Vidhatri Bandi on Jalsa: ‘Making it big in the entertainment industry is tough for an outsider'-Entertainment News – Firstpost

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 Vidhatri Bandi is the band mutthi in Suresh Triveni’s Jalsa. Pitched against two formidable actresses Shefali Shah and Vidya Balan this newcomer held her own, imbuing the role of a Malayali rookie journalist with a kind of tentative intrepidity that made her seem vulnerable and believable. Vidhatri talks about her career plans. Excerpts:
There are actually three heroes in Jalsa. Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah and you. How did you bag this pivotal role?
I actually used to do a couple of rounds by getting in touch with casting directors because I wasn’t associated with any agency, so I used to get in touch with all the casting people that I knew and I would just drop them a message and ask them if something was going on or any auditions were going on that would be suitable for me. That’s how I got in touch with someone who happened to be an associate casting person on Jalsa.
He told me that this project is being worked upon and he told me about the character of the journalist Rohini. He very honestly mentioned not to have any expectations because they had shortlisted a Malayali actress, someone new from the Malayalam industry.
On not being a Malayali, but playing the role of a Malayali girl…
I wanted to give it a shot because it seems like a very good role and of course, there were these two legendary actresses, so it was worth a try. I told them I still wanted to audition. I was told the character needed a certain kind of accent so back then when I was auditioning for this, I didn’t know anything about mallu accent, how to speak and everything.
I told my casting director that the accent could be something very tricky but I will try. I didn’t hear anything from them for some time and then I got a call saying we need another audition from you where we don’t need an accent, we just want you to speak normally the way you talk. So, I shot another one. For like a really long time I didn’t hear back from the casting people. But then I got a call one day saying that Suresh Triveni, director of Jalsa wanted to meet me and I met him. And Suresh said that he was very keen on working with me and he really liked the auditions and he asked me to read the script and get back to him and I was like I don’t have to read the script, I want to come on board because I loved his Tumhari Sulu. I just got a call discussing commercials and I was like what, I got the film, then I remember crying on the phone when I was informed that I am in. I just don’t know who was on the call, I just remember crying to her. I remember that day very vividly.
Tell me about your background because I have not seen you before?
I was born in Amalapuram, Andhra Pradesh but bought up in Mumbai. I have been in Mumbai all my life. I live here with my mother. I actually started off in the industry as an assistant director in the film industry. I worked as an Assistant Director for three years. I worked with several directors like Nikhil Advani, Vikhi Bahri, Akshat Verma. I actually always wanted to act since I was seven years old, just that I wasn’t confident enough.
I thought I didn’t have the face, the body, the figure because back then it was all about the body; now the industry is changing. People are noticing talent it has become more than someone just having a good body. I was like I don’t think this is for me. But I loved films so much that I just wanted to be a part of them and that is how I decided to be AD.  I just wanted to understand how films work, so my first film D Day, I worked with Nikhil Advani, and it starred two legends Irrfan Khan and   Rishi Kapoor. I remember, I spoke to (casting director) Mukesh Chhabra.
I bagged my first film in 2019, which is Shiddat it came out on Hotstar, I played this character called Sheena, Radhika Madan’s friend in the film and ‘Jalsa’ is actually my second film.
How did you prepare to play Rohini George in Jalsa? The accent must have been tough? How did you perceive Rohini’s uncompromising attitude? Is it the naivete of inexperience?
Rohini was really a hard character for me to wrap my head around. It’s only because of her I realized that underplaying your emotions and at the same time delivering those emotions is so hard because in your mind you are so used to talking loudly, being confident when we are communicating, asking what we want with utmost confidence. The only thing my director Suresh Triveni   told me about Rohini that he had asked me to keep in mind Rohini is a go-getter, but her desperation should not be seen About her accent again the credit goes to Suresh sir, because every time I met him for rehearsals, he would just record what I am saying.
 What according to you is Rohini George all about?
She is a journalist who wants to crack this case and who is a go-getter but at the same time she is very naïve in the head, she thinks that it is the right way to go ahead but it’s not, so her confidence is also visible and her under confidence is also visible her go-getting nature is also visible. When it came to her body language, I remember that I wanted to add specific mannerisms to the way she would like to stand, the way she would talk, so I had spoken to one journalist friend of mine in Bangalore and I remember she had told me that sometimes even while wearing the mask we get to know who the person is, only because of the way they stand and the way they talk.
 On working with Vidya Balan.
Working with Vidya Balan was a delight. I was initially very intimidated because it’s Vidya Balan, how am I going to act in front of her, am I going make a fool out of myself and I was very nervous, very intimidated, very scared but I think the rehearsals session really helped me because sir wanted me to get comfortable with her before we go on set and shoot. She made me feel equally important every time I was around her. I remember she hugged me during the very first meeting. There was a time when she asked me if she could do anything to enhance my performance, I felt it was so nice of her. It was almost like a dream come true to work with her.
How much of Rohini George is in you? How closely did you identify with her?
I identify myself very closely with Rohini. I related a lot to the character, like how she takes care of her mother in the film, she wanted to get the house for her mother so that her mother could be comfortable. I live with my mother, my father passed away last year and it was too traumatic for both of us. Overnight the responsibility came upon me out of nowhere. Since then, my only goal and agenda in life is to give her a good life, even today for me my mother is everything.
How tough is it for an outsider like you to crack the Bollywood code?
It was extremely tough. You face rejections every single day. I am not going to lie, but you just have to keep your head high and just do the work. You have to show up, you have to go for the auditions. Actually, what upsets me is that actors have got into this entire rut of only focusing on primary and lead parts and I feel like there is so much work happening around you, there is much going on, you should just focus on working. For example, in Shiddat, I played the second lead part and in Jalsa I played the primary part, it’s your choice, you have an option to climb the ladder. You should be okay with the struggle. I have lost out on so many parts. There were times I thought this was not for me and it was getting tougher and tougher and some days I was like I just can’t do this but then it just happened. And I am so happy that I got to be a part of Jalsa, the things have changed for me. I am really looking forward to what I get to do next. It is really very tough to get into the industry if you are an outsider.
 Your forthcoming projects?
While I was shooting for Jalsa I was shooting for another film, of course. I wish I could talk about it more. I am actually looking for that to come out because that’s also going to break my image of Rohini because people are convinced that I am from Kerala and I am a Malayali. I am very much a Bombay girl.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.
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