Calendar Girls: The people behind the faces

Calendar Girls: The people behind the faces

By OUR CORRESPONDENT | | 26 September, 2015
The cast of Calendar Girls.
Guardian 20 got a chance to speak with the debutant cast of Madhur Bhandarkar’s new movie, 
Calendar Girls. 
 
Q. What sort of training did you undergo for the role? How were your lives different before this?
Avani Modi: We attended a workshop for 15 days, after the script was narrated to us.  I had to watch videos of Pakistani models and listen to the way they speak, so I could grasp the way they carry themselves and talk, to understand their Urdu intonations. I had to learn how they tie their burqa and how they do their makeup. That was the preparation I did for my role. 
Kyra Dutt:  I did the Kingfisher Calendar 2013, and I did some theatre before this film. That’s when I realised that I wanted to be an actress. I’m lucky that my first film is about calendar models as I’ve been one before. Madhur Bhandarkar didn’t want us to have any preconceived notions; he wanted the four of us to bond well. 
Satarupa Pyne: I play a Bengali girl, and I didn’t have to do much for the film because I come from a similar background. However, I did practice a lot in order to be flexible in front of the camera. I was a fashion model before this, and I have walked for the Wills Fashion Week and the  Lakme Fashion Week, done campaigns, commercials and photo shoots. I was in a very rigid job before this. This had to happen, I think. 
Akanksha Puri: My journey was very different. I was in aviation, and was working as Vijay Mallya’s cabin crew. I have done south Indian movies, but this is my first Hindi movie. I had never walked the ramp before but my friends really helped me out.
Ruhi Singh: I play Mayuri Chauhan from Rohtak. I got crowned Femina Miss India last year. I was also part of an international pageant where I was Miss Universal Peace and Humanity 2013. Before this, I was part of this documentary called The World Before Her by Nisha Pahuja. 
Avani Modi: I’m a theatre actor from Gujarat, and have done two Tamil films, as well as an international short film called Gulabi.  
 
Q. How much of what has been shown onscreen do you relate to Kyra, as incidents from your past life as a Kingfisher calendar girl?
Kyra Dutt: I play a Goan girl Sharon Pinto in the film, but I am actually from Kolkata. But like Sharon, I belong to a small town and didn’t have much exposure when I moved to Mumbai, and that is how I connected with her. As Madhur Bhandarkar has said, the film is 75% fact and 25% fiction. So even though there is that element of storytelling, a lot of the story is like real life. 
 
Q. Kyra,did you have a lot of inputs to give, considering you have past experience?
Kyra Dutt: Everybody’s playing a different role in this film, and  the casting is accurate according to me. The modelling and the calendar shoot is just 10-15% of the film, and I feel all of us managed that brilliantly. Otherwise, individually, I didn’t have to help anyone with anything; they brought their own selves into the role. The first thing you may get to know about them is that they are calendar models, but you get into their character in depth as the film progresses. 
 
Q. Would you say that this is a women-centric film?
Avani Modi: I would agree with that completely. The five of us are not just the heroines of this film, we are its heroes as well. It’s a journey of the past, present and future of five women’s lives.
Kyra Dutt: I feel Madhur Bhandarkar has been a pioneer for women-based films for a long time, and suddenly now, we see actors such as Kangana Ranaut and Priyanka Chopra being talked about for doing strong roles. I particularly remember Madhur Sir saying, “You five are carrying this film on your shoulders.” In our first film, we were given the opportunity to take a film forward, and I feel that is a big deal. It is very easy to be cast opposite a hero, and do two songs, but we’ve been very lucky.
 
Q. How much insight did you feel you got into the life of a woman working in the glamour industry?
Akanksha Puri:  I got insight into the life of Nandita Menon, the character I play in the film. I understood a lot about the industry, and there were many things that were shocking even to me. 
Satarupa Pyne:  I have been called the IPL girl of the film. I’m still not sure whose real life story is being referred to, but I loved playing this character. I loved the cricket angle.
Kyra Dutt: When I auditioned, I was the last one to be cast, and I was very nervous about not getting a call back. I was very nervous when I landed up on the first day of the shoot. I was over-thinking it in my head, however. Madhur  Bhandarkar as a director lets you be, and he gives you the confidence to be yourself in front of  the camera. He didn’t want me to do any homework. Even though I did practice a lot of things, it turned out we needed none of that. 
 
Q. What was the most interesting bit about your characters?
Ruhi Singh: Well, Mayuri is definitely not your everyday girl; she is a strong character. She is entertaining, ambitious and a go-getter. She knows how to work smart and not just hard. Let’s see what happens to her eventually, but I would say she is very close to Ruhi Singh. I just hope I can work as hard as her. 
Akanksha Puri: I found Nandita very close to Akanksha and that is why I found this role easy to perform. Madhur Sir also felt that he could relate me to Nandita. She had a strong family background, but she came to Mumbai with dreams of doing something on her own. I would think the same goes for me, so I could relate to her. Plus, it was a south Indian character and I have done south Indian movies previously, so I could add something to the character from my experience. 
Kyra Dutt: I found Sharon a free-spirited girl, who is very grounded at the same time. She has come for a bikini shoot to Mumbai, and she is looking for adventure, but at the same time she wants to not let her ideals go. The conflict that arises and how she handles it  makes the film more engaging.
 
Q. After your experience exploring the lives of calendar models, their successes and pitfalls, do you feel attracted to that life now?
Satarupa Pyne: I have modelled for two-three years, and this is a very different field. I think it is definitely very exciting becoming a calendar girl, and it has its pros and cons like everything else. Being a runway model is hard work, you are running up and down, standing on runways clapping for the show stopper. Things will turn around for me with this movie, I feel; I would definitely like to be the showstopper and the one clapped for now. It is very monotonous if you do the same every day. I feel lucky that I have been given another chance. Mumbai has so many girls, so many women who come into the industry every day. 
 

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