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Sonali Bendre says she almost ‘packed bags and left’ films before ‘Humma Humma’ became a hit

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Mumbai, April 24: Actor Sonali Bendre says she had decided to pack her bags and leave the film industry if she was unable to do a good performance in the song “Humma Humma” from Mani Ratnam’s 1995 movie “Bombay”.

Bendre, who was barely five films old in the industry, said she was often “slammed” by choreographers for her moves until she got a breakthrough for her stint as the female dancer in the superhit track “Humma Humma” alongside Prabhu Deva’s brother Raju Sundaram.  According to the actor, it was a common perception at the time that one couldn’t become a heroine if they didn’t know how to dance. The 49-year-old said she wanted to give dancing a shot as the song was choreographed by the legendary Prabhu Deva. “I’m not a trained dancer. When I got into movies, I really got slammed by dance directors for my dancing. ‘Badi heroine banne chali hai, dancing nahi aata’. So, if you couldn’t dance, you couldn’t be a heroine. I was going through all of that so whatever time I would get before and after the shoot, I started to train in ‘Bollywood dancing’, as it’s called. “This was more like, ‘Let’s do this’. This is with Prabhu Deva because if I can do it, I have a right to be here and if I can’t do it, pack your bags and leave. At that point of time, it was like, ‘(At least) My team would earn their per-day (money)'” Bendre told PTI in an interview here. The actor, who later went on to feature in ’90s hits such as “Diljale”, “Major Saab”, “Sarfarosh”, “Zakhm” and “Hum Saath Saath Hain”, said Prabhu Deva’s father and choreographer master Mugur Sundar was so impressed by her skills that he gave her a reward of Rs 100.

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“The best part was I was dancing with Prabhu Deva’s brother Raju and Sundar master ji, their father was (also) on the set. Mani Ratnam sir always did huge long shots, so we did everything in one go. After we did one of the things (shots), Sundar master ji took out 100 bucks and gave it to me and said, ‘You did so well’. I was like, ‘I don’t need a certificate from anybody else, I’m here’.” Bendre said she was not even part of the main cast of “Bombay”, which was led by Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala, and yet “Humma Humma” is remembered as her song. “It had the actors who were fantastic, they had once-in-a lifetime kind of roles, and those actors were part of the song. Today, when I look back, I feel that I had to be stupid and or really ignorant to do a song like this. This turned into something and became what it became. It’s not my film song… and today, it’s my song,” she added.

The actor is set to reprise her role of Amina Qureshi, editor of Awaz Bharti news channel, in the upcoming second season of ZEE5 series “The Broken News”. With new voices coming in, she hopes she is offered more “age-appropriate” roles. “Putting it out in the universe,” she added.
In cinema, female actors have to still battle patriarchy in terms of work opportunities and Bendre said change is happening but slowly.

“It’s a patriarchal society and that’s the reality of life and that’s the way it works. I’m happy that things are changing slowly, but they are changing from where I’ve seen it come from.

“Conversations have started. I hope I can do my bit in seeing that this conversation doesn’t stop and it just grows. But to expect a 360-degree turn is not realistic and I am a realistic person,” she said.

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The actor, whose big-screen outing was 2013’s “Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai Dobaara”, said she has stayed away from films as she didn’t want to be stereotyped in glamorous roles.

“It’s great to have an image and that brands you and it always puts you out there and you get work. You work hard to make that but there comes a point where that image starts becoming like an anchor and starts pulling you down. No regrets about the image I had, but I had grown (out of it).”

Bendre, who is married to producer Goldie Behl, took a break from work after the birth of her son in 2005 and later appeared as a judge on reality TV shows like “India’s Got Talent”, “India’s Best Dramebaaz” and television series “Ajeeb Daastaan Hai Ye”.  She went on a seven-year hiatus when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and returned to acting with the first season of “The Broken News”, which premiered in 2022. The second chapter of the newsroom drama will premiere on May 3.

“I felt that ‘The Broken News’ was the character where I played my age and the moment you play a woman of my age, somehow, they have to be deglamorised… But I didn’t want to do that. (PTI)

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