New Delhi: Swara Bhaskar is massively sleep-deprived, thanks to an early morning shoot schedule for journalist-turned-filmmaker Avinash Das’s Anarkali Aarawali due for release next year. But she’s not really complaining.

“It’s always good to be under slept. It means you’re working," the 32-year old actor said with a laugh adding that her participation in a project, like Das’ film where she plays a foul-mouthed singer, is often based on whether she can trust the team and go with her gut.

Bhaskar’s energy also has to do with the accolades she has been garnering for her last release— director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s critically acclaimed comedy drama Nil Battey Sannata about a high-school dropout household help struggling to educate her indolent daughter. The film that managed to net about Rs5 crore in box-office collections, won Bhaskar the Best Actress Award at the Silk Road International Film Festival earlier this year, and more recently, another trophy at the Star Screen Awards 2016.

Director Tiwari, for whom Bhaskar was the first choice, said what helped her clinch the part was the fact that she’s known for her ‘acting.’

“After Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Raanjhana, I realized there was something nice about what she does to a character," Tiwari said. “She has her priorities clear, she’s not someone known for getting dressed and going for an event. In spite of not being a mother, she could get into the skin of a role in what was not an easy screenplay."

Tiwari’s film, that released the same month as Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Fan and Disney’s monster hit The Jungle Book, was the dark horse that made it well past the finish line, like the many content-driven outings Bhaskar is known for. From Aanand Rai’s money-spinning Tanu Weds Manu films to Sooraj Barjatya’s blockbuster family drama Prem Ratan Dhan Payo to director Avinash Kumar Singh’s understated drama Listen…Amaya, Bhaskar has been quite the critic’s pet in the six years she has been around.

“It’s not just about getting a good script, it’s also about having the courage to say yes to it even though it may not be the most conventional part," she said. “Sometimes, good scripts don’t come from big corporate studios. Plus the market is limited and there are only that many screens for Bollywood films overall. But if you don’t take risks as an artiste, how are you going to grow?"

Swara Bhaskar in a still from ‘Nil Battey Sannata’
Swara Bhaskar in a still from ‘Nil Battey Sannata’

Besides earning much praise, Nil Battey Sannata also made money for its producers, including Aanand Rai, director of Bhaskar’s previous outings such as the Tanu Weds Manu series and Raanjhana, who incidentally came on board on Bhaskar’s insistence. The box-office earnings of the film give the actor a great sense of achievement.

“Commercial success is important because it’ll get you longevity and more work but I don’t think it is a comment on an artiste’s skill or ability," Bhaskar said. “There are many big stars who may not be great actors and there are people you may not have heard of who are the most brilliant actors ever."

Born in Delhi to a naval officer father and academician mother, Bhaskar studied sociology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and was associated with the Act One theatre group in the capital besides training under classical dance exponent Leela Samson. The move to Mumbai in 2008 was followed by unnoticed performances in films like Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish (2010) and Srinivas Sunderrajan’s black and white thriller The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project (2010). The breakthrough only happened with Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu (2011) where Bhaskar stood out as lead actor Kangana Ranaut’s best friend.

“I grew up watching Superhit Muqabla and Chitrahaar (film shows on Doordarshan) which kind of was the seed to the fantasy of being an actor and grew with me when I came to Mumbai," she said. “But Mumbai, as not just the city but even in terms of the film industry, is very different. It’s essentially the glamour world, very different from my own background which is very academic. It was quite a learning curve. I have an inherent love for films but the other things that come with it, I’ve had to learn."

The actor who has pushed her way through the industry without connections or mentors, says she doesn’t have a sense of who her contemporaries and competition are but feels she has been lucky to have met the people she did and worked in projects that turned out not just good and credible but also mostly profitable. About fifteen films in six years, is a good enough number.

“I think I’ve done a fair amount of work. The thing with films is that they last forever. My mother is a film studies professor so I’ve seen her pull out movies from the 1930s and the silent period from the archives. I don’t want to be embarrassed after I’m dead. So yeah, I am a bit choosy," she said.

Currently working on a web series called It’s Not That Simple for Viacom18’s streaming service Voot, romantic comedy Veere Di Wedding co-starring Kareena Kapoor-Khan and Sonam Kapoor, filmmaker Aditya Kripalani’s Tikli and Laxmi Bomb and debut director Gaurav Sinha’s upcoming project besides Anarkali Aarawali, Bhaskar has her hands full.

“If you, as an actor, are not happy and satisfied with your work, and unless the part or role is not engaging you, you’re not going to be able to engage the audience," she said. “I have not yet cracked the formula to act with zero faith in the script or the role. In some cases, I may not have faith in the script but in the director. Something has to ring true for me. I can’t control what is offered to me but I can control what I say yes to."

Close