It's not important for me to be lead: Sonali Bendre on acting in OTT series 'The Broken News'

Directed by Vinay Waikul, The Broken News is about how Indian news channels Awaaz Bharati News and Josh 24/7 have opposing principles that lead to fierce rivalry.
Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre (Photo | EPS)
Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre (Photo | EPS)

"I know I’m preparing myself for something bigger and better,” is the usual showbiz subtext. But Sonali Bendre is upfront about her new launching pad. “I don’t think I would call it a comeback, I didn’t go anywhere,” the actor clarifies about her OTT series, 'The Broken News' which premiered on Zee5 on June 10. The series is an adaptation of the 2018 British show 'Press'. The actor did watch it first to understand her character. “It made it easier to understand how the story progressed, but I enjoyed reading the script, too. There are times when scripts give more information than watching something. 'The Broken News' has been adapted for the Indian audience and we have tried to talk about things relevant to people now,” reveals Bendre, who had hits like 'Sarfarosh' and 'Duplicate'.

The teaser video of the show has Bendre as newscaster Amina Qureshi, vowing, “Sach dikhana hamari zimmedari hai (Showing the truth is our responsibility).” In the next frame, rival Shriya Pilgaonkar as Radha Bhargava of the competing channel Awaaz Bharati asks the audience “Sansani ya sach (Sensationalism or truth)?” The series could reflect the credibility crisis in the Indian television media industry, which played a shameful part in sensationalising incidents like actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide and the persecution of his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty.

Sonali Bendre
Sonali Bendre

Directed by Vinay Waikul, 'The Broken News' is about how Indian news channels Awaaz Bharati News and Josh 24/7 have opposing principles that lead to fierce rivalry. Bendre’s Qureshi, a high-profile news presenter, has to tackle professional conflicts at work every day. The show has been released in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. The dynamic journalists attempt to balance their lives, as they wait for an uncertain future to play out. Although she was last seen in the 2013 film 'Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobaara', she is best remembered for her roles in movies such as 'Hum Saath- Saath Hain', paired opposite Salman Khan. Despite the ensemble star cast in the movie, Bendre managed to hold her role of Dr Priti Shukla, who keeps her family, on the verge of a split, together.

Interestingly, Bendre’s acting prowess was leveraged by Telugu directors more than their Mumbai counterparts. In 'Manmadhudu' (2002), she played Harika, a driven, career girl, who tackles her misogynist boss played by Nagarjuna, and puts him in his place. In 2009, she was the judge on one of the most-watched television shows 'Dance India Dance L’il Masters'; she is now back as a judge again in Season 5. The reason Bendre has stayed relevant even after years away from the movie business is that she is a fighter who excels in reinventing herself. In 2018, she went public about her illness. Her fight against metastatic cancer and how she bounced back from its physical and psychological impact has added depth to her personality. The fact that she is not just another pretty face helps. She runs the now five-year-old 'Sonali Book Club'––a Facebook Group that has 29K followers.

A week ago, she was discussing 'December in Dacca' by KS Nair. Bendre works hard to keep her flock together with book reviews, discussions, giveaways, book of the month, etc. Intellectual and creative curiosity motivates Bendre. She recalls the time when people judged her based on her looks. “I was told that I was too thin to be an actor. I was also criticised for my straight hair. I never had a godfather, nor did my mother ever come to the sets with me. They often said that I didn’t have fire in me. But looking back, I feel proud of the choices I’ve made.”

Her Instagram post with two before and after cancer photos—one lying exhausted with a shaven head in a hospital bed and the other, a glamorous but vulnerable photograph got over 4,63,000 likes.

To act in 'The Broken News', Bendre had to prepare long and hard since it would be her first OTT appearance. “I am neither a method actor nor do I go completely with the flow. For me, it’s a balance between the two and I’m learning every day on the sets,” is how she describes the process of preparing for a role. Past crises and overcoming it has ensured that Bendre is not an insecure person or actor.

“I want to play strong characters with great stories... characters who believe in hope, stand for the right thing, and should have layers. It has never been important to me to be the lead actor. OTT is a new phase and a new stage in my career. I am looking forward to it with excitement.” Bend it with Bendre would be a better way of putting it.

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