“We’ve seen so much of her in speeches and interviews but we don’t know what she was like in her private moments,” says Charu Shankar, whose portrayal of a young Indira Gandhi in the second season of Rocket Boys on SonyLIV is winning widespread praise. Shankar, 41, did extensive reading and watched YouTube clips to understand how to play the iconic politician in her journey from Indu to Indira Gandhi, from the tentative daughter of India’s first prime minister to the angry young woman who was buffeted by powerful men as she sought to carve her own identity. “We all remember her so clearly,” she says. “She is so deeply etched in our collective psyche that it was an enormous responsibility to play her. But the writers did a great job in etching out her relationships, whether it was with her powerful private secretary PN Haksar or with her male colleagues such as K Kamaraj and Morarji Desai.” Shankar spoke to several people who had worked with her or met her, including her own father, retired IRS officer Durgesh Shankar, and her uncle Sondeep Shankar, who shot her as a young photographer. “She was a woman of the world and clearly had one way of interacting with Indians and a particularly charming one for the West,” says Shankar. But the advice of her producer and director Nikkhil Advani and Abhay Pannu was: Don’t mimic, just capture the essence of a young woman entrusted with the enormous responsibility of running India. She shot much of her 60-day portion in Pataudi Palace and sometimes had people doing salaam to her, saying ‘Jai Hind Madam’. Even the crew sometimes would not recognise her without make-up and hair (which took three hours to put on every day). Shankar has been acting since college, most memorably, with the late Tom Alter in his last stage performance Ek Lamha, and has been in several movies and OTT shows. She studied at Modern School, Barakhamba Road, and then read English at Lady Shri Ram College. A regular feature of Delhi theatre, she’s worked with Roysten Abel, Dilip Shankar and Adil Hussain as well, and has also been a television anchor. Movies have never enthused her but the rise of OTT has given her several opportunities, from playing Babur’s mother in The Empire to an academic in A Suitable Boy to a victim’s relative in Delhi Crime 2. A long way for a girl who played a part described only as ‘Lovely Girl at Wedding’ in Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012).
Nothing Farzi about This
Bhuvan Arora has never been in a hurry. He’s been in Mumbai for nine years since he graduated from the acting course at Pune’s Film and Television Institute and it’s only now that he has acquired fame playing Firoz, best friend and co-conspirator of Sunny, played by Shahid Kapoor in Farzi. The reaction to his spirited counterfeit maker has been incredible, he says, and everyone has advised him to choose wisely. So all he is doing currently is accepting congratulations and appearing on red carpets at awards shows. “I love all the attention,” he says, “maybe because it’s new.” Arora had an invaluable experience shooting Farzi and developed quite a bromance with Shahid. “He was like an elder brother to me and would often correct me as well,’’ he says. His bond with Amol Palekar became so strong that the scene where he dies in the series got him howling in all seriousness. Arora is a Delhi boy and refuses to describe his journey in Mumbai as a struggle. “Yes, there were times when I had just ₹60 in my pocket but I always believed that something would work out. It always did. Perhaps it is a result of the middle-class upbringing I had had, with buses chosen over autos when money was short.” His father took voluntary retirement from the Army while his mother worked with National Insurance and was the backbone of the family. “I have huge respect for working women and their double duty,” says Arora.
Scene and Heard
In the new climate change show Extrapolations on Apple TV+, Indira Varma plays Gita Mishra, the CEO of New Sky Initiatives, which creates the world’s first fully carbon-neutral cargo airplane, powered solely by solar energy. It is supposed to cool down the earth’s rising temperature and she pilots the first flight herself. Her destination? Badlapur, because she is the hometown girl made good. Obviously, there are some fans of Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur among the show’s creators. Sadly, the plane gets shot down over Mumbai.