MUMBAI: Actor Mahie Gill says she has struggled to break the stereotype of playing similar versions of a "sensuous" woman, with many in the industry refusing to see her in any other light. Gill got a breakthrough with Anurag Kashyap's "Dev D" in 2009 as Paro in the modern take on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Bengali novella Devdas.
The 44-year-old actor found further acclaim in filmmaker Tigmanshu Dhulia's "Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster" series. While Gill gained popularity for her role as Madhavi Devi, a scheming wife aiming of power, the actor said people couldn't see beyond her "sarees and wine" in the film.
"There was a phase when I was just being offered sensuous roles. It was terrible. Everybody just wanted me to play Biwi, wearing a saree all the time, holding a glass of wine like in the film. Not that I don't like doing that, it is nice, you want to look sensuous but then it becomes boring. If I feel bored doing it as an actor, even the audience would feel bored looking at similar roles," Gill told PTI over Zoom call.
The actor said there weren't many who were ready to offer her something fresh. "It's extremely difficult to break stereotypes. I can say because it has happened with me. People just typecast you and want you to play similar roles. They don't see you any other way. They tell me, 'We want to see you exactly like that'. I tell them but I've already done that, why can't we do something new!' What followed for Gill was a phase of refusing work which didn't excite her," she said.
The actor said she declined "several projects" as she did not want to keep repeating herself. "I can't pick up something, go on set, and wonder 'what am I doing here?' I would waste my time and the producer's money. It doesn't make sense. I realised it's better to do less but interesting work, which excites you," it said.
However, Gill is also grateful for her decade-long journey in the movies because for a girl in Chandigarh that grew up watching Yash Raj Films, looking at beautiful actresses running in sarees and assuming this is what cinema would be about, the actor made her mark doing exactly the opposite.
"When 'Dev D' happened, I did the film without thinking this is going to be the future of cinema. I started getting offers for strong roles. People now want to do all of this. I feel blessed that I have done this already and got to work with some of the most amazing directors, writers and actors," she said.
Gill will be next seen in director Ashok's "Durgamati", slated to premiere on December 11 on Amazon Prime Video. The horror film, backed by superstar Akshay Kumar, revolves around a government officer who is made the victim of a major conspiracy involving powerful forces.
With "Durgamati", the actor grabbed the chance to play a "strong, powerful role" of a CBI officer. "When I went to meet the director, I wore a shirt and a pair of jeans. The moment Ashok sir saw me, he said 'this is exactly the look that I want'. I come from an army background, so I knew the body language of the character. But things get easier only once you understand what the script is saying and what the director wants," she said.
"Durgamati" is the Hindi remake of Telugu horror film "Bhaagamathie", which featured "Baahubali" star Anushka Shetty. Gill said that her attempt with the remake was to not copy actor Asha Sarath, who played the role in the original.
"I watched the original but was hesitant initially as I was worried I'd end up copying the same thing. 'Bhaagamathie' is a beautiful film and the performances are really good. "Though there's a difference between Hindi films and Telugu cinema, the way they talk or express (on-screen), I still didn't want to look the same. So my attempt has been to be different with the film," she added.