SPOTLIGHT: Bhagyashree gets candid about leaving Bollywood, battling a major health disorder & her comeback
From talking about her insecurities despite achieving super stardom right after her debut Hindi film to saying goodbye to all the pomp and the glamour to lead a family life, actress Bhagyashree did something almost unthinkable in the '90s. I remember every time I met Salman Khan, he would talk about how Bhagyashree turned out to be a bigger star post Maine Pyaar Kiya and had she been there, she would have given all the other heroines a run for their money. Maybe, it would have been that way, but Bhagyashree had different plans. She wanted to start a family and give her full attention to her two kids. But now, at 51, she's fighting fit and often passes off as son Abhimanyu's 'sister'. We decided to speak to her and she got candid about her own self-doubts to the societal pressure and revealed how she had to battle an unforeseen health crisis around five years ago. Excerpts:
After Maine Pyaar Kiya, Salman Khan admits that he didn't have offers for almost a year. But you had become an overnight sensation...
Yes, that's true. I hadn't expected so humongous and it hit me really late. When the postman used to come with sacks of letters during Diwali or birthdays when the entire building's staircase would be lined by flowers. People have written letters in blood, which was shocking. For a 19 year old, it was all too overwhelming. There are people who cannot handle success and there are people who run away from it. (Laughs) I kept feeling: I don't know how to do this. I was very unprepared for something like this. At that time, I also wasn't a confident woman. I was still grappling with my own insecurities: I kept asking myself if this was all for real. It was more questioning myself at that point. There was a lot of self doubt. That time, the only thing I wanted was a fairy tale life - a family with a house and have my kids.
How many films did you reject then?
I actually refused most of the big films of that time. Everytime I would meet Prakash uncle or Yashji (Chopra), they would fire me in front of everyone standing in front of us. Even very recently, a few years ago, when I even walked up to Yash uncle and introduced Abhimanyu to him, he told my son, "Yeh tumhari maa hai na, woh industry ki sab se stupid girl thi'. He really wanted to work me and I would always say no. After Maine Pyaar Kiya, every big film was offered to me, especially the ones these directors have done.
Do you regret your decision of leaving Bollywood and rejecting such offers ever?
Looking back right now, when I see women handling both their family and their career, I actually feel wow. I don't know whether the society would have permitted me to do the same at that point of time. I am not too sure if the acceptability we have today would have been the same then. I was married and then a mother to Abhimanyu. But I won't lie: there were few directors who kept offering me big films. I just didn't know if the society would have really accepted me at that point.
Are you referring to the social judgment that was prevalent about married actresses back in the day?
Yes, absolutely. For me, the consideration was to keep my marriage and Abhimanyu on hold or give them a little less time than what I was giving them. I just thought: what would it be for? It would still be short-lived and I wanted something ever lasting, so I picked my family life over everything. The reason why I don't regret it still is also because the love that I've received from people, has been everlasting. When I look back at 30 years of MPK and people still love me, so it's been there forever. The love and the respect I get today doesn't allow me to have any regrets.
Was there ever a pressure from the family to not work anymore?
Areh, uss time toh hoga hi na! After Maine Pyaar Kiya, puri duniya ki chahat thi meri liye. I might have had the self doubt but people found me to be a pretty looking girl. I had the success and my husband was in his early 20s. Both of us decided to get married so early. So having someone who's adored by the entire world and is yours, you don't want to share them with anyone, no? So yes, of course.
Although your husband didn't force you out of it, since this ran at the back of your mind, did you never have a conversation with him about it?
I always had this pressure of not being able to manage home and career together. I don't think I could have balanced both. More than my family, who are supportive, I felt I wouldn't be able to do it well.
How many big films have you rejected in the last 10 years then?
Not too many. Because after I did the TV show Laut Aao Trisha, I had a major health issue and I couldn't move my hand at all. So my right hand was immobile. I had to get out of it. There were multiple issues with my hand, shoulder - I had a rotator cuff problem. impingement of my shoulders, my back muscles were shredded, my scapula had disengaged itself. So there were major issues and I couldn't move my hand at all. It was a journey then for me to study nutrition, fitness and self heal myself. I was really afraid of surgery so, that entire process went in self-healing myself. I thought to myself: kuch acha hone ke liye kuch kharab ho jaata hai. I went on a complete different journey in my life in the last five years, where I actually had nothing to do in films. So it's now that I'm healthier, stronger and better and it made me mentally and emotionally more powerful. I can take up more challenges today and follow them through.
But now, you are making a fabulous comeback with two big films - Prabhas 20 and Thalaivi starring Kangana Ranaut. Both are pan-India projects. Are you happy?
Yes, they are both going to be big films catering to the entire nation. So, both Prabhas 20 and Thalaivi came around the same time. Previously, I had signed a film - the Telugu version of 2 States - which I was shooting, but the producers had some issue and the film was stalled. I was playing Revathy's part from the original in the Telugu remake. During that same time, these two films happened. I play two spectacular characters in both the films. For Prabhas 20, I have learnt a new skill set which I'm sure will surprise a lot of people. Also, in Thalaivi, I play a very special role, but I can't reveal it yet. I have shot a little bit of it and it was wonderful. Kangana kept asking me the same thing just like you on the very first day - but why would you leave after getting so much stardom and love? Don't you regret it?
But there won't be any more breaks, I'm hoping...
No, not anymore. The reason for me saying goodbye to films was my kids and I wanted to be a part of every milestone and moment in their lives while growing up. They have both grown up now and in fact, they are the ones pushing me to do it. Both the kids were after me for years now and they almost literally were about to say: Jaa Simraan, jee le apni zindagi (laughs). Thanks to their emotional backing, I took these up and decided to get back to films again. So, let's hope this works out well.