I Initially Had An Issue With The Slapping Scene In Star: Aaditi Pohankar

The actress tells us why she's taking Tamil tuitions and why she hopes to fit into the worlds of a Vetri Maaran and Mani Ratnam film someday
Aaditi Pohankar
Aaditi Pohankar

Aaditi Pohankar recalls Elan showing her a scene from Kaaka Muttai (2014) during her preparation for Star - where the young boys discuss how their grandmother’s food is actually better than the pizza of their dreams. “The boys’ attitude and innocence is something we wanted Jimikki to have,” the actress tells us.

In Star, we get to know that Surabhi aka Jimikki has been in love Kalai (Kavin) years before proposing to him. Although her character is introduced only halfway through the film, Jimikki comes across an innocent yet strong woman who goes all out to support Kalai, a scarred, struggling actor. It was important to get the nuances right as Jimikki is both vulnerable and strong, points out Aaditi. The actress, who hails from Maharashtra, roamed the streets of Chennai and other cities in Tamil Nadu to observe and understand the culture.

“The thing with acting is that when you can imbibe the accent, body language, etc, it makes things interesting. For an actor, the process is more important because once you go on set and you’re shooting, it’s always like an eight-hour or twelve-hour shift. And strangely, most people want to wrap things quickly and move out. Everything happens at a fast pace. So, I always take a month or two before the production starts and work on myself, and have fun with the process on my own.” With Star, the process was more collaborative as Elan is also her friend. “I used to send some reels to him, share a few videos and images I liked and discuss what worked for Surabhi. We came together to make this vulnerable yet strong woman."

While a lot of people loved the character, a few also opined that the angelic Surabhi was too good to be true. Aaditi too had mixed thoughts about her character when Elan first narrated the script. “Elan told me that this woman would be loved by everyone. But as he narrated the story, I asked him whether it wasn’t a little too much that she’s always giving and taking care of Kalai. I asked him what was up with her and why she was such a superhero." The actress also reveals that she initially had a huge issue with Elan over the scene where Kalai slaps Jimikki. "I didn't support the slap scene because I'm quite the feminist. But Elan said that the scene was required because it takes the story forward, which was true. I also realised that Kalai meant the world to her. If you’ve watched the film, you'd know the impact he had on her. Rather than focusing on what Kalai was going through, I saw how much she was able to take control."

Surabhi’s unconditional strength also reminded the actress of her own mother. “My mother was a strong woman and so were my aunts. They were highly educated and there was no question of men and women being treated differently at home. I’ve always looked up to her and she used to say that unless I make my own money, I shouldn’t get married and I took her words very seriously.”

Although Aaditi lost her mother at a very young age, her support has been her guiding light. Her mother’s wish to see her on a hoarding board one day is what drove Aaditi to this profession. “Acting became the only reason I went from being an athlete to pursue a career in theatre and cinema. When my mom passed away, I wanted to become anybody but myself. I'd feel guilty thinking that I didn’t help her, even while knowing that it wasn’t my fault. So, theatre helped me get out of that guilt. Acting helped me live and learn how to live.” Aaditi wants to tell her story to the world in the hope that it'd help people in similar situations.

Star is sort of a return to the south for the actress as she has worked in a Selvaraghavan film that's yet to see the light of day (Mannavan Vanthanadi) and Tamil film Gemini Ganeshanum Suruli Raajanum (2017).
Chennai is now like a second home, Aaditi says. “I feel there is a rooted culture in Tamil Nadu, and I love that about the place. Mainly, the place is stress-free. I am not sure why but everything in Chennai feels easy, breezy and cool. In Bombay, there is super competition and people are always worried about what they are going to do the next day. I feel that’s a little less in Chennai. And the beauty about Tamil cinema is how professional it is. I would love to do more films here which is also why I’m doing Tamil tuitions now.”

Be it working with Imtiaz Ali on Netflix series She (2020) or doing a romantic film like Star, all her work is a result of manifestation, the actress believes. But no dream is achievable without putting in the effort, she adds. “I love Vetri Maaran sir’s style. And I feel I can do justice to the parts if I ever get to work with Vetri Maaran and Mani Ratnam sir. That’s the main reason I’m learning the language. I feel that’s the only barrier which is there between my acting and the small nuances I want to bring about. Once I crack that, I’ll be flowing like a river.”

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