MUMBAI: Lara Dutta spent three hours every day in the make-up chair to look like former prime minister Indira Gandhi for "Bell Bottom", a task that was physically taxing, but surreal for the actor.
Dutta looked unrecognizable as the late prime minister in the recently released movie's trailer.
Directed by Ranjit M Tewari, the '80s set spy-thriller is based on a true story that follows an undercover RAW agent (played by Akshay Kumar) who is on a mission to rescue over 200 hostages from a hijacked Indian plane.
The actor said she is "thrilled to bits" with all the messages and calls appreciating her appearance in the film.
The idea was to capture everything correctly and make sure we are as close to the resemblance of Mrs Gandhi as possible.
At the end of the day, either I play Indira Gandhi as Lara Dutta or we make Lara Dutta a close resemblance to Indira Gandhi.
"Getting the look right is paramount. The credit goes to Vikram Gaikwad and his team. They have done brilliant detailing. Once I saw myself in the mirror during the look test, I was shocked," Dutta told PTI in an interview.
It took three hours to put the prosthetic and make-up together and another hour to remove it, the actor revealed.
"From face structure, wrinkles, pigmentation to eyes, every minute detail has been taken care of," she added.
Dutta said Tewari would often send her videos of archived interviews of Gandhi to gauge nuances like her eyes, hand movements, and other mannerisms.
"The film is about a hijack that happens during Mrs Gandhi's tenure. It was quite a dramatic incident but she was not a dramatic person. She was never ruffled by anything, she was very much in control. It was important to portray all of that correctly. Bringing all of that alive on screen was a challenging and fulfilling process. I am extremely happy with the portrayal and I can't wait for people to see it," she said.
For the 43-year-old actor, the first-person account stories about Gandhi from her father, retired Wing Commander L K Dutta, came in handy to portray this role.
She said she inadvertently felt a sense of connection with Gandhi.
"I was fortunate to have a little bit of personal connection with Mrs Gandhi because when my father was in Indian Air Force, he had flown her innumerable times. Having heard stories about her since childhood, made her feel a bit more familiar to me. It was not about looking at archive footage and trying to copy her mannerisms, it was a bit more about getting into the personality because I had insight into it," she added.
Asked if she would like to play the role of Indira Gandhi again in a biopic if offered, Dutta said she would love to do that.
"Mrs Gandhi has been portrayed earlier and there are other films in the making, she is someone who we will never ever forgotten and erased. I am sure there will be many projects that will be made on her life. I would like to portray her in an elaborate way."
The former Miss Universe said that she received a call from her frequent co-star-cum-friend, Kumar about playing the part of Gandhi in the movie.
"So when Akshay offered me the role, I said, 'How did you think of me?' He said he knew that I will be able to carry it off well. The first reaction for me was: 'this is a huge responsibility to portray a character that is so revered and admired'. You want to do justice to it. I immediately understood that I want to do a good job," Dutta, who made her acting debut opposite Kumar in Andaaz, said.
Talking about the superstar, she said, the two have worked together on about 13 movies -- Aan: Men at Work, Bhagam Bhag, Housefull, Singh Is Bliing -- and their equation goes beyond a film set.
She said Kumar has been her biggest supporter and someone who constantly pushes her to go the extra mile.
"He is a friend, philosopher, and my guide, there is no pretence between us, he never sugarcoats anything. I greatly respect and admire it."
Bell Bottom happens to be the first film to be shot last year amid the coronavirus pandemic and also the foremost major movie to arrive in theatres on August 19.
Dutta credits the producers for taking the decision to not only shoot but to also release the film in such circumstances.
"As we went to Scotland for the shoot, we were ready to do whatever it takes because at the end of the day this is what we love doing, making movies. It was an incredible experience in this kind of environment. It was all very restricted and it brought all of us together," she said, adding the film is a larger-than-life experience and needs to be enjoyed on the big screen.
Bell Bottom, also starring Vaani Kapoor and Huma Qureshi in key roles, is produced by Vashu Bhagnani, Jackky Bhagnani, Deepshikha Deshmukh, Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani and Nikkhil Advani.