Playing your age is a huge challenge in showbiz. Most actors cling to youthful images though they are well past their prime. Not Genelia Deshmukh. Her journey to adulthood and beyond has gone hand-in-hand with the evolution of her characters. At 21, she played a lovesick college student in Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na.
Now, at 35—married with two children—her characters have imbibed the maturity that comes with experience.
Her new film, Trial Period, exemplifies this transformation. “I am a different person today than who I was 15 years ago. I have grown from a girl into a woman, and am looking for roles written keeping that in mind,” she says.
In Trial Period, Genelia plays Ana, mother to a six-year-old boy, Romi, essayed by Zidane Braz. As
a single parent, she juggles work and life smoothly on most days. That is, until her child starts asking questions about his father.
“What I enjoyed the most about the role is that Ana is not upset about her single status. She is a confident woman who believes she can lead a life with her son independently. She is not bitter,” the actor affirms.
The bottomline for her, she says, is that the character has to be relatable, both for the performer and the viewer. “In Trial Period, the scene where her son goes to the bathroom becomes a big issue since Ana is multi-tasking. All mothers will relate to that. I believe I understood these small nuances because I am that age,” Genelia adds.
The film, which released last month on JioCinema, deals with the unconventional idea of what constitutes family. The story sees Genelia hiring a surrogate father (played by Manav Kaul) for 30 days. By the end of it, the three of them develop a bond, much like a quintessential Indian family. It’s an equation that continued offscreen as well.
“I have always admired his (Kaul) work, but doing a film with him was enriching. He introduced me to a whole new world of books, authors and poets. And I would speak to him about relationships and my children,” she recalls, adding, “Both of us bonded with Zidane instantly. He has an inherent warmth and we learnt a lot from him.”
After an erratic decade—with only a few and forgettable releases––this is Genelia’s comeback film. She, however, feels that she is currently on “a trial period”. What seems to have worked for her is that she was never ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Despite taking a break from acting soon after her marriage to actor Riteish Deshmukh in 2012, she is still fresh in public memory through social media. Genelia documents and shares snippets from her personal life, which includes banter with her husband or time spent with their two sons. “Riteish introduced me to social media. While it took time to find my space there, I have become quite comfortable now. I feel I’ve been perpetually auditioning on Instagram ever since,” she admits.
During this time, she became a producer, launching Mumbai Film Company in 2013 with her husband. The couple has bankrolled several Marathi films, including Balak Palak, Faster Fene and Ved under the banner. “Riteish and his father dreamed about setting up a production house. Initially, I simply helped him set up shop, but now I have taken over from him completely. We put a lot of effort into everything we do. Right now our heart is in Marathi cinema. We haven’t thought about doing other language films as of now,” she says.
Language restrictions do not affect Genelia’s acting career. She has done her fair share of southern films— Ready, Orange, Bommarillu, and more—as well as Marathi and Hindi cinema. “I will continue to act in South Indian films. I owe a large part of my career to them,” admits Genelia, who will be seen next in Junior, a bilingual film (Telugu and Kannada) centred around the relationship between a brother and sister.