She is not just a fine actress but also a fearless human being who always takes a stand for everything she believes in. While Aahana Kumra’s performance in ‘Yudh’, the TV show which featured Amitabh Bachchan in the titular role, announced her arrival in the industry, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ brought her into the limelight. Since then, there has been no looking back for this talented actress who has registered her presence with her indelible performance in several web shows and films. In this exclusive interview, Aahana talks about being a part of the third season of ‘A.I.SHA My Virtual Girlfriend’, sharing the screen with Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Yudh’, being one of the most prominent faces in the digital space, why it is difficult for female actresses to work in the film industry, love for theatre and her journey from being a film student to working in the industry.
Every month, we see a new web show that has you as its leading lady. You are clearly one of the most prominent faces in the digital space.
I did not even realise this until you said this now. I also had a film released early this year. I do not want to confine myself to a particular medium. Last year, I was just working round the clock and now, all the projects I had worked on, including shows and films, are now coming out. None of the characters that I have played in these projects have been similar to each other. A lot of actors end up doing the same kind of roles but I am really glad I have not been stereotyped so far.
You play a cop in the ‘A.I.SHA My Virtual Girlfriend’. Incidentally, your mother has been a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh. Did you take any tips from her?
No, not really. I have grown up in Lucknow and seen my mother work, so I have a fair idea of how things work within the police department. But, this is a completely different setting. They wanted me to play this abusive, angry cop. I had to channelize my inner anger to play the character effectively. I had not played a role like this in the past. It was a different space for me and very liberating at the same time.
You have not been a part of the first two seasons of the show. Did it take you a while to understand the world which the show was set in?
It did take me some time to understand my character. I saw the first two seasons after I signed the show. We do not get to watch this kind of content in India. Sci-fi is not a popular genre here yet. I finally got to watching the show and loved it. My character has a very linear graph and there is no backstory as such. I am helping Raghu in his mission to destroy Maya. I did not have any other interaction with the other cast members. All my scenes are with Raghu. I did not have to take any reference from the first two seasons, so it was quite easy for me to get into the narrative.
You have always been very outspoken and never shied away from taking a stand on several issues. In an interview given to a leading daily, you had shared your views on the #MeToo movement and had talked about dealing with suicidal thoughts a few years back. Do you think it is very difficult for actors to make a place for themselves in this industry?
Yes, it is difficult for female actors to make a space for themselves in the industry. There are very few female actors who came from outside and got good opportunities. Mostly, girls from within the industry get to make their debut in big films. I feel blessed we have web today. On that platform, nobody cares whose son or daughter you are. It gives you a fair chance to showcase your talent. If I have subscribed to a particular streaming website, I will watch the shows on it because of the content or the actors. My reference has always been from western films and shows. Now, there are so many wonderful actors whom we are getting to see because of the digital revolution.
You are also doing films simultaneously. ‘Yours Truly’ has been garnering a lot of appreciation at film festivals. When is it releasing in India?
I am not sure as to when it will release in India. I think the team is still trying to figure out the right release date. It is a good film and has been getting good reviews at film festivals. It is a film that talks about loneliness. It is a very brave film and I hope it sees a good release for itself.
I discovered you through your TV show ‘Yudh’, in which you played Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter. I truly believe it was one of the best TV shows made in the recent past.
Thank you for saying that. Unfortunately, not too many people watched the show. I just feel it was a little ahead of its time. Had it come out today on a big streaming platform, I am sure it would have done exceedingly well. I could not have imagined working with a legend with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan in my life and to get the opportunity to share the screen with him at a very early stage in my career was surreal. Today, I share a great relationship with him. He is very respectful of an artiste whose work he likes. He writes handwritten notes to actors. Once during his Diwali party, he told Shah Rukh (Khan) that his company must hire me as an actor. To see somebody like him recommend my name to another superstar was a huge thing for me. It was a great experience working with Mr. Bachchan, Avinash (Tiwary), Ribhu (Dasgupta) and the entire team. I am still in touch with most of the people who worked on the show.
You had done another TV show called ‘Agent Raghav’. Do you plan to go back to TV sometime?
No, right now I am happy doing web shows and films. I do not really like the content churned out on television. I did ‘Yudh’ and ‘Agent Raghav’ as they were finite shows. I think TV consumes you not just as an artist but also as a human being. Sometime you reach the set and you get the script a few hours before you are about to shoot. When I watch the quality of the content made on TV, I am shocked.
You started out doing theatre and are still very active on that front. One of your plays ‘Sir Sir Sarla’ has been doing very well for a long time now.
Yes, I love being on the stage. I always feel the urge to be on the stage. Even doing rehearsals is a very sacred thing for me. I think theatre is an actor’s medium. In the other mediums, they do not get as much prominence but this is a medium which is truly theirs.
How do you see your journey from being an acting student at Whistling Woods International to where you are right now?
It has been an interesting journey. Getting work in films and television has to do with luck. Bhumi (Pednekar) was my junior in the film institute. She started working as an assistant with Shanoo (Sharma) and eventually got a break an actress with ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’. She was at the right place at the right time. She achieved everything without having a godfather in the industry. Shashank Khaitan was my batch mate and he is a big director now. I always feel luck favours those who work the hardest. Most of the times, people give up because it is a difficult place to be in. If you are persistent and work hard, you will get the right opportunities eventually. You might get it today or you might get it a little late but things will fall into place.