How did it feel like playing the role of Mary Kom’s mother?
When I was offered the role I was excited primarily because a film was being made on a national hero, who happens to be a woman and a north easterner. Priyanka Chopra being in the film came as a welcome bonus for me.
How was the experience shooting for it? Can you narrate some experiences?
The experience during the shoot was smooth and enriching. I am a regional and independent film maker – not used to huge set-ups! Due to the sheer size of the production incidents of chaos and mishaps often occur on such set-ups. This was not the case in the Mary Kom set. The credit for this should go to the director Omung Kumar. He is a cool headed, disciplined man, having a clean life style. Because of his personality he commanded respect and reverence on the set. This took care of half of the production related issues.
I think Omung Kumar and Priyanka Chopra worked the hardest among all of us during the shoot. As the edit of the film was happening simultaneously, Omung used to sit for editing even after a hard day’s shoot. While we would go to sleep after the shoot Priyanka went for her physical training. I haven’t known an actor who is more hard-working than Priyanka Chopra. Observing the untiring cast and crew and working in sync was indeed a humbling experience for me.
How and when did this role come to you?
While I was shooting my last film Raag…the rhythm of love early last year the casting director of Mary Kom film Shruti Mahajan sent me a message on a social networking site asking me if I would like to consider playing a role in the film. Due to my busy schedule the message went unnoticed. But after my shooting got over I happened to see all my pending messages and saw Shruti’s message as well. I wrote back to her expressing my willingness to accept her offer. She took two rounds of audition with me and showed my audition video clips to the director and producer (Sanjay Leela Bhansali). They gave Shruti the green signal and I was up in the project!
Do you think Priyanka Chopra fits into this role? There has been some criticism that Mary Kom’s role should have been enacted by an actor from Northeast India rather than Priyanka Chopra. What are your views on it?
Priyanka Chopra is a good actor and she is capable of playing any role. After watching the rushes of the Mary Kom film I would say that she has done full justice in this film as well. I feel, the lower part of Priyanka’s face resembles that of Mary Kom’s. And thanks to the make-up artiste, her hair style, the fringe and the freckles on her face make Priyanka look very similar to Mary Kom. In any case, an actor can only be made to look-alike the personality he or she is playing. The actor can’t look 100% similar to the character or personality being played by the actor. And therefore, only Mary Kom can look 100% similar to herself!
There is no denying that it would have been ideal if a Mongoloid-looking actor could play the role but unfortunately, many other things are involved in the movie-making business than just cinematic sentiments. ‘Return on Investment’ is important for sustenance of cinema itself. Priyanka is a bankable star. In fact, she must be one of the primary reasons why the project got support from Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Viacom 18Motion Pictures. Because of her this film has become this big! Now that Priyanka has been cast in the film, let’s look at it positively, thanks to the popularity of the actor, national icon MC Mary Kom’s heart-warming story will be known even more widely after the film is released. So what if they have picked up this story because they found it commercially viable with Priyanka Chopra in it. We must take pride in the fact that this is the story of our woman, our hero.
Have you really met the character you played, ie Mary Kom’s mother?
No, I have not had the opportunity to meet this immensely powerful lady. I have heard and read about her. I feel the credit of Mary Kom’s success should partly go to her mother and of course Mary Kom herself always acknowledges this.
What are your future plans?
I have recently acted in another Bollywood film called Shaukeen. It was rather a small role but I decided to do it as I got to be in the same frame as acting stalwarts Anupam Kher, Anu Kapoor and Piyush Mishra. I have plans of two documentary films and a feature film in hand. All of these are related to the north east region. Hopefully, they will take off one by one sometime next year.