Bani J on shooting crucial Four More Shots Please scene: ‘I lost my mother on the day I was supposed to shoot it’
Bani J talks about the impact of her mother’s death when she was shooting for the first season of Four More Shots Please.
Amazon Prime Video’s Four More Shots Please is coming back with a second season on April 17. The show, about four best friends navigating a sometimes spicy and sometimes stressful life in Mumbai, stars Bani J as Umang, the bisexual fitness trainer with a heart that’s ready to love.
Bani J earned a lot of kudos for her grounded, subtle performance in the show and emerged as one of the biggest surprises of the first season. In this interview, she talks about her chemistry with Lisa Ray on the show, the most crucial scene she shot for the show and what to expect from season two:
When everyone watched the show, myself included, your character, Umang was the one I liked the most. You played her as this clear-headed person who is always let down by those she loves. Did you expect the praise you got from audiences and critics?
I didn’t spend too much time thinking about whether people will like this or not. I just knew that I was doing as sincere and honest a job of bringing my 100% every day to play Umang. I knew I had a big responsibility to play this character as honestly as possible and to be able to bring the kind of realism to her.
I think I was just very secure in being able to portray her well that I didn’t really care what anybody would say about it and that is where I left her in my head. I think I was very satisfied with that whole thing so after that whether people liked it or not didn’t really cross my mind.
The validation from other people is like ‘Oh cool. They liked it’. It would be the same if they didn’t like it.
What I liked most about your performance was whenever you talked in Punjabi to your family. In Mumbai, Umang would try to be all posh but the real her would reveal itself when she would argue with her mother on phone. The level of authenticity could not have been a director’s note. Was it all you?
That was all in the script. She is from Ludhiana, so obviously whenever your mom calls, you speak to her in the same language that you speak at home. It’s a completely different ball game. Her life is different from all the other girls because she has left her hometown and she has come here to be somebody who is very different from who she was back home. That’s the whole reason why she moved. She wants the freedom; she wants to live a life that she never could.
I remember one of the most crucial scenes in Umang’s story was when she confronts her and her prospective groom’s family at dinner at the end. That scene was an emotional moment for her but written humorously still. What was it like to film it?
I was looking forward to this scene for quite a while. The day that I was supposed to do it originally was the day that I found that my mother had passed away. I still went to the set that day and thought I am going to do it. But once I got there, I realised I couldn’t do it; I sat in my trailer and cried for four hours straight.
I had to take a break of a week or 10 days. I had to go back home and deal with all of it. So when I came back, it was the first scene that I had to shoot and I just remember thinking that I need to be able to bring so much justice to this scene and this character. It was extremely difficult for me, but it was something I really wanted to get through and do honestly because there was no way I could have faked emotions; that’s just my approach to it.
I had goosebumps the entire time I shot that scene. It’s like when you’re speaking so much truth, whether for yourself or somebody else, or for somebody who is in a similar situation somewhere, you just see the light in it.
We have often seen that whenever it comes to same sex relationships on the big or small screen, filmmakers have often shied away from really exploring their intimate scenes the way they would any straight couple. But this was not the case with your scenes or chemistry with Lisa (Ray). Was there a discussion about it between you, Lisa and the director or the writer?
The girls (other actors on the show) had more concerns about their girl-on-boy scenes than Lisa and I had about our girl-on-girl scenes. I think Lisa has had more experience with these scenes because she has played these kind of characters before. However, if you really believe that love has no gender and that everybody deserves to fall in love with whoever they choose to, then you can bring that to the screen.
So with Lisa and I, we didn’t have to have a discussion as such really. It was just about where the camera is going to be and ‘if you want to move this side, is it okay’ and ‘is that way ok’. Just boundary questions, very basic things that everybody should be asking anyway.
Because the trailer for the new season isn’t out yet (this interview was taken on March 30, before the trailer was released) can you tell us what’s next for Umang in the new season? Do you think she will accept Samara if she returns to her?
I have seen two cuts of the trailer and I don’t know which one they are going with. So it’s hard for me to comment because both the trailers are so different. In one trailer they didn’t give away anything that is happening and in the other they gave away everything that was happening. So it could go either way.
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