By Asjad Nazir
VERSATILE ACTRESS ON SWITCHING GENRES AND ROLES
ACCLAIMED actress Aahana Kumra has shown off her impressive range in a wide array of popular projects that range from diverse web serials like Rangbaaz, Inside Edge, Bombers, Betaal and Marzi to award-winning films like Lipstick Under My Burkha.
The rising Indian star is continuing to show off her versatility in new projects that include recently released Sony LIV sitcom Sandwiched Forever and will be seen in the Indian remake of superhit French series Call My Agent, along with high-profile films.
Eastern Eye caught up with hot-right-now star Aahana Kumra to talk about her journey, superb success, current projects, inspirations and being fearless.
What connected you to acting?
During school days, I was expected to stay home and study for long hours, but watched movies back-to-back whenever my parents were away and wondered how these people started acting, and how to get into films. I watched a lot of Disney movies and remember being inspired by them, even though they were in animation. After school, I enrolled into this workshop at Prithvi theatre. Post the workshop, we had to perform in front of the audience. Even Shashi Kapoor was a part of the audience and that was the moment I realised this is what I want to do. I want to be on stage and entertain people.
You have done varied roles, but which is closest to your heart?
It is difficult to choose because every role has an emotion attached; my character Taruni (in Yudh), which was my debut opposite Amitabh Bachchan. It was a very special role because the story was about a father-daughter relationship. Another pivotal role, extremely close to my heart, is Leela in Lipstick Under My Burkha, who was a beautician wanting to break away from the misery and monotony of her life. It was a wonderful film and that role of Leela opened a lot of doors for me in the film business.
Which of your projects has been the most challenging?
Lipstick Under My Burkha was very challenging because at that time I didn’t know what to expect from myself or what people will expect out of me, and how the film would be received. Playing Sameera Chauhan in Marzi was tough because of the extreme emotional turmoil the character went through. Also, in Beetal, I had to shoot with prosthetics because my face was scarred and in very high temperatures. For Khuda Hafiz, I had to learn Arabic and hand-to-hand combat. So, each project has its own challenge, but they all come with great value and learning.
Who has been the most memorable person you have worked with?
My mentor is Naseeruddin Shah – I learnt acting from him in film school. He is my guru and after I graduated, he gave me my first job in Motley Productions. He has been a guiding light in this field. I did my first independent film with him and have learnt a lot from him. The second person is Mr Amitabh Bachchan because my debut was with him in Yudh. The way he conducts himself, the amount of effort he puts into the scene, there was so much to learn from him. He always made sure his co-actor excelled. So, for me, these gentlemen remain the most important.
You are a very versatile actress, but which genre do you prefer?
I love anything and everything about drama. Also, recently, I did my stint with comedy and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Does your approach change between film, web and television? Not really, because we have to work on the character and its nuances irrespective of the medium. It changes in terms of the prep that we do. With film, we tell a story in two hours, so it’s a more consolidated version of storytelling. It’s extremely challenging and you need to be really prepared, but the prep time is longer. The web format is longer, so the character also stays with you longer and you can discover a lot while shooting. The prep time is shorter, compared with a film. With television as far as my experience goes, you hardly get any prep time and the scripts come last minute, so it’s spur of the moment. So, television is very challenging.
Tell us about your new sitcom Sandwiched Forever?
The show has been produced by Sony Liv and Studio Next, directed by Rohan Sippy. It’s a family entertainer. I play the character of Naina, who is a badminton player, married to a game developer (Sameer), who works from home and doesn’t move from his couch. Naina and Sameer are sandwiched between their respective families on the same floor. So, there are lots of funny moments because the parents are snooty. My character is a feisty overachiever, who does things her own way. She is sandwiched between the husband and mother-in-law, which is common in every Indian household. So, the series is very relatable and I had a great time doing the show.
What can we expect from your other new project Call My Agent? Call My Agent is a remake of the French series and the reason for its remake is because we have a big Bollywood industry here. It is about four film agents, who manage the work and careers of actors and their everyday lives. You get to see the other side of that world. The show has very interesting episodes. It was great to share screen space with seasoned actors like Rajat Kapoor, Soni Razdan and Ayush Mehra.
What would be your dream role?
Well, I want to play an athlete. I would love to play it even if it’s a fictitious character and not a biopic. I have been doing a lot of workouts, including running 15 km every day. I have been training myself and working on my stamina during lockdown. And I think in India they should make more films about female athletes. Also, I would like to attempt mythology as a genre.
Would you say you are fearless as an actor?
Yes, I am fearless because if I wouldn’t be, I can’t be an actor. You have to be at the deep end and if you can’t be then you can’t be an actor. As an actor, you need to switch genres and roles, and without being fearless you can’t do that. I have switched roles from Khuda Hafiz to Lipstick, then Marzi, and now Sandwiched Forever. Being an actor is about being fearless.
What inspires you?
My mother, sister and the sun. The sun comes out no matter what and will rise every morning. My mother was a police officer who worked on high-profile cases and has just become a lawyer at 68. She will soon start practising law. She always tells me that you, yourself are the best judge of your career and life. My sister is a fitness enthusiast and inspires me to stay healthy and have a routine in my life. So, all the inspiration I need, is in my home.