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‘I’m very keen to work in new-age cinema’

‘I’m very keen to work in new-age cinema’
Let’s start with the movie Dirty Politics. Why did you sign the film?
The most exciting part was the opportunity to work with Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Anupam Kher. I mean, every actor wants to work with them. And then KC Bokadia told me that the story was inspired by real-life incidents about what happened to Bhanwari Devi and how there was a scandal and she was murdered. It was a great opportunity to play a real-life character from Rajasthan, the nuances of the case, and all the ingredients or masala for a Bollywood film. But the main reason I wanted to do the film was because of all these stars.

Did you meet her family to prepare for the role?
Yes, I did a lot of research. I couldn’t meet her family because they were not forthcoming. In fact, when I went to Jodhpur, there was a lot of agitation. But I did research on how women in that part of the country dress, talk, their nakhras, etc, which I have tried to bring to my performance.

You began your career in 2003. Can you comment on your journey?

Interesting! All the way from a small town in Haryana and surviving in Bollywood for so many years. I have done so many films and a few international films too. There have been a few ups and downs, so the journey has been quite interesting.

Bollywood has also undergone a sea change. Can you comment on that?

Bollywood has changed for the better. I like this phase, where so many upcoming directors are making films like Mary Kom, Highway and other female-centric films. Queen is absolutely one of my favourites! Actors like Alia Bhatt and Shraddha Kapoor are doing so well. This is a very exciting phase in Bollywood, where films like these are being appreciated. Two to three years ago, films like these were not even being made. A film like Ugly still has to wait years to get a release.

In earlier interviews, you have said that you are bored of doing glamorous roles…

I am usually offered glamorous roles with song and dance. I have done enough of those and since things are changing, why not take advantage of that and do some ‘acting roles’ too? Dirty Politics is glamorous but it also requires plenty of acting skills.

You started with a bold film and you’ve done comedy too. Did you deliberately change genres?

I think it’s nice to add different dimensions to your filmography. I did a romantic comedy, I did action with Jacky Chan and I did a political drama in the US called The Politics Of Love. So I try to mix and match.

How different was it working in the West?

I think they just have bigger budgets and so they can afford to try newer things. Apart from that, it isn’t very different. We have as much talent in India as they do. There’s no dearth of talent here. It’s just that due to nepotism, talent doesn’t get an opportunity to shine. In the West, there is no nepotism and genuine talent gets noticed. That’s the only big difference.

Where does this film figure in your career?

It’s a very exciting phase right now. I am very happy that I have nothing to prove and Bollywood has given me a lot of opportunities to be independent and sign my own cheques. I am very happy in this space.

Why have we not seen you in a film afterKismat Love Paisa Dilli?

That’s because I was very busy with the Bruno Mars video and worked in the American TV series Hawaii Five-0. I must say I have no idea why people are saying that I have left Bollywood. It is not true at all. I cannot leave Bollywood; I love Bollywood. Sometimes I believe it’s a good idea for an actor to take a break and engage in some introspection. I was doing a lot of theatre in the US and I took up acting classes there too, just to brush up, but I am absolutely here and I would love to be part of films of the kind that Anurag Kashyap makes. Gangs Of Wasseypur was so cool. Abhishek Chaubey is brilliant for making Ishqiya. Vikas Bahl, and what he did with Queen, is amazing. I would love to work with these filmmakers.

Is there a dream role that you want to play?
I don’t have a dream role; I am just very keen to become a part of the new-age cinema that is coming up. I have heard a lot about Kanu Behl’s Titli and am looking forward to that film. I would love to be a part of films like that.

You turned producer with Hisss. Are you open to producing films… the kind of films you are talking about?

Producing Hisss was a great experience. After that, nothing really worked out. But if a really exceptional script comes my way, I would definitely produce it.

Today, it’s the time of content-driven cinema, where content is the star. Will that influence your choices when looking at scripts?

It should always be content because no one is bigger than the script and it’s healthy for our industry too.

When you made your debut, you started with solo producers but today it’s the time of corporate houses. As an actor, what kind of changes are you witnessing in the industry today?

Corporate houses have made things more streamlined. There are proper departments; no one crosses into each other’s departments. Things have become much more professional. Dates are not wasted. These may seem like small changes but they are contributing to the growth of Bollywood. There is a great curiosity about Bollywood and our actors all over the world. I realise this wherever I travel. You know, when I met President Barack Obama, the first question he asked me was about Bollywood. So there is a lot of curiosity about Bollywood, which is wonderful.

You mentioned that you did some acting courses in the US. After that, how have you grown as an actor?

You’re always learning. From the West, I have learnt to be extremely suttle. Sometimes it’s good to hold back your emotions, for example, in a scene that requires you to cry. I want to bring those things into my performance. Of course, I also learnt to be absolutely fearless. For instance, you may fear being judged. If you play the role of an older person, they tend to believe you’re like that in real life too. Or, I have a very glamourous image but in reality, I sleep as early as 9:30 pm; I am vegan; and I am very fitness conscious. On the other hand, people think I party hard till late at night and because I do bold roles on screen. So I have learnt to be absolutely fearless where characters are concerned.

You said your main concern while doing Dirty Politics was to act with actors like Naseerudin Shah and Om Puri. What was it like working with them?

Absolutely, just being around them and observing them is wonderful. What I noticed while working with them was that they act effortlessly. And before a shot, when they sit and discuss a scene, suddenly there would be impromptu additions and the scene would go from an A to A plus and into the stratosphere. They are so effortless and so spontaneous and they don’t believe in rehearsals.

What was your experience like while shooting the film?

I was pampered a whole lot as I was the only female actor on the sets. They were all very protective about me. I also told them that I was very nervous and they helped me a lot. Once, while doing a scene with Naseer saab, I wasn’t able to get my lines right as I was so intimidated. Then he sat down and explained the scene to me and how I should go about it. He made me say the lines to him just to get over my inhibitions. That was the best part.

KC Bokadia is from the old school of direction and you have largely worked with the new generation of directors. What was it like working with him?

Bokadiaji has a very strong sense of story. Young directors focus a lot on technique, which is a good thing. But KC sir focuses a lot more on the story. He doesn’t focus all that much on technique as he says that is the job of the cameraman and technicians; my focus is the story. He has a very strong hold over the story and what the market wants, and he brings out nuances in character on the screen beautifully. For instance, I was very apprehensive to use abusive words which was called for by my character Anokhi Devi. She is from a low stratum of society and women in that stratum speak like that. He told me, ‘You have to talk like this and use this language to bring authenticity to the character.’

What’s next for you?
I have signed a horror thriller. Also, I will be shooting for more episodes of Hawaii Five-0.
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