From playing the heroine's best friend in "Tanu Weds Manu" to a middle-aged mother of a 15-year-old in "Nil Battey Sannata", a prostitute in "Anaarkali of Aarah" to one of the leading ladies in a multi-starrer all-women buddy film "Veere Di Wedding" -- actress Swara Bhaskar has explored characters that an image-conscious budding actress would fear to do.
She says breaking stereotypes is the best way to set her own rules for her acting career.
"I never feared to take a risk. When I came to the film industry, since I had no idea of how to go about it, people gave me a lot of advice on what not to do... I was told not to play any character of a sister or best friend of the protagonist as then people would only offer me second lead.
"I was told not to play vamp and mother at a young age... Now you know what are the characters I have played in films. I thought if those are the rules to get the lead role, why not break them? Why not get rid of stereotypes to set my own rules?" Swara told IANS in an interview here.
"I think the best way to deal with stereotypes is by taking a risk, by trying new things without fearing the failure," added the 30-year-old actress.
What is her way to identify the potential of a script? Swara credits her collaborators.
"I think I am lucky that I worked with some of the great filmmakers. When it comes to eTanu Weds Manu' or eRaanjhanaa' and I would like to give the credit to Himanshu Sharma who wrote the script of the film. He is such a brilliant writer that any competent actor can just perform following the script and they will still look as brilliant as it was.
"In eNil Battey...", Ashwini Iyer Tiwari had huge faith in the story and I just followed her vision. I think that is how things work most of the time in cinema. If everyone one who has a strong vision and faith in the project, it falls in right place," she said with a smile.
Her latest film "Veere Di Wedding" is not the first attempt for Bollywood to tell stories of multiple women, as "Angry Indian Goddesses" also captured the journey of six girls and received critical acclaim, but failed to get as many eyeballs as "Veeree".
So, does that only happen when a film has a larger budget and is in the mainstream commercial space featuring female superstars of Bollywood?
"Bollywood is a star-driven industry. Therefore it is only natural that a Priyanka Chopra telling the story of Mary Kom is reaching out to thousands of people and making Rs 100 crore film. So yes, whenever popular actors and celebrities are narrating a story, it gets a bigger mileage. Having said that, the burden should not be on stars.
"At the end of the day, an actor is an actor -- star or non-star -- if the role is challenging, if the character is well-written, we all get excited to do it. Therefore, I think that there should be more interesting, unexplored and unheard stories that will bring freshness in storytelling, challenge us to push the envelope to perform and offer a new dose of entertainment to the audience."
As the practice of treating film stars like a edemi God' is going on for the longest time, Swara says it will take time to change.
"We are actually in the process to change it now... Because now, like in the earlier days of 1950s, stories of common people are getting celebrated. See, there was a patch where the character of the films was more of youngsters going abroad to become a millionaire and stories on NRIs were the common theme. The idea of entertainment was mainly escapism which is changing to finding inspiration from common people," said Swara.
(Arundhuti Banerjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)