Neena Gupta says Anurag Kashyap wanted to cast older actors in Saand Ki Aankh: ‘Financers wanted younger actors’

Insisting it is all a business-driven decision, Neena Gupta says she never said why were Taapsee Pannu or Bhumi Pednekar cast in Saand Ki Aankh. Read the complete interview here.
Neena Gupta opens up about getting work at her age, upcoming film Panga and more in an exclusive interview.(AFP)
Neena Gupta opens up about getting work at her age, upcoming film Panga and more in an exclusive interview.(AFP)
Updated on Aug 27, 2020 11:32 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | BySweta Kaushal

Months after raking a storm with her tweet about the casting of younger actors in Saand Ki Aankh, Bollywood actor Neena Gupta has said producer Anurag Kashyap wanted to cast her in the film but the financers wanted younger actors.

Speaking with Hindustan Times in an interview, Neena said, “Film industry is business. If you sell, you are taken into a film, if you don’t then you are not taken. When Anurag announced this film –Saand Ki Aankh, I called him and said ‘Ye role to mai kar sakti hu, kya tum young ka kar rahe ho ya old ka kar rahe ho (I can do this role, are you tracing the younger part of their lives or the older one)?’ He said ‘I wanted to take older actors but my financers said you have to take younger girls’. So it is business – who is suited to the project is taken.”

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After Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar were cast as world’s oldest women shooters --Chandro and Prakashi Tomar -- Seema Pahwa and Soni Razdan had joined Neena to ask why older women could not be cast in age-appropriate roles.

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Neena credited Ayushmann Khurrana’s National Award-winning Badhaai Ho for all the offers she is getting now that she is a 60-year-old woman. “If Badhaai Ho was not a hit, I wouldn’t be called for all these roles. There is nothing emotional, it is a business. You do well, you sell well. Agar Badhaai Ho hit nahi hoti to mujhe ye sab nahi milta jo mil raha hai. Mere ko pucho, maine to sabse zyada old woman ke roles kiye hain jab mai jawan thi. In fact, ab mai apni umar se kam role kar rahi hu jab mai budhi hun (If Badhai Ho was not a hit, I wouldn’t have gotten these roles. Ask me, I have done maximum roles of older women when I was young. In fact, I am essaying roles younger to me now). It is not like you are a director and you want somebody and you can take that somebody (in your film). It does not work like that,” she said.

She further explained that she did not mean to demean or belittle the work of young actors. “What I had said had nothing to do with who should do what. What I had said was, ‘oh, I wish’. There are lot of roles for younger actors but very few (roles) for older actors. Because, you know the reason, old age me waise bhi aurat ka kya yogdan hai real life me, humari country me (As it is, how much contribution do old women have in our real life in our country)? So there are many more films with younger actresses doing younger roles. Maine aise hi bol diya ki I wish ye mere se kara lete budha ka role kyuki mai issi umar ki hu (I just expressed my wish that they would have cast me in the role of an old woman as I am of the same age).”

“I didn’t say ki unse kyu karaya, mai unki jagah hoti, mai bhi karti wo role. Kyu nahi karungi? (I did not question their casting, I would have also done these roles if I were in their place, why not?). If there is an interesting role and the filmmaker is asking me to do it, who am I to say?I just said I wish, maybe I should have said it in my heart only, not out in the open. But people made another thing out of it,” the National film award winning actor added.

She further asserted that she has also essayed characters older to her age. “I have played old woman when I was 30, it all depends on what you have. Us waqt koi choice nahi thi, mujhe karna pada. Mai nahi karna chah rahi thi boodhi aurat ka role. Par mujhe karna pada kyuki koi kaam nahi tha (I did not have a choice, I didn’t want to essay roles of older women but I had to because I had no work). Otherwise, you do not play older (characters). Sometimes you go from young to older. I am playing a very old woman’s role now also. But it is a fantastic role, and I will kill myself to do it.”

Talking about her upcoming film Panga and the film’s lead Kangana Ranaut, Neena said, “With Kangana, I did not have many scenes but wherever, the one or two scenes that I have had, I find her real because she was as real as the role demanded her to be. She is very easy to work with and easy to get along, no problem. We had a nice time, gossiping and eating whenever we could.” Directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, the film is slated to hit theatres on January 24.

“I have a very small part, footage wise. I play Kangana’s mother. It is basically about the relationship between mother and daughter. Now that she wants to make a comeback and expects me to look after the kid as she makes a comeback. It is a typical mother-daughter relationship. But eventually, Panga is about how mothers are always there for you.”

Neena shared details of her most important scene and said, “My most important scene is the last scene, where I say jab interview degi to sirf Prashant ka naam mat lena, apni mummy ka bhi lena. That was a very beautiful thing she had done. Earlier, I was supposed to be on the computer, typing and then I see her winning, her success stories. Then, she (Ashwiny) made me get up and walk till the door and uske baad chor diya mujhe jo karna hai karo (She just left it to me to do it the way I wanted). That is the beauty of it, ki ek rasta dikha ke chor diya (laughs). Usme agar laga ki nahi hua (If she was not satisfied with the result), then she would come in. Whatever I did it was very comfortable on sets.”

Praising Ashwiny for keeping the set calm, Neena said, “Every day, when I shoot, I am learning. Now I am learning more because I have got more work to do. I learnt a lot from Ashwiny where she would know where I had gone a little sur higher? Sometimes, you do that because you can’t have concentration for ten hours in a day. She would always catch it. She would tell me ‘relax yourself, relax our shoulders, relax your head and go out and then do your thing’. These are the little things you learn from everyday work. That’s what I learnt - relax and be as natural as possible.”

“Even if it is a much small scene, you have to give it all. I can’t think ki mera chota sa scene hai kar k nikal jau. I had to put in everything even if there was one scene. Chote role ka kya hota hai, graph nahi banta na zyada kyuki kam kaam hota hai. To us choti duniya me apko apna graph banana padta hai. Wo bahut mushkil hota hai. Agar apka bada sa role hai, lamba role hai to (footage wise aur waise bhi) to apka (character graph) ban jata hai ki yaha se waha gae fir ye kiya, fir ye hua fir wo hua. But isme, aap achanak gae, ek chota sa scene karke nikal aye (Small roles do not have graph due to limited screenspace. You need to build a graph in the limited space allotted to the character and I find that very difficult,” she added.

Asked if she would like to lead a more laidback life and retire from acting, Neena said, “I will not retire, maybe I will work for 5 or 8 hours. Abhi to mai 15-15 ghante kaam kar rahi hun (I am working for 15 hours at a stretch right now). I am the happiest working, it is gives me the maximum pleasure. I have realized, not working for ten years, trying to be a housewife, whatever…looking after husband, children, acchi satisfaction nahi milti mujhe (It is alright, I did all of that but nothing gives me the satisfaction that my work does). Till my body and mind works, I will work. I am very happy when I work, this is my retirement.”

Talking about her future projects, Neena said, “After Panga, I have Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhaaan releasing on February 21 in which I have a very substantial and interesting role. I have a film with Sanjay Mishra – Gwalior ; I have Netflix series Masaba Masaba; a series called Panchayat which might come on an OTT; Nikhil Advani’s film with Rakul Preet Singh and Arjun Kapoor. That is a very nice and challenging role that I have almost completed work on. I also shot a short film directed by Tahira for Guneet Monga Productions. Suna hai shayad Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar bhi release ho jaegi (I have heard perhaps Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar will also release).”

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Thursday, December 02, 2021