I don't need a rich boyfriend. I am my own rich boyfriend!: Urvashi Rautela
Bollywood star on why her she differs from her Virgin Bhanupriya character, out now
In showbiz conversations gossip and conjecture rule the roost. Who's dating whom, which stars can't stand being in the same room and whose career is flat lining have always been fevered topics of discussion only intensified by the advent of social media. Actor and former beauty pageant winner Urvashi Rautela can often inspire one or two spirited Bollywood-orientated tete-a-tetes, meaning one-on-one conversations are always welcome. In them, we have the opportunity to garner the subject's own thoughts and feelings minus the filter of public opinion, which in a way parallels the pre-release buzz surrounding her latest feature, Virgin Bhanupriya, coming out on Zee5 Global on July 16.
The picture involves Rautela playing a conservative lady who wishes to lose the perceived stigma attached to remaining a virgin. The movie has been labeled an 'adult comedy', depending on which publication you chose, and lead role Priya's wardrobe has been accused of solely satisfying a male gaze. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, says Rautela who sees the material as a total family film and Priya a symbol of empowerment.
"It is the first time female desire will take centre stage," she told us over Zoom on Wednesday. "There have been movies about taboo subjects, like Ayushmann Khurana in Vicky Donor (2012) discussing artificial insemination or Akshay Kumar in Pad Man (2018) which was about periods, but they are men.
"Virginity is a taboo in a society like ours. To lose it can be a problem, but to have it can also feel like a social curse. Through this film we are trying to say that virginity is circumstantial. Everybody develops differently. It is a personal choice. It is your body. Don't let the noise of other opinions decide what you want to do with it."
It is that independent spirit Rautela says she and Priya have in common. Years ago, the actor decided to leave social media responsibilities (of which there are many given her millions of followers) to a team of specialists in order to focus on her craft, though maintains she has final say over any posts. Doing away with the platforms equalled walking away from comments both good and bad, a move she tells us was worthwhile.
"In our field and especially Bollywood it's important to be thick skinned, but I never paid attention to any negative comments.
"I only take advice from the best of the best. I don't have time for anonymous comments. There is no place for negativity in my life."
Although on the wane because of shifting social norms, an actor's personal life is constantly under the microscope. Again, Rautela takes a firm line with tabloid suppositions - she ignores them - and even has to reaffirm to her nearest and dearest that her single-status will alter only when she says so.
"When I sit with my friends they tell me 'Urvashi you're very well settled, you need to date a rich boyfriend.' I always tell them I don't need to date a rich boyfriend. I am my own rich boyfriend! I don't need a man for any financial things."
Having made appearances in a host of films including Bhaag Johnny (2015) and Porobashinee (2017), it was 2018's Hate Story IV which saw the 26-year-old first claim top-billing. Two years later, Virgin Bhanupriya was all set to be somewhat of a milestone in Rautela's career - the first larger-budget theatrical mainstream release. A worldwide pandemic put paid to cinemas hosting the film, yet Rautela sees the positive in OTT services such as Zee5 taking on distribution as a result of their reach. Virgin Bhanupriya will now open in 200 countries simultaneously instead of one.
"It's a boom for streaming services and I'm proud to be part of it. I think all films will be on here first for a long time in India for sure."
And, as well as traditional red carpet openings, has Covid affected Rautela's future projects?
"I'm reading multiple scripts and having a lot of online meetings with directors and writers," she said. "I finished shooting a Hindi remake of a Tamil film, Thiruttu Payale 2, before lockdown. I play the lead role and I'm really looking forward to it. I have a song shoot left and the dubbing left and then it'll be out."
Why do you think this film has caused such a stir?
British colonisation contributed a lot to the concept of virginity in India and its importance today. It was a major role in the more conservative views we have. But India is a land of contrast. It is the land of Kama Sutra, but at the same time a woman's 'purity' at the time of marriage is also given a lot of importance. Even matrimonial ads explicitly state that. I think the young Indian mindset is altering to see it is a personal choice.