India Lockdown: Film artists meet migrant labourers and women in aviation
Prior to the release of Madhur Bhandarkar's upcoming film, India Lockdown, we catch up with Prateik Babbar and Aahana Kumra to find out about stories when the Covid-19 pandemic hit us
Prateik Babbar made his Bollywood debut in the Aamir Khan-produced film, Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, alongside Imran Khan and Genelia D’Souza. He went on to appear in films like Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghaat, the action thriller Dum Maro Dum with Abhishek Bachchan and Rana Daggubati, and the social drama Aarakshan, directed by Prakash Jha, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, and Deepika Padukone. In Madhur Bhandarkar’s upcoming film India Lockdown, Prateik plays a migrant labourer, Madhav, from Bihar.
A hardworking man, Madhav strives for a meagre daily wage to support his wife and children. In the face of transit gridlock, his story captures the anxiety, effort, and homeward journey of the community of migrant labourers, from Mumbai to Bihar. The film narrates the struggles of this community through several storylines centred on different people.
Prateik believes that it is important for the general public to understand what happened to such downtrodden people and how they fought for survival in the midst of the pandemic when they were without food, shelter, or water. He hopes that the struggling community of labourers walking in solidarity
will be represented fairly and with the utmost respect. “The audience should expect a story of hardship,
battle, and pain,” he says.
The actor tells us that he has put in his best to look the part, let go of what he knew as a privileged individual, and completely submitted to the script. Interestingly, Prateik confesses he has a soft spot for his character of Madhav because it reminds him of his mother, Smita Patil, who often played almost similar roles in a number of movies like Chakra and Chidambaram. “It makes me feel like I’ve chosen a similar path as her as well. I would love to dedicate this film to my mother who portrayed such characters with love and respect. This is a special film for me,” he shares.
To get into the skin of the character, Prateik met some migrant labourers at their homes in Ghatkopar and engaged in conversation to learn about their ways of life. “It was necessary as they made me understand their fear and desperation. I also watched a few of my mother’s films such as Aakrosh and Chakra and other films like Do Bigha Zamin for reference. I was very invested in the character and the story,” the actor tells us.
Later, we also spoke to Aahana Kumra, who plays pilot Moon Alves. She is a modern woman, fiercely independent and living life on her own terms until the lockdown hits and loneliness creeps in. “What we felt during the pandemic is so different from anything that any of us have ever felt before. My character portrays exactly that. I hope people can relate to her,” she reveals to us. Aahana has earlier played the title character, Leela, in the 2017 black comedy, Lipstick Under My Burkha. She also played Priyanka Gandhi in the political biopic, The Accidental Prime Minister. Aahana is glad to be a part of India Lockdown.
She tells us, “The film teaches us that human beings as a race are not supposed to live alone. Imagine being hit by a pandemic and not being able to take a last glance at the person who is dying! I wanted to be a part of this incredibly thoughtful storytelling. I know a lot of friends in aviation who were losing jobs at that time and the insecurity they had to deal with. I spoke to other female pilots and was in isolation myself when I was diagnosed Covid positive. So, I know how it feels to live in isolation. I hope I could transcend the same on the screen.”
India Lockdown releases on ZEE5 on December 2.