Lara Dutta recalls rejecting The Matrix role in 2001 to take care of ailing mother: It was a tough time

Published on Mar 09, 2022 07:07 AM IST
  • In a new interview with Hindustan Times, Lara Dutta talks about the changes that motherhood brought in her life, and revisits her journey in the film industry.
Lara Dutta talks about her journey in the film industry and how motherhood changed her life.(HT_PRINT)
Lara Dutta talks about her journey in the film industry and how motherhood changed her life.(HT_PRINT)

Lara Dutta has said that she had to shuttle between film sets and her house when her daughter Saira was an infant and she was breastfeeding her. In a new interview with Hindustan Times, Lara Dutta talked about the changes that motherhood brought in her personal and professional lives. She also revisited her journey in the film industry. (Also read: Lara reveals she won't advertise for sanitary napkins, alcohol and cigarettes)

Lara Dutta has bagged an award for her performance in Akshay Kumar-starrer Bellbottom. She was recently seen in a few projects on digital platforms including Hiccups and Hookups, Hundred and Kaun Banegi Shikharwati.

Here is an excerpt from Lara's conversation with Hindustan Times:

Your daughter Saira is a ten-year-old now. When was the first time you left her with her father/grandparents to just spend time with yourself? How difficult was the first step?

I remember the first time I stepped out for work after she was born. Saira was six months old, I was still breastfeeding and I started shooting for Bejoy Nambiar’s David (2012). That was an anthology he was doing and I loved what he did with the story so I really wanted to be a part of it. So, I would shoot and then return to my house and feed her. I would again shoot for some parts and then either go back again or have my daughter brought to the sets so I could feed her on time.

The first time I stepped out without my daughter to spend time with myself was when I went on a girls' trip. I really enjoyed the time, but I remember I also had a long list that I gave in case of any emergency, stuff like what needs to be done and all.

You love travelling. How has traveling been different - as a defence kid, as celeb, and as a mom?

As a defence kid, you get used to travelling and that also exposes you to many kinds of new environments. I think that shapes your ability to adapt as you are often sent to a new school and are supposed to make new friends. As a celeb, you are conscious of your appearance. As a mom, you are least concerned about the photographers. Your kid pulls your hair in all directions, you may have vomit or drool over your shoulder so all you want to do is just reach home.

What are the changes that motherhood brought to your personal and professional life?

I have started valuing myself more. I evaluate each role (offered to me) in terms of whether it will be worth my time away from my daughter.

You have earlier said that you chose to stay back and spend all the time with your daughter when she was born. How do you divide responsibilities between you and Mahesh Bhupathi?

He has been a hands-on father. And, I also wanted to make sure that he gets to spend time with his child. I did not want it to be like the usual. You know, where the mom and the grandmom are taking care of the child and the father gets no time with his own child. 

I made sure that Mahesh was not deprived of being the father. He was never the father who was afraid to hold his own child. He was away on a tour when she was born. Saira came earlier than she was expected. So, when Mahesh came ten days later, it was a late flight (and he arrived early in the morning). He entered the house and asked me where was his daughter. I handed him the milk bottle and asked him to feed her. Right away. I also told him that we will be changing her diaper when the time comes and I would teach him how to do it.

What are your criteria for picking projects now and how has that changed over the years?

I would say times have also changed a lot. Earlier, women were compartmentalised in certain images. I did a lot of comedies at a time when women were not given comic parts. I did try to experiment, but I think better content is being written now. With the OTT, a variety of content is being written and various kinds of people are writing. So, someone could think of a 40-year-old woman doing these roles. If you see me doing different kinds of roles now, that has a lot more to do with what is on offer now.

What have been the lowest points of your career till now?

I am not sure if I want to call it the lowest but there was a point when I felt I was being typecast. I was either doing roles that just demanded glamour or was just doing comedy. I found that though I was good at comedy, I really wanted to flex some other muscles and there was a lot more that I had to offer, than just doing the same thing over and over again. That is what gave me the confidence to take the opportunity to step back and rediscover myself.

Which was the best phase?

That has to be right now. The kind of films and shows being written right now is a great phase for any artist.

Do you regret taking up any roles in your career?

No, I do not regret doing anything in my life. Whatever I did, whatever roles and films I picked, I did what I felt was the best option for me at the time and I do not regret any of those.

Do you want to talk about the time when you were offered a role in The Matrix franchise (2001) but had to turn it down? 

Of course, it was a tough time. I had not even started out in Bollywood. But I was very clear about what I wanted in life. Everything else came second, I just had to be with my mother at the time. I did not even think twice and came back to India. And, it wasn’t like I came here thinking we have Bollywood (as a backup, since I gave up on a huge Hollywood opportunity). I just had to be with my mother at the time since she was unwell, extremely unwell. Therefore I did not even think twice and came back to India.

How do you see the functioning of the industry has changed over the years?

Earlier, women had a very limited role in filmmaking. Not many women were in production or writing or other roles behind the camera. Even in front of the camera, the roles of women were limited to being props. They were either moms or sisters or the hard-to-get girls or the dedicated wives. Now, things have changed. I think the change came because of us, we fought for our place and created space for ourselves.

In your 18-year-long acting career, where do you place BellBottom?

Essaying the role of Mrs. Indira Gandhi is a dream for any actor. I remember I was asked about my dream role even before I made my debut and I had said Mrs Gandhi. Now, that dream has been fulfilled 18 years later. So, I definitely place BellBottom among the top.

How much of the appreciation do you attribute to your prosthetic and makeup artists?

Of course, the amount of effort and talent that went to create that look (was huge). The credit completely goes to my makeup and prosthetic artists. I remember when I first went for the look test and they were done. I could not recognise myself when I saw the mirror. I had to go close to the mirror and look into my eyes so I could see it was really me. Of course, the body language, understanding Mrs Gandhi's state of mind at the end of 1984 - it was right before her assassination so (understanding) the socio-political environment in the country at the time, understanding her state of mind, all of that went into being worked upon to get under the skin of the character. And, that was how the entire character was completed.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sweta Kaushal has 13 years of experience covering Bollywood and regional movies, TV shows, national current affairs and social issues.

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