New Delhi: Vicky Donor could be biased, but he claims Delhi has only two truly modern things - the Metro Rail and his 'biji', who in this case is his paternal grandmother. Utterly unabashed and undoubtedly progressive for her age, 'biji' in Shoojit Sircar's Vicky Donor, played by theatre actress Kamlesh Gill, has endeared herself to an audience sold on her superb comic timing.
What works for the much-discussed Vicky Donor besides Juhi Chaturvedi's water-tight script is the casting, the brilliant characterizations and the detailing of even the slightest nuances in the parts the actors play. I caught up with Gill on Sunday to get her reaction to her new-found fame. Gill says nonchalantly she did not expect this kind of success.
Over phone, she sounds every bit the feisty 'biji' of Vicky Donor, mixing her Hindi with a generous smattering of Punjabi. Biji is the Punjabi endearment for a motherly figure. Mind you, this is the woman who chuckles when Ayushmann Khurana, playing the titular role, says it isn't necessary to get married to have children.
"When I went for the dubbing, everyone was saying this is going to be a good film, I felt that too seeing the final product. But I did not expect this kind of reaction. People in packed halls giving a standing ovation after the film got over, coming and congratulating me, general word of mouth... now that is something, no?"
Gill, who has had small roles in films such as Love Aaj Kal, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Socha Na Tha, says Sircar got bowled over by her acting when he called her to Mumbai for shooting an ad film. The offer for the character in Vicky Donor followed and she was told to improvise as she saw fit for the role of progressive and widowed grandmother of Vicky who speaks her mind and gently bullies her daughter-in-law.
When Vicky gets her an iPhone, biji says she was expecting one with a 32 GB memory. She still rues the fact that her daughter-in-law, with whom she has a drink of whiskey every night by the way, did not bring any substantial dowry. When his mother berates him for tarnishing the family's good name by donating sperm, biji says as far as she understood the matter, many childless couples have found happiness because of her grandson.
When I ask her if she auditioned for the role, Gill says: "Beta, I am 75 years old. I don't need to go for a screen test," and laughs.
Interestingly, in real life too she stays with her daughter and a grandson who is a doctor. "I have grey hair, I do not wear modern clothes but in my mind and heart I am as modern as biji," she says. Her grandson is the only person in the family who has not seen the film yet and when he went he planned an outing with his friends he was met with 'Houseful' sign boards. "He now wants to introduce his old naani (maternal grandmother) to his friends," Gill says with a laugh.
Both Gill and Dolly Ahluwalia, who plays the role of Khurana's mother in the film, are veteran threatre actresses. Ahluwalia has trained at the National School of Drama while Gill has played roles in Punjabi television serials and has acted in theatre since 1957.
"I had lost my husband at a very young age and had to bring up two daughters. I accepted small roles. The roles I did in Bollywood were small and not much, but I tried to give every small part the best I had," says Gill. Bollywood directors haven't yet come calling at her house but she is hopeful that the good will that Vicky Donor has brought her will lead to something better and substantial.