Bipasha Basu on completing 20 years in Bollywood: Was told not to get tanned as I was already dusky
From being called bohemian and sexy to receiving unwarranted advice on her complexion, Bipasha Basu came face-to-face with the unspoken rulebook of Bollywood when she forayed into films. . Two decades later, she’s glad that she didn’t follow the norms, and took the road less travelled.
Basu made her acting debut in 2001 with the multi-starrer Ajnabee, directed by Abbas–Mustan.
“It was back then when I met my first hairstylist, Kaushal, who basically taught me what were the rules of being a heroine at that point of time. And they were quite funny and hilarious to me,” she quips, adding, “As an actress, you apparently had to hide in those days. But I was very different. I guess that’s why the bohemian tag came to me very fast. My choice of roles were very different. My presence was very different. I did not look like the quintessential, fair, petite, timid girl. I looked quite feisty, fiery, and sexy.”
And Basu, 42, didn’t mind the ‘sexy’ tag as well. She explains, “Today, sexy has become a very easy adjective. But back then, when people used to call me sexy, there’d be questions, how do I feel about it. But I don’t know why they felt thought I’m bohemian. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t hide and used to speak my mind.”
Ask her to tell us more about the rules she was told to abide by, the actor narrates some rather strange instances.
“I remember I was having iced tea in a glass while shooting Ajnabee in Switzerland. My hairstylist came and told me, ‘Everyone is thinking that you are drinking whiskey’. She asked me to drink it in a cup to avoid this perception. Then this other time, I was wearing a backless blouse, and she told me, ‘Actresses don’t dress up like this’ and that I’m only supposed to wear it on-screen,” she recounts.
That was the point which irked the actor, as she didn’t want to create any fake persona, and found it all very hypocritical.
“I used to ask, if you can’t wear something in your normal life, how can you wear it on screen. In fact, I’ve had experiences where big actresses would comment on other girls wearing tiny shorts off-screen, and when they were the ones who’d wear it on screen,” notes the Raaz (2002) actor, adding that she could never “understand this double standard”.
Here, Basu, who is married to actor Karan Singh Grover, remembers an incident when initially in her career she announced that her boyfriend is coming on set, and how it rattled others. “I was asked why you’re talking about your boyfriend. It’s a very personal thing. I was like I’m not ashamed of my boyfriend and don’t need to hide him,” she shares.
Sometimes, it was not just about her clothes or lifestyle, but also about her skin colour that Basu had to hear certain comments.
“I used to love sunbathing all the time, even though I’m dusky. But I was told, ‘You’ve to walk with an umbrella all the time’. I understand now why umbrellas are required. Back then, in my me-time, I was told that you shouldn’t tan because you’re already dusky. But none of these things really stopped me,” she asserts, proudly stating, “These are some rules that I was told to follow right from my first film, which I never followed.”
After completing 20 years in Bollywood, Basu credits the directors of her first film, Abbas–Mustan,for giving her a great start.
“On the set of my first film, Ajnabee, I wasn’t treated like a newcomer, but an equal. And that’s why Abbas bhai aur Mustan bhai will remain special forever. If my experience was different and I didn’t have such amazing directors, I don’t think I’d even be an actor. I really attribute my journey of being Bipasha Basu to them,” she wraps up, with a promise to be back as an evolved actor on screen soon.