Shibani Bedi was ready to 'pack her bags' before landing Thank You For Coming: 'Can't take all these rejections'
In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Shibani Bedi recalls feeling intimidated by Bhumi Pednekar and how the latter's ‘big sister’ attitude helped.
Shibani Bedi, who plays one of Bhumi Pednekar's close friends in Thank You For Coming, has said that working on the film was a therapeutic experience as it made her more comfortable with her body. In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, the actor talked about the film, battling rejections, body image issues, and much more. (Also read: Thank You For Coming review: Bhumi Pednekar's sex comedy is peachy, not preachy)
‘Thank You For Coming was therapeutic
Talking about the best thing about working on Thank You For Coming, Shibani said, "As a woman in her 30s who gets backlash for living her own life unapologetically. Reading the film made me think 'This may not be my story but I am there in every character'. I felt seen. Every character brings a certain narrative that women face when they are a mess and when they are not perfect...when they want to live their life on their own terms. It is the female gaze turned inwards. It made me find acceptance of myself. Apart from being therapeutic, the film made me more brave and accepting of my life. The film has made me realise that I need to own my space and stop apologising (for being myself)."
The easy part of playing Tina Das in the film
Asked about the similarities between Shibani and her onscreen character Tina Das, Shibani said, "Tina Das is the quintessential mom of the group. Her worldview is that of someone who is straight-forward and who is in charge of taking care of things and figuring things out. Minus the child aspect, I am also a little over-responsible, and over-accountable person. I have that 'Do not worry, mama is here' attitude. As Shibani I am trying to get away from that aspect (of my personality). That part was easy for me, this hyper-vigilant person and I could easily bring in my own lived experiences into the body and soul of the character. (It was) not very tough to relate to Tina Das. I know what happens when you are over-responsible."
Shibani and Tina
Talking about her personal life, and how she navigates through all the additional responsibilities, Shibani said she has had friends who helped her a lot. Asked if her family or friends ask her to restrain herself, Shibani said, "Not family, but friends have definitely stopped me from taking too much responsibility. I am the oldest child. My family has a lot of old people. I was raised to be a very responsible child. I was my brother's adhoc mom, I could not be stupid or childish because someone in the family had to be responsible. Actually, my father had a bunch of medical issues and he'd be constantly in the hospital. I was not even 12 year old at the time). So his mortality was very in our face. (The situation was such that) Being in charge when the father is not in a position to do his bit (was a given). No one entrusted me with it but I just took it upon myself and family did not have a problem. They did not have a problem as I was doing my share, and also taking on their responsibility. This pattern may work for certain life decisions but in the larger scheme of things, it can be counter-productive because people take advantage."
She added, "Thankfully, my friends have been aware of it and guided me. Then therapy helped. Two to three years of therapy made it a lot easier for me to be okay with being irresponsible...being not perfect and not taking the guilt for not being perfect. I have to give credit to my friends and my therapist who are helping me navigate the space."
Thank You For Coming at a time when Shibani was about to quit
Shibani also revealed that she got the role in Thank You For Coming at a time when she thought she must pack her bags. "A lot of people interpret that just because you are a content creator, things get easy and everything comes served on a platter. Maybe, for some people, it is true, but it happened through the normal route of audition for me. I audition very regularly, and diligently. I had two rounds of auditions, and then within a month I got a call from Rhea Kapoor (film's producer). Then a month-long procedure of screen testing and chemistry testing with the team before I was finalised. It (the film) came to me at a point where I felt ‘this is over and I have to pack up. I can’t take all these rejections'. Within two months, I was on sets."
Bhumi Pednekar has a 'big sister attitude'
She also recalled how she felt intimidated by Bhumi Pednekar before meeting her. "Bhumi was someone I was intimidated by, given she is one of the finest actors of our generation and has a big body of work. When I landed on sets, I was not sure 'what will I be judged as' and all that. But, she is the most kind, and compassionate person. She has this big sister attitude and brings all the wisodm that she gained in the industry with her. She does not mind sharing it. One would presume so much of woman energy could lead to insecurity or conflicts but it was a wonderful situation. We were all constantly adjusting each other's crowns and gowns."
When Shibani played a cow, a bear
Shibani also revealed that one of the first roles she has ever played is that of a cow. "I was five -year-old when I played a cow in Janmashatmi. Then, in one Janmashtami I played a bear. As a kid, I was robust, and had deep voice. The stage made me comfortable because I felt people were not judging me on stage. I come from the middle-class where the pressure of a job was too much so I could not take any impulsive decisions. I was not slim or glam enough and I am also shy. I kept diluting my ambitions of acting because I was not brave enough to go to Mumbai."
Shibani's worst rejections
Asked about the worst kind of rejections she has faced in the film industry, Shibani said, "When you audition for something and you don't make it, you can find peace with it, but the worst kind is when you have been finalised after giving auditions for two months, and doing workshops and the shoot is set to begin. I remember this one time, the shoot was to start in three days and I was told I was too fat for the role. 'You don't fit the size of the character, we are looking for'. I am like ‘You could have told me when I auditioned, I did not put on or lose weight during the past one month!’ I feel like a lot of this happens when producers and makers change their minds. As actors, we are brutally eliminated because we do not fit in this new scheme of things."
She added, “There was this another movie I was finalised for. Met the director, writer and the contract was about to be made, and two weeks before the shoot I was told 'We need someone younger'. Then they went ahead and cast someone who was not younger. They basically cast someone who was not any different in terms of looks or age or body. I do not know how to deal with it, there is no structure or accountability for moments for these.”
"Sometimes it is about getting approval from someone more popular. Many new actors lose out on work when the producers get a green signal from somebody higher up in the scheme of things. Sometimes there is no reason. Sometimes people do not even have the grace to tell you, that is more hurtful. The first two or three times, I was so sad it took me a week. It felt like someone put a knife in my back. Then, listening to others' testimonies I realised it happens to everyone and not just me."
Shibani doesn't want to admit having worked in Tau Jhagdu
Talking about her first onscreen film, Tau Jhagdu, Shibani said, “The character was Moti and then changed to Chidiya but everybody called me Moti. It was a gujjar film and I was 18 year old at the time. I was the heroine's best friend who was a fat psychic. I played it really well and I am so glad that movie is nowhere. I do not talk about it, can't admit to having done stuff like that."