Yogita Bihani, a Delhi girl, made her television debut in Ekta Kapoor’s romantic soap opera "Dil Hi Toh Hai" in 2018. Soon after that, she worked with AK vs. AK, followed by "Vikram Vedha" etc. Although she made her presence felt in many such projects in the past, in a true sense, she shot to fame with the release of the country’s most discussed film, "The Kerala Story," in which she played the role of Nimah. In an exclusive interview with Yogesh Mishra, she spoke about how "The Kerala Story" changed her life, future projects, and more.
How did you get connected to the team behind "The Kerala Story"?
I actually received a call from Mukesh Chhabra Sir who was doing the casting for the film, and he had shown one of my previous auditions to Sudipto Sir, who really liked my audition. However at that time, he was unsure which character I would play. So, I auditioned for three more characters. Personally, I felt that Nimah, the character I ended up playing, was the most important in the film. I believed she had the power and strength to motivate many girls. Nimah's character portrays the experience of facing challenges in life, fighting for oneself, and standing up for others. There is a lot of depth in that character.
Did you get the chance to choose the character you wish to play?
I didn't have a choice in selecting the character. It was Sudipto Sir's decision, as the director knows best about each character. However, I was drawn to Nimah's character because I wanted to portray a strong individual who stands up for those who don't have a voice. I believe Nimah reflects that aspect of my life.
Many people are making the mistake of saying "The Kerala Story" Instead, they are saying "The Kerala Files". What, according to you, could be the reasons for making such mistakes?
(Laughs) Yes, the reason is quite apparent. In the past, "The Kashmir Files" had a significant impact, and people are assuming that "The Kerala Story" and "The Kashmir Files" address similar topics. Hence, you can observe this influence. These two films, however, tell different stories about two different states.
Did you have any discussions with the director, producers, etc. about the mistakes people are making in stating the name of the film?
(Laughs) We had so many other things to discuss. I believe our focus was on the positives. There are videos of girls putting up posters and offering a free cup of tea to anyone who has seen "The Kerala Story." Some salons even have a sign saying that if you spend 1100 rupees at their salon, you'll receive a free ticket to "The Kerala Story." Many people, including the general audience, connected with the film's emotions. For instance, a friend's mother and sister watched the film and appreciated it. So, we didn't really dwell on the name confusion. I think those genuine audience reactions are what mattered. If you approach the film with preconceived judgments, you'll always find faults, but if you watch it with an open mind and understand what the three girls in the film are going through, you'll realize it's a social message for everyone. It's time to broaden our perspective and focus on the positives.
It is seen that many of the mothers came with their daughters to see the film at the cinema hall. It seems like a revolution, doesn’t it?
Yes, it's definitely a revolution. People are organizing screenings of this film, and even two of my aunts have arranged a screening. They want everyone to watch it. I believe it's crucial for everyone to watch, not just for this reason. I strongly feel that the molestation scene we portrayed in the film is not an isolated incident. We see numerous videos on the internet of girls being molested while going to college or elsewhere, and nobody takes any action. That scene made me realize the fear and helplessness experienced by victims. So, I think every man, brother, father, friend, and every individual should watch this film.
Did you meet any real-life victims who have gone through this?
When we started working on the film, I really wanted to meet the real-life victims. However, considering the sensitive nature of the subject and the fact that these victims have already endured so much in their lives, they have chosen to remain anonymous. They have sought help and have made efforts to rebuild their lives while needing to conceal their identities. These survivors go through a great deal to protect themselves and live in a constant state of fear. Even during the press conference for the film, there was a significant level of security and precautions taken to ensure their safety. It is not an easy situation for them. Out of the 26 girls who attended the press conference, only 9 or 10 felt comfortable revealing their faces due to the ongoing threat they face.
The Kerala Story has broken many records so far at the box office. Where do you think this film is finally going to land in terms of box office collection?
When we started working on this project, nobody could have predicted the magnitude of its success at the box office. I am genuinely thrilled that so many people have watched and supported this film. The primary intention behind creating this film was to raise awareness and protect as many individuals as possible. This issue affects people of all genders and religions. Whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or Sikh, anyone can be a victim. Terrorism has no religious boundaries. Our focus is not on box office numbers; our main goal is to ensure that the film reaches and impacts as many viewers as possible.
Even after many days of release, buzz is still on about this film (The Kerala Story), so where is this going to stop?
I believe the ongoing discussions and buzz surrounding the film stem from the fact that there are still important conversations to be had. The film's impact is still resonating with people. In fact, just an hour ago, I received a call from someone I had worked with in Dil Hi Toh Hai around three or four years ago. He expressed his admiration, saying, "Ma'am, what a fantastic performance you delivered! The shows are houseful, and to ensure my family could watch the film, I purchased a 100-rupee ticket for 200 rupees. My wife couldn't believe that I had worked with you before." This exemplifies the current scenario. There is a tremendous eagerness among the audience to watch this film due to the various discussions surrounding it. Once they see it, the content provokes conversations, and that's a positive outcome.
What next after "The Kerala Story?
After wrapping up "The Kerala Story," I have two new projects in the pipeline. There are exciting opportunities on the horizon, and I am eagerly awaiting the perfect script that will allow me to deliver a strong and impactful performance. I'm hopeful that I can take on roles that challenge me and showcase my versatility. Additionally, due to "The Kerala Story" receiving an "A" certificate, many of my family members and relatives, such as my nieces and nephews, were unable to watch the film. As a result, I have made a promise to them that I will soon be working in genres like rom-com, comedy, and others that will allow them to enjoy my performances as well.
Would you like to give any messages to the readers of "Bollywood Town"?
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the readers of "Bollywood Town" for their overwhelming messages and appreciation. It is truly humbling to receive such kind words. While I believed that I had done a good job, I had no idea that it would touch the hearts of so many. I am sincerely grateful for your support and encouragement. If you haven't had the chance to watch "The Kerala Story" yet, I urge you to do so. It is a film that carries an important message, and I believe it will resonate with you and your loved ones. Feel free to bring your family and friends along to experience it together. Once again, thank you to everyone for your incredible support.
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