photographer – arjun mark
styling – sohiny das of grain fashion consultancy
jewellery – emerald jewels
makeup – sonik sarwate
hair – sanky evrus
styling assistants – aditi subramaniam & farzeen balsara
production – fsp production
executed by – niharika singh of studio little dumpling
wardrobe – falguni shane peacock
Fearless, strong and positive—Bhumi Pednekar, at 34, with a plethora of impactful films and fashion moments in her journey so far—embodies these values and more. She modestly deflects attention from her acting career’s duration, deeming it not particularly long. Yet, when confronted with the impact she’s made in a relatively short span, she graciously shares stories of characters embodying resilient women with unwavering moral strength. Her debut in ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ set a distinctive tone, a tone she continued to elevate with films like ‘Shubh Mangal Savdhaan’ and her recent outing ‘Thank You For Coming.’ Pednekar acknowledges her journey is ongoing, with a commitment to bring forth narratives of resilient women.
Pednekar’s choices of films, her fashionable outlook and her owning up every moment in the reel and real life is an indication that she stands as the quintessential embodiment of the modern Indian bride. She seamlessly blending fearlessness, strength, positivity, (which are also the values of globally renowned couture brand Falguni Shane Peacock in whose ensembles she shines bright during the cover shoot) and unapologetic confidence. Her persona transcends conventional stereotypes, reflecting a paradigm shift in the archetype of contemporary brides. Bhumi’s resolute demeanour and unwavering self-assurance redefine matrimonial narratives, presenting a compelling image of femininity characterised by empowerment and resilience. As a public figure, she not only graces the screen with her cinematic prowess but also symbolises a progressive ethos that resonates with the multifaceted aspirations of the modern bride, poised at the intersection of tradition and trailblazing individuality.
In an exclusive and candid interview with The Peacock Magazine, Bhumi shares insights into her journey and talks about the widely celebrated personality of hers.
Q) How were your growing up years like?
Bhumi Pednekar: I’m from Bombay. I was born and brought up here. My childhood was a healthy mix of traditional-yet-modern values. I was fortunate to be born in a progressive family, where our breakfast conversations centered mostly around world economics, the political conditions and situations across the world, etc. We were always aware of what was happening socio-politically around us. At the same time, we were taught to be always empathetic. We saw a lot of that in our parents. But apart from that, my growing up years were full of happiness and joy as I grew up in a happy, healthy atmosphere. I’m your regular Juhu girl and a true Mumbaikar in every way possible.
Q) You worked as an assistant casting director with Yashraj Films (YRF) for five years before stepping into the acting arena. What got you transitioning from a casting director to an actor?
BP: I wasn’t just a casting director for the five years before I became an actor. Casting was only one of the many things I did while being behind the camera. Rather, it was my last job before I became an actor. But those five years behind the camera did me as good as a film school would do to me. It was where I learned almost everything and did every kind of odd job possible, be it assisting, casting for films, pre-production work, post-production work, writing, and so on. I’ve done all of it because I’ve always wanted to be a part of the system. I love the world of cinema. Even though I was behind the camera throughout these five years, I was pretty clear about my goal of becoming an actor. And then eventually, Dum Laga Ke Haisha happened.
Q) How did you bag your debut film?
BP: Somewhere deep down, I always knew that I was going to eventually land up doing what I love, which is acting. I knew I would be an actor performing for the camera, but it was just that I didn’t know how it would happen. That said, I was fortunate enough to work with Yashraj Films (YRF), who are constantly looking out and launching new talent. Destiny, too, played its role when a script as unconventional as Dum Laga Ke Haisha came in. My seniors i.e., my boss Shanoo Sharma and Adi sir (Aditya Chopra), had seen me conduct auditions plenty of times, so they kind of thought there is an inherent actor in me and got me auditioning for the film. In fact, I auditioned for three months because the director thought I was inherently good for the part. Physically, I wasn’t there anywhere close, but I was happy to put on the kilos required for the role. So, there is no one particular moment of transition. I would say it was a mix of my destiny and my hard work. It was a summation of a lot of events that ended up in me being casted in a Yashraj film like Dum Laga Ke Haisha.
Q) In most of your films, you have portrayed ‘women of fortitude with a strong moral fibre.’ How do you go about choosing your scripts?
BP: I believe choosing a script has a lot to do with your personal sensibilities. Like I said earlier, I come from an empowered household. I have seen extremely strong women around me, I have seen women who have always stood up for what they feel is right, and I’ve seen many evolved men around me, as well. We did not have any gender bias in our house. But when I grew up, I realized that the world outside is very different from the world that I grew up in. When you’re a child, you live a sheltered life that is your cocoon. But when you’re an adult and go out there into the real world, you tend to face a lot of prejudices that you haven’t before or aren’t used to. I was fortunate enough for Dum Laga Ke Haisha to happen, which set a precedent to what the rest of my career would look like, which was an unconventional path with strong women characters. It set the tone of my career, and I feel like, through my work, I want to comment on certain issues or make a statement about something, and those are the kind of films that I choose. That said, one of the main criteria to choose any film is to entertain the audience, and that will always remain.
Q) What aspects does a character need to have for you to find it interesting?
BP: I look at a character like I look at a human being. When I meet somebody for the first time, there are so many aspects of them that strike me. It makes me want to meet them again. And that is precisely what I look for in a character. I like to understand what the character stands for, what their goals are, what their fight is about, what their path is, and what are their struggles, etc. It is only when I can empathize with all of these and more, that I want to play the role of that character.
Q) Do the characters you essay ever get under your skin?
BP: Oh yes, they do all the time! It takes me a lot of time to detach myself. I wouldn’t say all films do that because every film requires a different amount of preparation work, and every film has a different impact on you. But yes, it has happened many-a-times where it has taken me a couple of weeks to get out of a character.
Q) Do you have any method approach that helps you experience the transitioning from character to character smoothly?
BP: I don’t have any particular way of doing it. Every film is different. Certain films require months of preparation, while certain films require none. So, I try not following a set method or a set formula because that gets boring.
Q) Do you think you’ve gotten better at cutting out the rest of the noise and focusing only on your craft?
BP: I believe, the more you succeed, the noise increases even more. It gets tougher because of the added volume of work. I remember when I started out, I was only shooting films, and there were no extra things to attend to or do. But now there are a lot more commitments and you have so much work apart from the film work that you’re doing. It gets a tad bit tough to disconnect, and I’m a person who loves disconnecting. In fact, I’m not even in touch with my family when I’m shooting. It takes a lot for me to stay connected with people or something, but I guess it’s a part and parcel of the kind of actor that I want to be. I think if you are the actor who wants a certain amount of social reach, you will have to become a little accepting of the noise and learn your way around it. That said, I still try to cut down as many unnecessary things as possible.
Q) How important is it for you to challenge yourself even further with every film that you do?
BP: Oh, it’s extremely important! The idea is to be better than your last film. When I manage to do that, it’s okay. But when I don’t, I know I need to recalibrate and work harder. More so because I’m a performance-led actor, and I see people expecting something unconventional and different out of me. It creates a lot of pressure sometimes, but I’ve managed well with the pressure so far.
Q) OTT platform content and web series grew manifold in the last couple of years. Would you be interested in debuting on any of the platforms? What kind of roles would you like to essay?
BP: The OTT platforms have been a great disruptive medium where, today, an actor can experiment a lot with their craft and break barriers and boundaries. While I haven’t really thought about what kind of roles I would want to do on the OTT platforms, I definitely know it has to be something better than my films.
Q) How do you embody the qualities of a fearless, strong, and positive in your personal and professional life? Tell us about some of the iconic moments in your career that showcase your fearless attitude and determination.
BP: I think the best way for me to remain positive, strong, and fearless is by knowing who I am. I strive to be as true to myself as possible, understanding my insecurities and complexities. Perhaps not every day, but I aim to wake up a little stronger than the day before. My family and friends play a significant role in keeping me afloat. One of the iconic fearless moments in my career was when I signed Dum Laga Ke Haisha as my first film. It wasn’t a choice; I was fortunate it came to me. But if I had to pick a recent one, then it would be taking up ‘Thank You For Coming.’ From the start, I knew this film would stir conversations as it addresses female desires, sexuality, ambition, and friendship—topics that make people uncomfortable. Despite this, I’m glad I did it because it brought significant changes to my trajectory as an actor. Working with these amazing women not only strengthened me as an actor but also contributed to my personal growth.
Q) What are some of the values and beliefs that you hold dear, which also resonate with the modern bride’s unapologetic approach to life and love?
BP: I hold certain values and beliefs close to myself, and the one that would resonate with the modern Indian bride today would be wanting to live life on my terms. While I respect the values I’ve been taught, I don’t want my individuality to be lost in the chaos. I am fiercely independent, ambitious, and nurturing with a lot of love to give. Independence, to me, is not just about cutting through without considering outcomes; it involves being inclusive and thinking about how my actions affect my near and dear ones who have empowered me. I don’t want to do anything at the cost of hurting them.
The modern Indian bride, too, is at a cusp of change. She strives to hold onto her individuality and loved ones amidst new energy entering her life. This journey should ideally be easy, not filled with compromise, despite societal expectations.
Q) In what ways have you broken away from traditional norms and explored unconventional choices in your fashion and style?
BP: I believe the most unconventional choice I could have made is taking my love for fashion and putting it out there, and people are still adjusting to it. I’m constantly told that I’m such a good actor, then why do I feel the need to get into this world of fashion and I find that question extremely appalling. I don’t understand how my fashion choices determine my roles as an actor. My point is, when attempting to bring about change, there comes a point where people question your choices, which is entirely normal. However, with time, they become accustomed to it, and appreciation follows. I feel I have undergone this journey; my fashion choices are unconventional because they align with me enjoying experimenting with fashion and my general approach to life, including the films I work on and the person I am. I believe I’ve led quite an unconventional life until now. It’s not that I’m trying to prove a point by doing something completely out of the box. For me, fashion is a way—it’s a mood, a feeling at that moment in my life. It’s a means of communicating with the world and is a cathartic experience. Whether it’s choosing a piece of jewellery or a garment, it expresses how I feel, showcasing both my good and bad taste. I put a lot of thought into what I wear because I genuinely enjoy it. I love being part of the creative process and collaborating with my team—stylists, hair and makeup artists, and technicians. We all put a tremendous amount of effort into crafting each of my looks.
Q) What advice would Bhumi Pednekar give to brides who want to break free from convention and create their own unique wedding experience?
BP: I believe the best advice I can offer is to be authentic, especially with numerous people suggesting what to do and presenting obvious, conventional approaches. If you enjoy that, great—since it’s your day, do what makes you happy. However, if you feel hesitant about experimentation, consider that this is the most significant day of your life. You’ll have these pictures and memories forever, so avoid any regrets. Follow your desires; my suggestion is to be classic yet unconventional. Finding the right balance and determining how far you want to go is up to you. Remember, it’s your wedding, so don’t let anyone else dictate your choices. This is your life, and you ought to make the choices that you want to make!
Q) Can you share some insights into your favourite styles and how they reflect your individuality and personality?
BP: To start, I adore wearing Indian clothes; I thrive in it. The wedding season and the time around Diwali are my most favourite times because I get to dress up. Personally, I love wearing a saree and have experimented with various drapes. The Gujarati style, where the drape falls from the back to the front, is one of my favourites. In general, a saree is sensual, elegant, and comfortable—a silhouette I truly love. It’s versatile, easily modernised, and can be styled traditionally in numerous ways, depicting various moods.
Additionally, I have an affinity for power dressing, and I like incorporating elements like strong sleeves, shoulders, or a deeper neckline even into the saree. I like androgynous dressing, enjoying the blend of both masculine and feminine energy. Despite that, I enjoy feminine silhouettes and cuts, be it a sexy plain minimal dress or an extravagant Lehenga with a whole lot of jewellery. Overall, I simply love clothes, fashion, jewellery, and the glamming-up process. I’m not the person who will ever complain about anything; I’ll embrace it all for my love of fashion.
Q) You are known for your advocacy on various social issues. How do you intertwine your activism with your identity?
BP: Yes, people know me for my work. A big part of it is because of the films I choose; I always try to express my woke thoughts through cinema. This mindset carries into my life off-screen too. Activism is essential to me, and I don’t have to force it; it’s just a natural part of who I am. I’ve been passionate about it since I was a child, heavily influenced by my opinionated parents, especially my mother. They always encouraged us to voice our feelings, have a point of view and not be passive about things that mattered. Activism has been ingrained in me from a very young age, and being an actor has allowed me to channel it through the various roles I play.
Q) You have a strong sense of body positivity. Any advice for modern brides to embrace their natural beauty and feel confident on their special day?
BP: I sense a significant shift in mindset today, and I find inspiration in many body-positive brides. While societal change is gradual, for women aiming to feel comfortable in their skin on their big day, the key is striving to be the best version of oneself. It’s essential to understand that actors and models go through extensive skincare and hair routines, supported by large teams ensuring their appearance. Even on your wedding day, you’ll have access to a team, but the focus should be on feeling comfortable and confident. Wear what makes you happy; if something doesn’t, skip it. Body positivity is often misunderstood; it’s a process, not just a phrase. Personally, the most positive experiences for me come when I wear silhouettes and clothes that suit me. In the past, I’ve learned not to compare my body to others and stopped setting unrealistic goals. Brides should find their unique comfort and beauty rather than trying to fit into someone else’s mold.
Q) Tell us about your personal journey of self-discovery and empowerment. How has it influenced your perception of love and marriage, and how can other modern brides find their own paths?
BP: My journey of self-discovery has been quite long, as it is for many people. I have days when I feel extremely underconfident, like the world is falling apart. However, I try to find strength within myself, reminding myself that tough times will pass, and tomorrow will be a better day. Dealing with trolls can be troubling, but I’m fortunate to have a strong support system that helps me keep going. One crucial lesson I’ve learned is not to be too harsh on myself. It took time to realize that I wasn’t enjoying the beautiful gifts the universe gave me because I worried about the future or cried about the past. I was always trying to be someone else, and that made me unhappy. What truly changed my life is appreciating smaller blessings, celebrating even the smallest victories, reflecting on challenging days, and moving forward. Overall, I’ve stopped being harsh on myself, and I believe that’s the most empowering thing one can do.
Q) The modern bride values authenticity. How do you stay true to yourself in the face of societal expectations and pressures, and how can other brides do the same?
BP: I’ve figured out what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve grown to love the person I am and the woman I’ve become, but it’s been a journey. Amidst the opinions and noise of today, influenced by social media, I wake up each day embracing who I truly am. I’m the girl who is what she is before the world wakes up and sees her. I’m the girl who rushes to her puppies, her mom, and her sister the moment she wakes up. I’m the girl who engages in unfiltered conversations with family and best friends. This is the person I tap into. Openly discussing my insecurities and fears has empowered me. Despite societal expectations, I set my own standards.
Q) What is the best advice any director has given you?
BP: The best advice came from Abhishek Chaubey (director of Sonchiriya), which changed my craft. He said, ‘As actors, we inherently express way too much through our eyes, and at times that is not really required.’ That advice gave me another tool as a performer!
Q) What are some of the personal beliefs that you firmly stand by professionally?
BP: A few things that are important for me personally and professionally are discipline, good and civil behavior, a good temperament, and self-belief.
Q) How do you stay grounded?
BP: The fear of losing what I have keeps me grounded.
Q) How do you unwind?
BP: I unwind by sleeping! (laughs) I get no time to sleep, so that is pretty much a luxury for me.
Q) Who is Bhumi Pednekar when she is off-screen?
BP: I’m nothing like the parts that I play. I’m a simple, fun, and extremely happy person, who is very ambitious and who loves to think about work even when I’m off-screen. (laughs) I’m a homebody and a family person, and whenever I’m home, I’m usually lazing around or sleeping. My only mantra in life is to be happy.
Q) What are the upcoming projects and initiatives you are involved in?
BP: My next film is titled “Bhakshak,” set to release in the first quarter of next year. As for the rest, I can’t disclose much, but it’s shaping up to be an exciting year.