Amrita Rao: From girl-next-door to a politician's wife


Amrita Rao: From girl-next-door to a politicians wife

The actress who returns to the big screen with Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer Thackeray talks about her role and why it's a great time to get back to Bollywood

By Neha Mahamood

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Published: Tue 22 Jan 2019, 3:44 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 7:15 PM

The conventional saying goes, 'Behind every successful man there is a woman.' And we along with Bollywood star Amrita Rao are inclined to believe that. Rao, best-known for films like Main Hoon Na and Vivah, is staging a comeback of sorts with the biopic Thackeray after she disappeared from the limelight post her wedding in 2016.
After marrying RJ Anmol, having dated him for 7 years, Rao made a conscious break from Bollywood. "It was a very intentional break because my focus was clearly my personal life for the last four years," says the actress. In 2016, however, she made her television debut with the show Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai. When asked why she turned to TV, the petite beauty replies, "TV because there was no Netflix and there was no digitalization. Television was definitely looking for a change. Like the West they wanted Bollywood actors to debut with finite series. We were only waiting for Netflix to come to India. And soon enough it has come and taken everyone by storm."
Thackeray will likely take everyone by storm too. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead role of Bal Thackeray, Rao plays his wife, Mina Thackarey in the film that tells the story of a firebrand journalist who goes on to become one of the most influential political leaders of the birth and evolution of the Shiv Sena.
In a phone conversation with City Times ahead of the movie's release, which was supposed to be out in the UAE theatres on Thursday, January 24, may now release only next weekend, Amrita Rao gets candid about getting back to the limelight with such a powerful role.
Tell us about your role in Thackeray.
In Thackeray I play Mina Tai Thackeray. She was not only Bala Sahib's wife but she was his best friend, his backbone. She was playing the role of the father and the mother at Matoshree, while Bala Sahib could work with a free mind. A lot changed for him after Mina Tai passed away. I think he just was not as active as he should have been. 
They say behind every successful man there is a woman. Does this stand true in regards to the character in Thackeray?
I think Mina Tai completely stands for that proverb. She truly defines that saying because it's about that thankless and selfless in our country, especially the mothers or the wives take on so that the man of the family can fulfill his dream easily. 
What was your experience like working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui?
Nawaz is a very senior actor and has far more experience than I have. He's a very natural actor and he has his own unique style which is the best part about new and he shocks and surprises you. I think he has an innate style of his own hence even some regular dialogues have become epic because of the conviction with which he has said it. There are many things that I have learned from him as an actor. Firstly, what I like about him is that he comes thoroughly prepared on the sets hence there is no wastage of time while shooting. He has this tendency of giving shock value to the audience because in scenes where you're expecting him to do something loud, is when he will not do anything. And he plays a lot with his body language. So if you have a good director and a good editor you can actually bring out the nuances that he adds to the character very well but I don't think all directors or editors would have that eye for detailing.
Biopics are always tricky - to portray someone else's life and to do it well. Did you have any reference points that helped you or guided you?
For me the only reference points for Mina Tai were a couple of pictures and a video that I dabbled upon; it was in Marathi and it was of Bala Sahibji's sister whose name is Mrs Sanjeevani very briefly. So that was my only clue in. Because apparently even the producer Sanjay Raut and Mr Uddhav Thackeray searched their home, their personal video tapes to find some reference of Maa Sahib, but there were none. What I heard a lot of people unanimously say was that she was a very generous host, very caring and very sensitive about the other person's needs. In fact, once my uncle knew I was playing Mina Tai, he narrated an incident where he along with a friend accidentaly happened to get an entry into Matoshree and it was a very tense situation because there was some controversy and I think Bala Sahib ji was not at home but Mina Tai was there and she, in the midst of all of that prepared Puran Poli for them, a very Maharashtran dish, and she served them herself and she expressed concern only for Bala Sahib's health. And she said, 'I don't really have much knowledge about politics but I only wish that his health is alright.' She was known for her hospitality.
Is there a message you'd like the viewers to walk away with after watching Thackeray?
I think what Bala Sahib did then is something people are doing more conveniently now; with the power of technology and globalisation and so much of reference point and of course support from the media. The common man can be heard much more easily because we are in a very visual medium today and there is so much of connectivity. So if there is any social issue that you want to stand for it's much more easier, but how he did it then only through his charismatic speeches and his ideologies and becoming one of the biggest leaders of Maharashtra from being just a cartoonist: it's an inspirational journey.
Bollywood is currently going through a phase where it's more accepting of diverse characterisation and feel being part of the whole experience?
What is really refreshing is that there is nothing to distinguish between a primary and a secondary cast. I think now things are changing. If you see films like Badhaai Ho and Andhadhun, it's very difficult to say that Radhika Apte was the heroine of the film or Tabu was the protagonist. There is no fine line between supporting cast and main cast. Scripts are changing. It's no more about a hero and a heroin, the prince and the princess, and everybody else on the sidelines. It's not like that anymore and it's a fantastic time for actors like Pankaj Tripathi and Rasika Dugal. It's great to have actors like that suddenly come to the forefront, they're such good actors and they've been around and it's truly time for everybody to get equal justice. And now fortunately to typecast is also becoming passé and thank god we're in better times. 
What are your plans next?
Well, I would definitely now want to do something that I have not done before. 
Bala saab was never anti-Muslim, says Thackeray producer
Politician and film producer Sanjay Raut, who is also the writer of the forthcoming film Thackeray based on Bal Thackeray, says that though there is a perception that the late politician was "anti-Muslim", it is not true. 
Asked if Thackeray disliked and maintained a distance from the Muslim community, Raut told the media: "Bala saab was never an anti-Muslim man. He was a true patriot. He was one of those lovers of the nation and people's person that never allowed caste and religion to come in between. 
"People asked us why we cast Nawazuddin (Siddiqui) bhai as saab in the film. I would say that this is the biggest salute from us to the ideology of Bala saab. Also, note that Nakash Aziz sang the title song of Thackeray because we believe that saab kept merit beyond religion." 
Calling Thackeray the "biggest nationalist", Raut mentioned that "his vision was to bring people together for the development of the nation". 
The film is releasing before the election. Asked if the story will influence people's mind to vote for a particular political party, Raut said: "Look, the film The Accidental Prime Minister is based on Sanjaya Baru's book. But our film is not based on any book, it is a life story. This is not a propaganda film. Like the way we watched films on
Getting personality traits of Thackeray was tough: Nawazuddin
National Award-winning actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui says that he had to work really hard to get the personality and mannerisms right to play the role of late politician Bal Thackeray on the big screen. 
"Getting the mannerisms, his thought process and internalising his vision to portray the character was very tough and I had to work really hard on that. 
"I know that people are talking about my look and the credit goes to the makeup portraying the character depends on how I am preparing for it.I have honestly attempted to do that."
Sharing the story behind casting him, Sanjay Raut, the writer and one of the producers of the film, said: "I have always liked Nawazuddin Siddiqui's work, but once I was watching one of his films Freaky Ali where he played the role of a golf player.
"When I looked at his face, I thought he could be a choice, but I had to understand if he had the body-language to pull the role. I called him for a meeting at a hotel. I observed his walk and body language.that moment I decided that he would play the character."
"I chose him within two minutes I can the same way, I chose Amrita (Rao) for the role of Mina Tai Thackeray. We selected our team very fast," mentioned Raut.
The film is based on the life of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. 
Asked if the film can be compared with Sarkar that had megastar Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin said: "I don't think anyone can overshadow someone because an actor has his own style and method of performance." IANS

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Amrita Rao in a scene from Thackeray
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Amrita Rao in a scene from Thackeray
Nawazuddin and Amrita Rao pose during thetrailer launch of Thackeray
Nawazuddin and Amrita Rao pose during thetrailer launch of Thackeray

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