Freedom of expression in India is just a myth: Swara Bhaskar

Pramod Gaikwad March 22, 2017, 08:18am
Swara Bhaskar 650
Swara Bhaskar is one actor who never minces her words. Like her Anarkali character, she is fearless, feisty and ready to fight for what is rightfully hers. She is someone who takes her acting profession very seriously and believes in giving her best shot every time she faces the camera. After impressing everyone with her performance in Nil Battey Sannata, Swara is all geared up to give us another hard-hitting performance in her upcoming film Anarkarli of Aarah, which is releasing on March 24. Wearing her unbeatable confidence, the actress got in conversation with to share her learning experience with her co-actors, her views on freedom of expression and a strong and powerful message for the Censor Board which demanded several cuts in the film. Excerpts from the interview:

You have worked with senior actors like Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi in the film. What was your takeaway?

I was absolutely terrified working with Sanjay ji and Pankaj ji is someone who I very deeply admire. I think he is one of the finest actors in India. I have worked with him in Nil Battey Sannata and I always say that wherever Pankaj ji is the film or in a scene, he makes my performance look better on the screen. He is that kind of a actor you know. He has a quality of a teacher and very generous actor. He is a man who is able to give positive energy to others also. So yeah I was very scared but I hope I've been able to stand my ground a little bit atleast and Pankaj ji is really a spontaneous actor. He is able to so seemlessly get into his character and it's almost like he doesn't need any script. So the way Pankaj ji acts, is like my target in life. And Sanjay Mishra ji is tremendous. His quality on screen has a very beautiful vulnerability and that is a very great thing for an actor to have. So that was also very interesting for me to watch.

After doing several supporting roles, you are now establishing yourself as a leading actress in the industry with films like Nil Battey Sannata and Anarkali of Aarah.

Honestly, I don't any actor sees himself/herself as a supporting actor or a leading actor. Actor is an actor. What kind of roles he/she is getting it depends on that. Actually the fact is, in my first film, I was playing the role of a protagonist but unfortunately it didn't make it to the theatres. Then I did several movies after that in the year 2013 when Raanjhanaa and Aurangzeb were released and at the same time there was a film Listen Somaya with Farooq Shaikh and Deepti Naval where I played the title part. But it was small budget film and it didn't release on a large scale so it didn't get that kind of eyeballs before Nil Battey Sannata. But in my view I have done lead roles before also. But yeah in Nil Battey and Anarkali, the audience is like waking up to it. That's obviously very nice and I hope waking up to my work.

You are playing a bold character of Anarkali who is a foul-mouthed, fearless and fiesty women in the film. Were there any inhibitions while delivering double meaning dialogues in front of the camera?

As an actor, the first requirement you got to have in yourself is shed all your inhibitions and become shameless. Because if you don't do that, you'll be constantly thinking about what people or society will say about you and then you won't be able to work and give your best in your film. And if you can't, then you should probably be staying at your home and do whatever suits you the best. Because I don't feel anyone could do their work properly keeping all these things in their minds. For an actor, its definitely a NO. And this is the first exercise we are being taught in our training sessions be it in a theatre or a drama that break all your inhibitions. So for me it would be an insult to my work but yeah as a human, its quite natural that you kind of get nervous while portraying such bold roles in front of the camera. But my faith in the script was very strong because I have read the script with so minor details that I had visualised my character right from the beginning and how she would be on screen. Secondly, I don't think taking about sex and women's sexuality and her physical desires is bad in any sense since we live in a country where Kamasutra is our origin. It's wrong when juvelines are involved in sexual activites or when they are forced to do so. Even making forcibly talk about sex and dragging them into sexual discussions is a kind of harrassment, a crime. But when these discussions are happening between adults involving their consent where they are not trafficked or doing it by force, then I don't think its wrong in any sense. What I feel wrong is a provocative speech comprised of hatred or being responsible for starting riots or robbery or murder, that most of our politicians are doing right now. So talking about sex is not a problem with me. And talking about my inhibitions or what I've learnt is that we are on a line where we wanted to keep things very real, hard-hitting which shouldn't look like watching a sleezy C grade movie. But while I was shooting, I realised that if you don't have wrong intentions, then why would anybody would shoot like that. And yes, a few scenes from the movie have been leaked and ofcourse you feel compromised as an artist. But I would like say one thing that without any proper context, anything would look like porn and dirty. And if you watch the same thing in the context of a film, it would look like a part of a story. That is there for a reason. It would look like a natural process of that character.

In our country, we talk a lot about freedom of expression, but the recent attack on Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a tight slap to one's constitutional rights. What do you have to say about that?

It is very saddenning and I am saying this with a heavy heart that in our country, in this new age of young generations, freedom of expression is just a myth. You will find it only in our constitution and not in our behaviour. In a country where you are arresting people for a Facebook post, so what freedom of expression we are talking about?

So why can't we stand together and protest against what is wrong? What is that thing that stopping you?

You know the film industry people and filmmakers are very venerable. Everyone knows about us, where we live, what we do and all other things. And that is why it is very easy for anybody to attack us. You have living examples right in front of your eyes. Whether it is Aamir Khan's intolerance remark or Shah Rukh Khan meeting Raj Thackeray over Raees release or forcing Karan Johar to apologise and now the attack on Sanjay Leela Bhansali that has happened twice, I think its shocking, its shameful, its criminal. Film industry is the one that pays highest tax to the government. The entertaiment tax that you pay on your movie tickets, it goes directly to the government. So it is the responsibility of the government to provide us with a safe environment to work. Secondly, the biggest mistake that the film industry has ever done is that it have had remained silent for all these years. It all began when filmmakers started screening their movies to religious parties if they ever made a film on the line that involve any religion. But why do you have to that. Don't we have our own constitutional right over making films? Aren't we sure about what we are making? And that's how it got worse and nobody raised a single voice over the issue. And I really think that the industry should get together, raise their voice against what is wrong so that we can stop these things from happening and protect ourselves.

But after making several cuts in your film, it looks like CBFC doesn't believe in openly discussing about sex and women's sexual or physical desires.

It seems as if CBFC doesn't believe in the constitution of the country that guarantees to you your freedom of expression. I don't care about that CBFC thinks about sex. I would tell them that you keep thinking about it and don't tell us what to think and what to see. In a country like ours where you can get married at the age of 18, you can drink, you can drive, you can vote, you can own a property and you can even give birth to a child, but you can't watch a film? It is simply ridiculous.

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