” she says, clearly hinting that she had started getting offers that were fluffy and not meaty. But Aahana was adamant not to lose focus. Interestingly, it was Aahana’s mother who had asked her, after her brief run at Lowe Lintas, if she wanted to make a career in films.
After a few short films and a couple of TV shows came the clincher for Aahana. ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ (2017). Aahana says, “People who hadn’t seen my work earlier liked my work in it. Ekta Kapoor, who put that film out, became special for me. And also for Alankrita Shrivastava, who wrote and directed it.”
After a massive array of work and acclaim over the next few years, which consisted of ‘Rangbaaz’, ‘Bombers’, ‘Marzi’ and ‘Betaal’, Aahana shares, “I’ve got all my work through auditions. I am not the one who calls up the makers to say if they can cast me, but yes, I don’t mind asking someone if I can test for a certain part. I think auditioning is an actor’s right.” While she has not faced nepotism, Aahana wants things to be crystal clear, “Bollywood should inform you if you have been replaced. Nobody likes to be informed through others — it happened to me once.There’s a proper way to communicate with actors.”
In the interim, Aahana was seen in a miniscule role as Priyanka Gandhi in ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ (2019). “Arjun Mathur told me that I was like a background artiste and he was like a junior artiste in the film,” Aahana confides, adding that she hadn’t read the script in her excitement of playing Priyanka Gandhi. This led Aahana to speak to the makers to get her role extended. “But when I saw the film with my parents, those new and extra scenes were not there. That was the first time I realised how actors feel when their scenes are cut.” And, did she question that? “I spoke to the film’s director Vijay Gutte and I was told that they didn’t find those scenes relevant and hence they didn’t include them. After that, you don’t question,” she quips. Did she watch a lot of videos of Priyanka Gandhi to study how she walks and talks? Aahana replies, “There was not much material available on Priyanka Gandhi then. The film’s team sent me a few videos, though. It was much later that I saw Priyanka Gandhi out there, campaigning.”
Aahana’s journey continues, and she says, “But films like ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ don’t get made often. That film was groundbreaking for me.” Having got her due and being far more out there now, Aahana adds one more aspect that she would like to see in Bollywood. The actress asks for a level-playing field. “There should be a fair casting process and that should also happen with relevant and bigger actors. I see certain actors being repeated in three films of the same type and we don’t even get to know about the auditions of those films. I know filmmakers want to cast people whom they know, but I think it’s interesting if other actors, who can do that part well, are also auditioned. If I am auditioning for everything, why is everyone else not?”
Aahana shot for a web series titled ‘Sandwich’ in August-September with Rohan Sippy. Sharing the experience she says, “It’s a sitcom and we shot it exactly like a play, 14 scenes a day. I have attempted comedy for the first time.” Apart from this, she will also feature in the Indian adaptation of a French show, which Shaad Ali is directing.
Parting shot? The Leela of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ wants to clear the air about an important project, “Here’s a clarification. I am not doing ‘Shamshera’. God knows why Wikipedia and some reports have been carrying it. I wasn’t even offered that movie.”
Source From : Times Of India