Neena Gupta: To win a best actor award, you don't need to be young
Neena Gupta is still basking in the glory, even though things were not the same last year. She recalls, "After I got married in 2008, I came across many people who thought I had moved to Delhi and given up working
Portrayed a middle-aged pregnant woman in super-hit Badhaai Ho
There was a time when Bollywood didn't talk about sex. Instead, films were infamous for visuals such as a female lead in a rain-drenched saree or mating birds and blooming flowers that suggested sexual intercourse. Things have changed now, yet being sexy remains the domain of young people. Which is why the hit Badhaai Ho offered a refreshing perspective. Just when you thought Ayushmann Khurrana would walk away with the accolades, Neena Gupta's portrayal of a middle-aged woman romancing her husband and conceiving a baby stole everyone's hearts.
It's the coming of age of an unconventional artiste, whose life has been laced with struggle and passion. The 59-year-old National award-winner says, "When I read the script, I jumped at the opportunity. In earlier days, mothers and daughters would get pregnant together. This is because people would get married at a very young age. But, even at that time, pregnancy was a hush-hush thing. It was never connected to sex. Interestingly, when I was young, I never saw my parents sleeping in a separate room. My brother and I would always sleep with them. So, you see, sex has always been a taboo.
I watched Badhaai Ho again recently and, trust me, there is nothing sexual in it. It talks about how, at a certain age, people need companionship more than anything. When you are young, you are busy raising your kids and earning for them. But as they grow up and go their own ways, you need your partner. Why not romance at this age then?"
Gupta is still basking in the glory, even though things were not the same last year. She recalls, "After I got married in 2008, I came across many people who thought I had moved to Delhi and given up working. About one-and-a-half years ago, I was heading to Zoya Akhtar's home and her colleague asked me when I would return to Mumbai. That killed me. I was not getting offers. That day I went home and put a post on Instagram asking for good roles. Back then I had 11,000 followers; today I have two lakh."
Her portrayal won Gupta the Best Actor Critics trophy at Star Screen Awards this month. She thinks this is telling of a huge change in the film industry. "The fact that the jury accepted my role and gave me the award is a big step for actors my age. This proves that to win a best actor award, you don't need to be young. While older men still get such significant awards, women don't. And the problem is in social perception." Gupta says her co-actor Gajraj Rao and she were surprised to have been nominated along with Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor. "Giving both of us an award is a beginning of a big change."
Her next - The Last Colour - will premiere at Palm Springs Film Festival. "I have always got things much later in life. But I am happy this was in my destiny," she smiles.
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A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli