Pushing the Limits - Hebah Patel

Watching Hebah Patel's journey – not just as an actor but also as a human being – has been inspiring to say the least. Ten minutes into a conversation with her, and you’ll notice that her thoughts and views have evolved. She’s grown as a person and that’s clearly brought her to a happier space. She’s physically fitter, emotionally stronger and mentally calmer than ever. Now juggling between cities and movie shoots, the actress squeezed in some time to update us on her life. Read onto learn what she’s up to.

We saw you had a very, very deglamourised avatar in your recent poster. What was working on a character like that like?
It was frightening and liberating at the same time. Frightening because I’ve never been bare-faced in front of the camera and I was initially self-conscious about how I would look. And liberating as I didn’t have to worry about how I was looking, after settling, which gave me the mind space to solely focus on my performance.

In a way, going deglam has helped me hone my acting skills. Working on a character like Radha was tough, but also very interesting as it was way out of my comfort zone. This was the first film offered to me post lockdown, and I took it up to see how far I could push myself. The role was tough but the process was definitely worth it.

What projects are you working on now?
I’ve finished filming Odela, and will finish another film with director Viplav this month; that too is another very interesting script. I also have another film that I recently took up, in which I play a dumb and deaf girl out for revenge! Apart from these, there are two other projects which I’ll announce shortly.

What kinds of roles do you prefer? The ones that don’t look so pretty but have substance, or those that make you look like a diva but don’t have much performance-oriented work?
I don’t believe you need to be deglam to act. There are enough instances where people have delivered brillant performances and looked their best. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. But yes, having been more script-driven, I’ve started enjoying a challenge as opposed to just looking pretty on screen. But under any circumstance, my first priority would be to look nice on camera! (smirks)

You’ve experienced a mix of highs and lows – how do you deal with both?
In a way I’m glad I’ve seen highs and lows both; I now know how both feel, so I really don’t have much to lose. The highs are always welcome; it always feels great to be appreciated, to be wanted by filmmakers and to receive commercial success. The lows, on the other hand, teach you that nothing is permanent, and that in the end it’s a job you’re doing and it’s only your family that counts. They’ve taught me that attitude of gratitude is key in life and that’s what I’ve been practising. To be grateful to wherever I am in life at this moment.

In an industry that’s rather volatile, what keeps you sane?  
Weirdly, the volatility calms me as person. The instability, the uncertainty, and the competition made me realise I’m easily replaceable and it’s nothing personal. So I’ve a weird sense of calm about it. I believe you’ll get your share of work and due when it’s your time. Until then do your best and chill.

Even though you’re a public figure, not too many people know the real you. How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you? 
In real life I’m basically a no-filter person. So if I had to introduce myself to someone I’d say, “Hi I’m Hebah, I’m an actor but I don’t really want to have a detailed conversation about my work. I love eating and watching shows and movies. And I love sleeping. Tell me about you”.

What was 2020 like for you?
For the most part I was homebound. A lot of calories, a lot of pounds. A lot of family time, a lot of movies, tv shows, and lots of sleeping. I have mixed feelings about 2020. I don’t love it; I don’t hate it. I was comfortable at home. I spent too much time with family and treated it like an extended holiday. Thankfully, I started getting work as lockdown relaxed, so that wasn’t too much of a stress for me either. But honestly, there’s a lot I’m grateful for in 2020.Even with the uncertainties, the global pandemic and worldwide unrest, my family and I were healthy and comfortable. I got enough work and I got closer to my Almighty. So in a way it was a great year and I’m grateful for it.

What are your views on life and work during the pandemic?
2020 taught me that it’s only God, your family and food that counts in the end. Everything else is fleeting. I value my sisters and my friends more now. I value food more now. I value medical professionals and delivery executives a lot more now. Work-wise, I’ve started respecting my job, my set, my role, my people, every single person on each set a lot more. Everyone put health aside to be able to deliver a good film. 2020 made me realise I will never take my work for granted again.

Where do you see yourself compared to the competition?
I made this mistake earlier and now I don’t see myself anywhere in the competition. I want these audiences to love me, I want my movies to do well, I want filmmakers to offer me good films and I want to make money. Competition is only that.

Has stardom changed you?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it changed me. But yes, it makes me want to dress up better since you’re always being noticed. And work harder to retain it.

How do you balance your work and private lives?
I’ve got no private life! (laughs) I work when I work and I chill when I chill, that’s how.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Alive hopefully and healthy.

Three things that people don’t know about you are… 
I’m extremely God-fearing, I’m a hog, and I’m an amazing stand up!                         -- as told to Anahita

Outfit: Origins Hyderabad; Earrings: Ruby's Creations; Bangles and ring: Kalasha Fine Jewels; Makeup and hair: Samaria Wallani; Backdrop: Lume Inc; Pic: Shreyans Dungarwal; Styled by Anahita