Recently, I interviewed Lara Dutta on her role as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 2021 film Bell Bottom. Bell Bottom, a Hindi-language action thriller film, is inspired by a real-life hijacking event of an Indian Airlines flight in India by Khalistani separatists in the 1980s (IA Flight 423, 405, and 421). Scripted by Aseem Arrora and Parveez Sheikh, and directed by Ranjit M Tewari, this film is produced under the banner of Pooja Entertainment and Emmay Entertainment. Akshay Kumar stars as the character Agent Anshul Malhotra and is supported by the cast of Lara Dutta (Indira Gandhi), Vaani Kapoor (Radhika Malhotra), and Huma Qureshi(Adeela Rehman).
While the movie is centered around the larger-than-life agent Anshul Malhotra who rescues 210 hostages in the hijacked plane, the first half of the film is the backstory of Anshul Malhotra and his wife Radhika. Once the plane is hijacked, tense moments appear in a somewhat predictably theatrical fashion — an expectation of Akshay movies!
What is not theatrical is Lara Dutta’s performance as Indira Gandhi. She had to sit for hours for the makeup artists first to make a mold of her face and then help her with the prosthesis. It was difficult to be in full makeup for close to ten hours for the shoot. “I couldn’t even scratch my nose,” she said. Her look in the movie is truly transformational. The actor found it challenging to curb her emotional reactions because the iconic “PM of India did not use any hand movements” and “Indira Gandhi’s expressions, her eye movements, speech, intonations, and expressions were typical [to her].” Lara Dutta had to get into Gandhi’s frame of mind and political machinations of that era.
This was her thirteenth film with Akshay Kumar and she was thrilled to work with him again. She commented, “Working with Akshay Kumar is like being on a picnic” and “Akshay makes everyone feel very comfortable.” Akshay Kumar’s warm exuberant personality spills over on the silver screen and the result is hilarious! Lara Dutta said that his high energy is infectious but “she had to draw a line when her co-star suggested that they go for a 4 am bike ride in the cold in Scotland!”
Lara Dutta’s name will be always associated with one of the most powerful women in the history of India and the world. Lara Dutta is a very gracious and well-spoken actor and I am sure she will receive accolades for this once-in-a-lifetime performance. Can’t wait to see it!
Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.