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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Actress Vibhawari Gives Mommy Lessons To Quench Curiosity Of Teenage Daughter

  • IWB Post
  •  September 14, 2017

She’s calm, she’s headstrong, she knows exactly the nature of films she wants to be a part of, and, when to say no. “I have my moments of confusion, and days when I find myself posing the who-am-I questions to self, that’s part of life. But I do what I have to do, and am content with all the choices I have made. I am not extremely ambitious, neither do I have the desire to be Number 1.”

Vibhawari Deshpande is a critically acclaimed name in Marathi Cinema and in the World of Theatre. She acts, writes, directs, and cherishes all the roles she’s put her foot into until now. Vibhawari calls herself lucky to have been born and brought up in a very educated and progressive family, “My parents have always supported me, and it was their immovable faith in me that helped me attain the freedom my work demanded.” She was married at the age of 22 to her best friend, and her husband only expanded the support-base.

Recently acted in ‘Tikli and Laxmi Bomb’, an upcoming film based on sex-workers life, in an exclusive chat with IWB, Vibhawari opens up on playing ‘Laxmi’, and shares with us the many other aspects of her life:

Vibhawari Deshpande

Tell us about the years that stand behind your breakthrough career moment?

I started off quite early. While in school, I learned Kathak and Indian Classical Vocal music, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but somewhere it didn’t feel like ‘I belonged there’. Then theatre came in my life, the first time I acted on stage, I was in eleventh class, and remember the appreciation it had brought. With time I grew more interested in Theatre, and alongside college, did various courses by National School Of Drama, and attended workshops by the noted theatre personality Satyadev Dubey. I was working on-screen, and also as a writer off-screen. And somewhere in those years, I acknowledged the realization “yes, this is my space.”

Vibhawari Deshpande

Which was the first film you were offered, and how did it come your way?

I got a break into the film industry in 2004; it was a cameo role in Shwaas, a multi-award winning Marathi film. There was no struggle involved because while I did want to work in films, I wasn’t hunting desperately for roles – Theatre was not a stepping-stone for me. The director of Shwaas, Sandeep Sawant, is a friend, and when he offered me the role, I accepted because I liked it. I have always acted upon my instincts. The next role that I did was in Smita Talwalkar’s production Saatchya Aat Gharat, where I played a college student.

You mentioned being involved in theatre both on and off screen. Tell us more about the writer in you?

I have always given a hand to writing, so when I joined theatre, it was initially as a scriptwriter.I am a mass communication graduate, and I wrote and directed quite a lot of plays then, I still do. I remember directing a Kannada Play, called Gumma Banda Gumma, and another Marathi one, Gayab Geet. Having been associated with Theatre for so long, every aspect of it is very close to my heart. Though now I write and don’t wear the director’s hat as often, there was a time once. when I used to be very possessive about my written scripts. Also, I have written and been a part of lot children-centric plays, and still am a part of an Indo-German theatre group, Grips, that produces plays for children.

Vibhawari Deshpande

That’s amazing. How were your experiences in Harishchandrachi Factory (2009) and Balgandharva (2011)?

Harishchandrachi happened after a few years of Saatycha. It was a film directed by Paresh Mokashi, and it depicts the struggle that Dadasaheb Phalke (The Father of Indian Cinema) had to go through in making Raja Harishchandra in 1913, which was the film that marks the birth of Indian cinema. I was cast for the role of Dadasaheb Phalke’s wife, played by Nandu Madhav, who was very senior to me, and someone I was in awe of. It was a great experience in all aspects. Balgandharva on other hand was a Marathi biographical, but a film that proved to remain with me for a long time.

Vibhawari Deshpande

In the story, I play the lead’s wife, and early on we lose our new born. As actors, we are taught and trained to use our emotional memory, and that particular scene couldn’t have been brought to life unless one didn’t consult their emotional faculties. So to breathe that mother’s pain, I had to do the worst thing ever, and that was to make myself imagine losing my own child. I cannot describe the pain and guilt I had to undergo for doing what I did (had to).

To breathe that mother’s pain, I had to do the worst thing ever, and that was to make myself imagine losing my own child. I cannot describe the pain and guilt I had to undergo for doing what I did (had to).

 

Speaking of intense roles, when and how did ‘Tikli and Laxmi Bomb’ happen?

It was a year ago, when Aditya Kripalani, the director, called me with regard to the film. We weren’t acquainted and he’d got my reference from someone. As you know it is his book-turned-film, it was when I read the book (in just two days), that I knew I want to be a part of this project. We met soon, and since he hadn’t seen my work before, did a couple of audition rounds, but somewhere along the way, I’d got the intuition that the role will be mine (though these intuitions don’t always work – she laughs). I could feel ‘Laxmi‘ so well, and it reflected. Aditya was the writer, director, casting director, musician, and it was amazing to see him do justice with all the roles he played.

Vibhawari Deshpande

The film is about sex workers, and you play the lead role of ‘Laxmi’. Did it pose any challenge for the wife, mother, and actor in you?

Well, I wouldn’t say that we (my husband and I) didn’t have any concerns, but the fact that both of us saw it as one of its kind opportunity for me as an actor, helped us find our ways. Talking about being a wife, my husband, just like my family, has always been very supportive of every choice I have made, and their belief in me is one of my biggest strengths. But I am a mother of a teenage daughter, and I needed to keep in consideration the vulnerable age she is in – neither too old to expose her to the subject nor too young to hide from. So there were a few things that needed to be taken care of. As an actor, on the other hand, I was initially concerned about the zones I’d have to travel to, physically and emotionally, but Aditya’s support as a director made a lot of difference.

How would you describe your experience of enacting a prostitute onscreen?

Tikli and Laxmi Bomb is truly a women-oriented film, and the perspective of sex-workers life it touches upon is rather unique. These women have a life of their own and they do not seek sympathy all the time, which happens to be the essence of the story. I didn’t invest myself in a deep research, or assign myself “homework” per say. And no, I didn’t go out to meet them either. Sex-workers can’t be characterized by common traits, each woman is an individual first, and has her own ways, and for me as an actor, what was important was to understand Laxmi.

Vibhawari Deshpande

Sex workers can’t be characterized by common traits, each woman is an individual first, and has her own ways, and for me as an actor, what was important was to understand Laxmi.

 

We understand. Was there any scene in the film, or an instance that left you overwhelmed beyond anticipation?

Yes. So there is a scene in the film where Tikli and I (Laxmi) are present in a room with an MLA, and he tries to exploit me. Purely as a performer, but in the way he approached me, his touch, it sent a shiver down my spine. I lived the lifetime of a sex worker’s life in that one moment. The feeling was just so intense, I will never forget it.

Having worked in highly critically acclaimed films, what importance does “public recognition” hold for you?

Well, recognition from the audience is just as important as from critics. Because at the end, films are not only about art but business, too. Having said that, films can’t always be made keeping in mind only what the audience demands. But I don’t consider myself to be a “big star”, and I haven’t sought importance, or done any film with that being the sole purpose.

Hailing from Marathi cinema, what are the factors in your opinion that can help boost the status of regional cinema?

Based on my experience and observation, the one thing that lacks in Regional/Marathi cinema is a well-structured business model. People with money but no sense of cinema, are becoming producers, and that is something that needs to be addressed and changed. The regional cinema is doing good work too, like Sairat for instance, it was a huge hit and created history in the Marathi film industry. But if you look into it, it was backed by a strong production system, that constantly worked on the hundred aspects that go into filmmaking. So a professional approach is perhaps what can help bring out the talent that regional cinema has the potential for.

Vibhawari Deshpande

Do you have a dream role?

Ah, I don’t think I have any dream role as such, except yes, playing ‘Rani Lakshmibai’ in Jhansi Ki Rani. I am an instinctive actor and I’d love to do diverse roles in future, but that depends on what comes my way. Like I had multiple offers to do TV, but I didn’t take any because the offered scripts didn’t excite me as an actor.

Vibhawari Deshpande

And, what do you enjoy doing when not working on roles and scripts?

I love spending time with my daughter, and family. I am a diverse avid reader so books can keep me happily busy for long hours. I don’t like to cook, but I’m enjoying experimenting with baking recipes off late (various glimpses of which we got on her Instagram). And yes, any chance I get, given work and family and the hundred responsibilities that they bring along, I would just want to choose a city and set out to explore – I absolutely love traveling.

Miniature गुढी but giant size wishes. नववर्षाच्या शुभेच्छा !

90 Likes, 1 Comments – Vibhawari Deshpande (@vibhitts) on Instagram: “Miniature गुढी but giant size wishes. नववर्षाच्या शुभेच्छा !”

Wheat choco chip muffins ?

77 Likes, 1 Comments – Vibhawari Deshpande (@vibhitts) on Instagram: “Wheat choco chip muffins ?”

We’re curious to know more about the mother-daughter equation you share with Radha?

Oh, we are totally like friends, is the instant reaction. Though she later adds, “now that she is entering the much-dreaded teenage, the equation often gets unbalanced” (she laughs). I have always believed in being open with her, to answer her queries, irrespective of what she might bounce my way. But given the level of exposure children are being subjected to, it is not always possible to satiate their curiosities with loaded information, and so while she doesn’t hesitate in asking anything to me, I know what I should feed her delicate mind with, and what can be saved for later. And I am glad that together we have been able to make it work that way, until now (can’t say what the teenage holds – she laughs).

They also do some “girl talk” every night – a cool mother-daughter duo indeed.

When daughter starts taking selfies ! #grownup#selfiemaster#radharocks

65 Likes, 3 Comments – Vibhawari Deshpande (@vibhitts) on Instagram: “When daughter starts taking selfies ! #grownup#selfiemaster#radharocks”

You’ve left us curious to dig a bit more, would you share with us “a question” that you had to recently deal with? And any other instance where the friendship-quotient perhaps left you smiling tight-lipped?

So the other night she asked me “Mum, how do people become gay, are they born like that or they become later?” followed by “Am I gay?” I tried answering her curiosity to the best of my knowledge, and then the little one, very curiously puts her last question, “Will you hate me if I am gay?” These are the moments which appropriate your decision of choosing to be open with your children. It is very important for a child’s growth to be able to give words to their thoughts, and not be afraid of discussing anything with their parents. I told her that Mumma will always support her no matter what, but I also had to open the window to the world a bit for her, given the topic she touched upon and the questions she raised.

Vibhawari Deshpande

Oh and, yes, I often have to pay a cost of our “friendship” (she laughs). Though I make sure of reminding her of my mother’s hat from time to time. Just recently, I remember I was sitting with my in-laws and she came barging in the room with an open newspaper in hand and said “here, your Farhan Akhtar is featured today,” and with my in-laws right there, I couldn’t help but smile that slightly embarrassed smile.

Facebook already had helped us gather about your crush for Farhan Akhtar, Vibhawari (and we laughed).

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