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Neena Gupta: “I wanted to preserve my innocence as a woman despite all the obstacles that I faced"

This interview was first published in Cine Blitz by the same author.

After the success of Badhaai Ho (2018) Neena Gupta’s career graph is going only upwards. The actress has completed five films that are ready for release and will start shooting for three more films soon. Uunchai, her first film with the hugely respected Rajshri Productions will release in cinemas on 11th November 2022. In a candid conversation, the actress talks about all things exciting in the new phase of her career.

Tell us about the character that you play in Uunchai.

I play Boman’s (Irani) wife. He plays Javed. I play Shabina. Shabina is a typical Indian housewife whose life revolves around her husband and kid. Shabina’s daughter is married and now she has got nothing much to do. But then things change for her towards the end.

How did you prepare for the role?

First of all, I want the right costumes. Half my work is done there [chuckles]. I feel I have to do two things to be a good actor. One is to mean the lines that I’m saying. I could be talking to you and thinking about something else. But you’d be convinced that I’m talking to you. All of us can do that. I can do average acting without meaning it. So, that’s the key thing – to mean the lines that you say. The second thing is that you have to hear what your co-actor is saying. Sometimes we don’t do that. We’re thinking of our next line. So, if you do these two things, you don’t have to do anything else.

How was the experience of working in Uunchai?

Uunchai was a totally surreal experience. I have never met a man like Sooraj Ji. At the trailer launch also I said, “Main badi ho kar Sooraj Ji banna chahti hoon.” (I want to become Sooraj Ji when I grow up). I want the calmness that he has. I really enjoyed working with him because there was no shouting on the sets. We would go one take at a time. He explains everything to everybody. Plus, you get a lot by working with experienced actors. I have got a lot from this film.

How was it acting with your daughter (Masaba Gupta) in the Netflix series Masaba Masaba?

I was always telling Masaba not to act. Because I told her, “Your face is not the typical face for a heroine in Indian cinema. You’ll get other types of roles. If you’re willing to do character roles, then you go ahead and become a trained actor.” She understood it and then took up fashion. When Masaba Masaba came up, it was a very interesting idea. When I saw the rough cuts of the first few episodes, I was shocked. I never thought that Masaba can be so good. I told her, “I’m sorry for not allowing you to act earlier.”

While chasing materialistic success and competing with men, some women are losing their femininity. How important it is to preserve femininity? Do you have a take on this?

It’s a very interesting question. Sometimes, women who do different kinds of jobs, become hard and lose their femininity. Their faces also harden up. I used to be very scared. I wanted to preserve my innocence as a woman in spite of all the obstacles that I faced where people treated me badly, abused me, asked me to sleep with them for work, or not get work – all these dirty things. Boyfriend leaving you and all that.

I always used to get scared that I’ll harden up. It’s very easy to harden up. And it shows on your face. That innocence and juice go away. A little bit of it must have gone from me too. But I could preserve [most of] it because I have other hobbies, I am educated, I am not worried that I’ll die of hunger, and of course my parents’ support. It’s a very interesting question but it happens. Some women who do men’s jobs become like that.


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