BEGUM JAAN, the highly anticipated film of Vidya Balan is about to hit the silver screens. The film revolves around the story of eleven prostitutes and their fight to save their house, set against the backdrop of partition. In a series of interviews we introduce you to 6 other female characters of this film.
In this part we introduce you to Priyanka Setia (she plays Jameela) and Flora Saini (she plays Maina in the film). Read on to know what they have to say about their experience, their character and why BEGUM JAAN is so special for them...
How did you bag this project?
Priyanka Setia:I was called for an audition by Mukesh Chabra’s team. They took my audition and after two weeks I got a call that I have been selected.
Flora: My last film DHANAK bagged National Award. Nagesh (Kukunoor) sir, who directed DHANAK, and Srijit sir are friends. They met each other and I went through a casting agency and that’s how I bagged this role.
Was your family apprehensive regarding the subject of this film?
Priyanka Setia:Not at all, why should they be? I am an actress so naturally I will have to portray the reality of a character. I was very happy actually.
Flora: I have been in this industry for long and have done over 50 films, my parents are aware about my body of work.
What was your reaction when you came to know that you will be working with Vidya Balan?
Priyanka Setia: I was very happy because I like her a lot right from her first film PARINEETA. I have watched all her movies. So I was very happy to get this opportunity of working with her and also about the fact that I would get to learn so many things from her. When you are working with a person who is not only a big star but a great actor as well then it’s a learning experience.
Flora: When I got to know that Vidya will also be sharing screen space I was thrilled, but I did ask Srijit sir if we will be given equal screen space. To which Sri sir said, he is casting each and every one for a reason.
So tell us how is Vidya Balan as a co-star?
Priyanka Setia: Vidya Balan ke bare me kaise kahein aur kitna kahein samjh nahi aata. Honestly she is very sweet person. Vidya Balan “Dil Ki Ek Bachchi Hain” (she is a child at heart). She is so innocent and I have never seen a caring person like her before, she will care for everybody on the set. She is a beautiful soul.
Flora: Vidya is an amazing actor as well as a warm human being. It so happened that one day Sidharth Roy Kapur came to meet Vidya and we all know who Sidharth sir is and it was really kind of Vidya to make us meet Sidharth and introduce him to each one of us. She also sent us gifts too. On and off sets Vidya was always helpful.
Tell us about your character in the film?
Priyanka Setia: I am playing Jameela in the film. She is a very strong-headed woman. She is Begum Jaan’s loyalist and her right hand. Since she has been through a lot in life that’s why she appears to be very tough but from inside she is very vulnerable and soft.
Flora: I play one of the girls Maina who helps Begum Jaan.
How did you prepare for this intense character?
Priyanka Setia: Srijit sir made it very easy for us as he conducted workshop one month before the shoot began. His intention was to create a bond between all of the female actors so that they gel well throughout the film. Also the acting exercises we did in workshop it helped a lot and I personally did little bit of research. I met few prostitutes to know about them because I wanted to know the ground reality. I noticed they always keep laughing and they are very proud of leading their life on their own terms. Despite all this they have a soft vulnerable side of them which they deliberately hide from everyone behind their loud make up. I am still in touch with one of the prostitutes whom I met.
Flora: We had one month of workshop before we started shooting.
Is director Srijit a task master?
Priyanka Setia: Srijit sir is a very sorted person, as he knows what exactly he wants from his team. He is always ready for improvisation, open to suggestion; he is always ready for your questions. He was so involved with every character’s journey and everybody and he is brilliant in his work. So it was very easy working with Srijit sir.
Flora: He is immensely talented and knows each one of us well. It was a delight to work with him.
With so many women together, catfights must have been quite often?
Priyanka Setia: ‘Nahin yaar’ we all are so matured and professional people and our workshop had created a very strong bond and we had all became friends so there was never any cat fights among us. We all still keep meeting once in a while. Flora has become my best friend. We even joke that the purpose behind working in this film was to find a friend in each other.
Flora: No, nothing we were like one big family. I had a blast shooting for the film; I have made friends for life. We are girls, we had girl days and issues, we were injured, shooting in scorching heat we were tired and were also homesick, but each of us stood for each other. I made a friend in Priyanka. We are best of buddies. I have memories for life.
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Why people should watch BEGUM JAAN?
Priyanka Setia: BEGUM JAAN is an amazing story. It’s a story of fighting for what you love and believe in. It’s a story of every single one of us.
Flora: As the tagline of the film says when freedom meets independence, the movie is not just about prostitutes it’s about freedom and independence.
Now that the film is about to release what is one thing that you will miss the most about BEGUM JAAN team?
Priyanka Setia: Oh I would miss our Shanti Niketan stay. It was such a beautiful place we all used to go for stroll together, eat puchkas, buy books. The time we spent there would be my most cherished moments. So I would miss that the most.
Flora: I will miss the madness and the fun that we had while shooting.
Tell us about your next project?
Priyanka Setia: I have just finished shooting for HASEENA directed by Apoova Lakhia. I am also doing an International project called THE FIELD, which stars Neeraj Kabi, Abhay Deol, Brendan Fraser. And then on theater front I am working on ‘Some Raw Love’ which has an amalgamation of Woody Allen and Amrita Pritam’s stories. Apart from these, my other regular shows like ‘Vagina Monologues’ keep me busy.
Flora: I have couple of web series in hand.