Actress Bidita Bag, of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz and The Sholay Girl fame, hopes her new film Fauji Calling, that delves deep into the heart of what it’s like to belong to a military family, strikes a chord with viewers everywhere.
Whilst films based on war are common in Bollywood, Fauji Calling, that also stars Sharman Joshi, Ranjha Vikram Singh and Mahi Soni, judging by its trailer seems to be a delicate yet powerful take on the concept of war as seen from the ever-watchful eyes of a soldier’s family members, including a young child.
In a recent Zoom interview with City Times, Bidita elaborated on her role saying the film was “a very emotional journey” for her. “I am playing a soldier’s wife. I am representing, in fact, all soldiers’ wives, so it’s a responsibility to portray it in the right way, to deliver the right message and emotion.”
The 29-year-old actress shared how while a soldier’s death remain fresh in people’s minds for about a month or so, “everybody moves on” after that and then what becomes of the departed soul’s family?
“Fauji Calling is director Aaryaan Saxena’s brainchild; he came up with this idea after the Uri attack. Everyone was talking about soldiers and their sacrifices, but nobody talked about their families. They have to live with this news that their family member, the ‘son of the soil’, is no more.”
Bidita says the intention behind this film is to start a conversation about soldiers’ families and the aftermath of losing a loved one to war. “We have seen enough war movies but nobody focuses on the family of the soldier. In fact they are the real heroes. When we talk about soldiers we talk about how they protect the country, how they sacrifice their lives for the country. What about the sacrifices made by their families – the mothers, the fathers, the wives? In fact the wife is the ‘commander’ of the house, the real soldier behind a soldier, right? She will have to take care of the family.”
There is a reference to post traumatic stress disorder in the trailer, and with mental health concerns making their way more and more into the spotlight now, does Bidita feel the film in some way makes a comment on stress? “Whenever a solider is away in combat the family members live constantly in the fear of losing him. The stress builds up and at one point in time becomes trauma – for the wife, for the children, and it’s not easy to deal with. And a soldier’s family deals with this almost every day. They are living with this trauma every day.”
When a film deals with such a powerful topic it’s sometimes difficult to separate art and real life; Bidita reveals she was anything but immune to the emotional aspects of the film and tried her best to maintain a neutral stance but didn’t always succeed. “While shooting I was overwhelmed throughout. I asked my director to guide me, because when you are so overwhelmed, you cannot act! You are constantly crying or getting into that zone – you are lost in those thoughts, in that sadness. So it becomes difficult to perform and also maintain the right craft. If I have to cry – I have to cry in different intensities depending on the scene, that’s an actor’s job, and it’s not easy.”
She gives a shout out to co-star Sharman Joshi, who has received quite a few compliments for the trailer with many referring to the 3 Idiots star as an “underrated” actor. “Sharman is very accommodating and supportive. Once I remember he shot for 20 long hours without complaining. We were shooting in extreme temperatures like 45 degrees, then 6-7 degrees… We had makeup vans but with the kind of locations (at and around Dassam Falls, Ranchi) we were shooting at, we used to keep the vans at the base.”
An independent actor’s perspective
Like many other actors of her ilk, Bidita – a former model – reveals she is “still struggling” in the film industry even after a decade. When asked about how she spent her time during the Covid lockdown in India she joked that she was used to being without work for long periods of time. “For independent actors like us the lockdown is continuing (laughs). From the very day we joined the entertainment industry we knew that there was going to be an endless lockdown! We give so many auditions every day, we face rejection on a daily basis, we have no work for 6-7 long months. So it happens and I knew how to keep myself busy.”
She credited the atmosphere of the pandemic with changing mindsets. “This lockdown has taught us a lot. Financially we might have been set back a good 15 years but our maturity levels have increased by as many years!”
On a parting note, how does she feel about the way her career has panned out? “It’s not bad. I think I have not got what I deserved and yet if I look back I have made a place for myself. Film directors and producers know me. Still I am struggling. I am trying to make a bigger name for myself. Still, #gratitude! That sums it all up.”