Madhur Bhandarkar recently announced that his next project, India Lockdown, is set to go on floors. After a long gap, work has restarted in the industry and actress Shweta Basu Prasad, who will be seen in India Lockdown, is happy to be back on sets.
Madhur’s directorial encapsulates the difficulties that were faced by several sections of the society during the lockdown in 2020 owing to the COVID-19 crisis. Using four interconnected stories, the film underlines what happened when the lockdown brought every business to a near-halt and impacted the livelihoods of millions of Indians. One such section that Madhur has decided to focus on are the sex workers in red-light districts in Mumbai who were majorly affected during the lockdown.
Shweta plays a sex-worker, Mehrunissa, in Bhandarkar’s film. As part of her research for the role, she visited Mumbai’s red-light area, Kamathipura, with Bhandarkar a fortnight ago.
Speaking about it, she says she likes to dive deep into her character and work on a backstory:
In this case, I’m playing Mehrunissa, a sex worker. Two weeks ago, Madhur sir and I, with our team, went to Kamathipura, where we met many sex workers. Sir felt that my language was too polished for the part, so the idea was to understand how much I have to change my language and get comfortable with their other nuances. He wanted me to meet the women to understand how they think. They had such overwhelming stories about their lives, the way the lockdown impacted them and their business. It was an experience of a lifetime to just get a first-hand insight into their living conditions and their houses. It all helped me write a backstory.
About whether she had any apprehensions in visiting the district, she says:
I’m a student of journalism and have seen and made documentaries. Besides, this trip was related to my work. The only apprehension was to not say something inappropriate or ask questions that may make them feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to cross that line. The women were generous to open up about their life stories, they helped us in our narrative. As an artiste, this is one of those precious times in life when one gets to push the envelope. And guess what? I did meet a Mehrunissa there. My character is dedicated to her; she’s just like the character I am playing.
Finally, she says:
I’ve also seen Tabu in Chandni Bar (2001), Kareena Kapoor Khan in Chameli (2003), Konkona Sensharma in Traffic Signal (2007), and Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi in Mandi (1983). And now, it’s my turn to bring the sex-workers’ heartbreakingly beautiful stories on to the big screen.
India Lockdown Prateik Babbar, Sai Tamhankar and Aahana Kumra apart from Shweta and I sure can’t wait for this one!