In Jubilee, she plays a prominent movie star of the ’40s
At the start of 2023, Aditi Rao Hydari was yet to have a taste of web series. Four months on, she sits pretty with two OTT shows, Taj: Divided by Blood and Jubilee, behind her. Vikramaditya Motwane's offering has won the actor rich praise for her portrayal of Sumitra Kumari, a much-loved movie star of the '40s who finds herself a mere pawn in her studio owner-husband's grand plans. Despite her 14 years in the Hindi film industry, one senses it's finally the long-format storytelling that has tapped into Hydari's potential.
To the actor, however, the vision of filmmakers, not the medium, is key. "The onus of utilising actors and their talent is on directors and producers. They have to be able to imagine us in roles and have the courage to feature us. Do they have the courage to tell those stories and fight those battles where they are nurturing talent? That is the question," she asserts.
She cites the Amazon Prime Video offering as the perfect example of a project that gives equal footing to all its cast members - Prosenjit Chatterjee, Aparshakti Khurana, Sidhant Gupta and Wamiqa Gabbi - regardless of their stardom. "It's not like Bumba da [Chatterjee], Apar and I are the only ones on its poster; Sidhant and Wamiqa are too. It's important to encourage people who are good [at their craft]. I have worked with Sidhant in the past, and he is a good actor. Wamiqa has extensively worked in Punjabi films."
Distinguishing between OTT and big-screen releases is a myopic view, argues Hydari, who has another web series in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Heeramandi. She reveals that her own perspective on the so-called hierarchy changed when her Malayalam film, Sufiyum Sujatayum (2020), released digitally despite being planned as a theatrical offering. "We had to release it on OTT as theatres were shut during the lockdown. I cried then because it was my first Malayalam film, and a beautiful love story at that. But when it released, the response [was overwhelming]. People told me they didn't understand Malayalam, but it's their favourite film. So, how does it matter how you reach the audience? I believe in working with good directors and being a part of good [projects]. It doesn't matter if it's a theatrical film, an OTT film or a series."