PeepingMoon Exclusive: My father was Indira Gandhi's personal pilot, his inputs enhanced my act in BellBottom; those who want to find faults will, can't convince all- Lara Dutta


Team BellBottom is here with a bang. The first biggest Bollywood film to release in theatres after the deadly second wave of COVID-19, the spy thriller starring Akshay Kumar, Vaani Kapoor, Lara Dutta, Huma Qureshi and Adil Hussain will arrive on August 19 in cinema houses. The trailer of BellBottom released on August 3 and viewers just couldn't keep calm. While people spotted Akshay, Vaani and Huma, Lara seemed to be missing from the trailer. Well, she was right there. Going unrecognisable, Lara gave a big surprise to her fans by stepping into the shoes of former Prime Minister of India, late Mrs Indira Gandhi. BellBottom is about a hijack situation that happened during Mrs Gandhi's tenure. 

As Lara remains to be the talk of the town for her incredible transformation for BellBottom, got in touch with her to understand what went behind getting every nuance right. Talking to us, the actress, who has worked with Akshay in 13 films in her 18 years long career, revealed that her father Wing Commander L.K Dutta's inputs about Mrs Gandhi helped her enhance her performance. For the unversed, her father was the former PM's personal pilot.

Lara further spoke about BellBottom's theatrical release amid fear of COVID-19 third wave and Delta Variant. Apart from BellBottom, Lara opened up about experiencing the best time in the industry. She said for her to step out of the house, it is important for the project to be really exciting. 

Excerpts from the interview:

As you had said that it just took a call for you to sign the character of Mrs Indira Gandhi. Were you nervous to play a revered character?

For any actor, playing the role of Mrs Gandhi is a dream come true. Along with the opportunity comes a lot of responsibility. We have to make sure to do justice to such an iconic character. Yes, of course, there is nervousness but there is excitement too.  

Can you take us through your process of transforming into Mrs Gandhi?

The process consisted of 2 parts. Vikram Gaikwad, a master of prosthetics, created the entire look. We started off by creating a mould for my face. Apart from the prosthetics, a lot went behind in ageing me as I play a character who is almost 2 decades older than I am in real life. We worked on pigmentation, ageing and also the hair which was an integral part of Mrs Gandhi’s look. When you see the grey streak, you get to know it is her. Bringing all that together was one part of it.

The second part was getting her body language, understand the way she spoke and other finer nuances that brought the character to life. I watched multiple archived videos of Mrs Gandhi. My father, Wing Commander L.K Dutta, was her personal pilot. He interacted with her for many years. He was a wonderful source of inputs. I incorporated all of that while playing the role and I am happy with the way it has turned out. I’m excited to see what people think when they see the film.        

You said your father, Wing Commander L.K Dutta, was Mrs Gandhi's personal pilot. What are the insights he shared with you? 

When you watch somebody’s interview, you have to draw your own conclusions. When somebody has interacted with someone on a personal level, you understand smaller details. For example, how Mrs Gandhi interacted with people around, nuances like her style of getting in and out of an aircraft, the way she draped her sarees etc. Also, she was an independent lady who would never take assistance from anybody. Not just this, I got to know that nothing really ruffled her. Whenever her itinerary would change at the last minute, she would never be ruffled by any of that. She was very clear about how she conducted things. Such details helped me enhance my performance.      

In India, whenever an actor plays a political leader, they are bound to face criticism. Are you prepared for that?

I’m enacting a character who was a part of history and who was admired and revered. It is impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. I’m sure people who want to find faults will find them. Everyone is entitled to have their own opinion. I’m not playing to the gallery and not really saying that I want to convince everybody. No. There is nothing controversial and we are not making any kind of statement. We are just showing an event that happened in history during the tenure of Mrs Gandhi. We don’t talk about her. It is a commercial film that is inspired by a true event.   

Did you receive any feedback from anybody belonging to the Gandhi family or somebody who is close to them?

(Laughs) No. I’ve been inundated by messages from the film fraternity, fans, family and everyone. No, I am not expecting any message from the Gandhi family. I never imagined the kind of response I am getting.   

BellBottom is the first biggest film to release post the second lockdown. Are you hopeful that it will bring the audience back to theatres despite the fear of COVID-19 third wave and Delta Variant?

As an audience, I know that I am ready for theatres to reopen. Cinemas are such an integral part of our culture and they really suffered. Of course, not just the entertainment industry but every industry suffered in the last 16-17 months. I feel very proud to be a part of a film like BellBottom which is a huge one with a big star headlining it. We are taking the risk of arriving at the theatres even when they aren't fully opened across the country. But it is to revive the industry, give people the confidence to come back in and show support to the theatre owners who have taken tremendous precautions. PVR has taken the responsibility to make sure all the employees are vaccinated. The idea is not to add to any kind of spread or fear of COVID-19 among the audience.  It is to get people to understand to get back to life slowly and steadily by being responsible and by taking all precautions. We are encouraging people to come and watch the film but all the protocols need to be followed.           

Patriotic films are the flavour of the season. Do you think the trend will go out of vogue later?

Patriotic films are the trend of the season because we are nearing Independence Day (laughs). That’s why people are bringing out special patriotic films. I think patriotic flavour never goes out of fashion. Today, while we are watching the Tokyo Olympics 2020 at home, we feel so proud whenever the National Anthem is played or the flag goes up. For all of us, no matter how many times, we’ve seen the Indian flag go up, it will always be a goosebump moment. It will never go out of fashion. It is wonderful that there are little nuggets from history that are picked up, unsung heroes whom nobody really knows about and their lives are highlighted. That’s quite fantastic. 


You started your acting career with Akshay Kumar in Andaaz (2003) and 18 years later, you are still working with him. Can we call your pairing a magical one?

In my 18 years career, I have done 13 films with Akshay. I would say Akshay to me feels like home. It is like working with your family member. He is one of my greatest friends in the industry and one of my greatest supporters who has always encouraged me. When I am working with him, I don’t feel like I am going to work. It is like a picnic with my family. By the time we start, we’ll finish it and won’t even realise. 

You slowed down post 2011 after an illustrious career and took a break too. Why? 

In 2012, I gave birth to my daughter (Saira Bhupathi) and she is my priority. I had a pretty illustrious career in the industry by then and my focus shifted. I wanted to be around and be present for my daughter. I am lucky that I am in an industry that allowed me to take a break, enjoy every single phase of my life and then come back even stronger. Today, the kind of work I am getting is very liberating. I am having the best time of my career. I’m playing fantastic female characters that are well-written and are closer to my age. I’m lucky to be an actor in the industry at the moment.            

As you said you are getting some fantastic roles now. Are you being careful about selecting projects for yourself? 

See, I have a lot of things to do, I’m not just an actor. I’m a producer, entrepreneur and most importantly a mom. For me, in order to step out of my house and focus on one thing, it has to be worth it. It is not about consciously doing a web series or a film. I want to be visible with something relevant. It is pointless being visible with something irrelevant. So, in the stage that I am in, the project has to be really exciting otherwise I don’t think it is worth it.