Lara Dutta Proud to be played Indira Gandhi
Dutta says she had to do a fair amount of work to portray someone like her
Lara Dutta has starred in several big-budget multi-starrers, including No Entry, Partner, Do Knot Disturb, Bhagam Bhaag, Blue, and Housefull, among others. However, she has often felt under-utilized as an actor throughout her career, with one of the main reasons being that people didn’t seem to see past her glamorous image.
Today, however, the situation is different, as the actor-producer, who made her streaming debut last year (Hundred), believes she is living in a great time and is getting plenty of opportunities to display her talent. But she was taken aback when she was cast as former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The offer for Bell Bottom, a spy thriller co-starring Vaani Kapoor and Huma Qureshi, came from none other than her close friend and co-star from her first film, Andaaz – Akshay Kumar. Ranjit M Tewari directed the film. Bell Bottom will be released in theatres throughout the world on August 19th.
“In May of last year, Akshay contacted me to offer this part. He told me that they were casting for a movie called Bell Bottom and that they wanted me to play Mrs Indira Gandhi. At first, I assumed Akshay was joking. We happened to be in New York during the lockdown. ‘I am making this film called Bell Bottom, and there is a role of Indira Gandhi…’ said Akshay. I began to chuckle! “I was convinced he was deceiving me,” she recalls.
“I didn’t know what relation he found between me and Mrs Gandhi,” Dutta, the former Miss Universe, continues. I agreed I’d do it, but there was a price to pay for taking on such a role. Even though the film makes no political statements and isn’t about Mrs Gandhi, it does focus on historical events, I was concerned about portraying a political figure of her prominence in the correct light on screen. However, Akshay stated that the look will be handled and that they were looking for an actor with the right body language, dignity, and presence to fit the role. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play Indira Gandhi, a legendary figure. There was a big duty to train to look like her on film once I committed to it.”
Dutta’s character in Bell Bottom is more than simply prosthetics for her, as she had to go through extensive training to resemble the part. “The filmmaker forced me to watch a lot of Mrs Gandhi videos. It provided me with a fair idea of the type of body language she used. I took copious notes on her eye and hand motions, as well as the way she spoke and how clear she was. The story is based on a real-life hijacking that occurred at the time, therefore it’s a dramatic incident. Mrs Gandhi, on the other hand, was always in command, whereas I am fairly animated when I speak. I’m a lot more dramatic in real life, which is why I had to put forth a lot of effort to represent someone like Indira Gandhi on TV. “It was a challenge,” she admits.
Dutta’s unmistakable look from the film, which he achieved via the use of prosthetics and make-up, drew everyone’s attention. “I couldn’t place myself. Akshay couldn’t take his gaze away from me. I recall him sitting next to me and staring at me the first time he saw me as the role. ‘What is wrong with you?’ I wondered. ‘What are you doing staring at me for?’ ‘This is so bizarre,’ he replied. So strange.’ Such were the reactions on the Bell Bottom sets. I was curious to see how others would react to it, and I believe the response has been overwhelmingly positive. My father has paid me one of the highest compliments (Wing Commander LK Dutta). He was Mrs Gandhi’s personal pilot, having flown her numerous times and getting to know her well. I remember hearing stories about her when I was a kid. As a result, I had an indirect personal connection with her in certain ways. For me, my father became a valuable source of information.
“I don’t mind starting work early in the morning, and this is my 13th production with Akshay, so I know how it works,” she adds when asked if it became more tedious for her because Kumar is notorious for starting his shoots early in the morning. He’s my all-time favourite co-star, and he’s like family to me. He’s incredibly disciplined, exudes a lot of positive energy, and ensures that everyone on set is taken care of. We’ve gotten to the point where he doesn’t need to tell me how he wants me to behave while we’re in a scene together. I’m able to take cues from his performance, and vice versa. I feel completely at ease working with him.”
Dutta on shooting the movie
“In fact, I was the first actor to start shooting before Akshay arrived. Nothing was being shot in India or even globally when the film went into production. The manufacturers took a significant risk and took on a lot of responsibility in order to revive the entire business. I consider myself really privileged to be a part of a film that, in some ways, made history by being the first to begin filming.
We began filming the video at a period when no one knew what the future of safety protocols will be like. It was a very constrained and difficult filming setting. However, once we were situated in, we felt completely safe. We work in one of the few professions where wearing a mask prevents you from doing your job. So, in a manner, this picture demonstrated to the rest of the business that shooting can be done securely even in the midst of a pandemic,” adds Dutta.
Lara Dutta discusses the potential backlash to her portrayal of Indira Gandhi, saying, “It’s hard to please everyone.”
When asked about the possibility of criticism for playing a politician, Lara told SpotboyE, “It’s impossible to please everyone all of the time.” Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” She went on to say, “Of course, I was well aware that I was honouring a famous, historical individual who is widely adored and revered. Bell Bottom’s storey is based on a historical occurrence that occurred during her reign, and while we’ve given some artistic licence, playing a figure that so many people know and love comes with a lot of pressure to make it believable.”
Lara acknowledged that portraying the former Prime Minister’s “poise, grace, and leadership” on screen was difficult, but that the goal was to be as authentic as possible.
Lara had previously discussed her husband Mahesh Bhupathi’s and their daughter Saira’s reactions to her new look. “My spouse was taken aback. The glance most likely made him feel uneasy. I don’t want to hug you, he said. “You don’t look like yourself,” she told Zoom, adding that Saira was “interested.” “She watched it come to life right before her eyes… ‘Mum, they’re going to kill you, you can’t breathe,’ she said as she saw the complete silicon on my face. She was quite concerned. But, having said that, she was curious and asked, ‘Can I touch the nose, the eyebrows?’ Is it possible for me to do this or that?’ Lara remarked.
About the movie release
Bell Bottom will not only be the first big-budget picture to be released in theatres after more than a year, but it will also be the first film in the world to begin and end production during the new coronavirus pandemic. The cast and crew of the film travelled to the United Kingdom to shoot in August of last year, and the project was completed on September 30.
BellBottom will be released in theatres on August 19.