No comparison please!
Congratulations on your second National Award. Were you confident about getting the award?
No, I didn’t know as the National Awards are government awards and, unlike the usual awards where you know beforehand, these are on an altogether different level. If an actor has been invited to attend or perform at the awards, there is a definite possibility that they are going to bag an award. But the National Awards have nominations from a lot of films, which one might not even be aware of. In fact, the actor who won the Best Actor National Award this year, Sanchari Vijay, is yet to have his film released. So they even consider films like that, with both mainstream and regional cinema. You have no idea who your competition is. It is very hard to tell which performance will be appreciated.
This is your second award and you have won it after seven years. It is truly an achievement for an actor.
Yes, it is, not many of my contemporaries have two National Awards. Especially at this age, at 28, two National Awards in two different categories. I believe that the Best Supporting Actress category is very tough as there is too much competition out there, especially at the national level. The National Award for an actress has all the nominations from films which have strong female roles or are women-centric. So the filtering process is not difficult. But almost every film has a supporting actress. So it is very difficult to win in that category.
Do you think Queen is a turning point in your career?
Absolutely! Not only for my career but a turning point for the film industry. This film will be <g data-gr-id="179">remembere</g> d in the history of our cinema, in terms of a film’s screenplay, in terms of revolutionary cinema, in terms of a plot, in terms of marketing, in terms of everything. The films being made nowadays have so much ease. They don’t have any façade, <g data-gr-id="180">nahi</g> hai item number <g data-gr-id="182">sab</g> <g data-gr-id="181">mein</g>. There was a time any and every film had an item number, including children’s films. Earlier, films had too much of a façade. If the story was plain, they added too much background music. Earlier, there was this huge effort to make a film into a product but now every filmmaker is much more easy going…yeh film hai <g data-gr-id="184">jisne</g> <g data-gr-id="185">dekhni</g> hai <g data-gr-id="186">dekho</g> <g data-gr-id="187">jisne</g> <g data-gr-id="188">nahi</g> <g data-gr-id="189">dekhni</g> mat <g data-gr-id="190">dekho</g>. And that is so good.
Even your film, Queen’s director Vikas Bahl had an item number in his first children’s film.
Chillar Party! That’s exactly what I mean. It is a children’s film and you have Ranbir Kapoor dancing in a disco. But, I believe that if a film like Chillar Party were to be made now, it wouldn’t have an item song in it. If I am not mistaken, that film also had Salman Khan in a song.
If one were to make a film like that today, they would never go in for these things. I am not calling them gimmicks because who am I to pass judgment but there was a time everything had an item number and it was very bad for our films as the universal language of cinema hasn’t changed. If you watch Aag, or Kaagaz Ke Phool, or Pyaasa or any Hollywood film, performance and the language of the film in terms of cinema are the same.
I believe that films should be universal. But if you feel that your own cinema has a childish tone, no one will be able to understand it. And that is a reflection of our society. That is why people think Indians are like this. We think the audience has an attention span of a child. We feel that we have to keep doing something or the other on the big screen or else the audience will lose interest. They are not <g data-gr-id="162">children</g> but that is the impression our cinema gives. If this was the case, why are films like Dum Laga Ke <g data-gr-id="177">Haisha</g>, Queen or <g data-gr-id="178">Piku</g> working at the box office? It is a proof that you are underestimating the audience because of your own insecurities.
A lot of actresses had said no to <g data-gr-id="116">Queen</g> but you did the film. Did you know it would be an <g data-gr-id="112">eyeopener</g> for the industry?
No, I had no idea. And it is not just me but all the directors Vikas was competing with and I asked him where he would go after this. In his category, there were all these top directors of the industry. I said, ‘Ab, <g data-gr-id="128">tumhare</g> <g data-gr-id="129">liye</g> <g data-gr-id="130">karne</g> ko <g data-gr-id="131">kuch</g> <g data-gr-id="132">raha</g> hi <g data-gr-id="133">nahi</g> hai.’ This is the biggest crisis of your life, this nomination list and you winning the award. I told him this is as good as it can get.
At that, time no one was willing to put <g data-gr-id="138">in </g>their money in the Phantom banner. Vikas was going <g data-gr-id="152">everywhere</g> but only Vikram Malhotra showed faith in the film. Vikas is now a leading director but he was no one back then and even I was at the bottom of my career. So this film is even more special.
As an actor, is it difficult for you to out do a Queen?
<g data-gr-id="110">No</g> (Laughs).
Why is that?
(Laughs) Dekho <g data-gr-id="111">aap</g> Tanu Weds Manu Returns. You will take back your words.
You were very keen on making Tanu Weds Manu <g data-gr-id="114">Retuns</g> and you kept on insisting <g data-gr-id="115">Aanand</g> (L Rai)…
No, in fact after Tanu Weds Manu, I wanted to work with <g data-gr-id="118">Aanandji</g> and he narrated Raanjhanaa to me but I suggested Sonam (Kapoor) and he too thought she would suit the role better. <g data-gr-id="119">Aanandji</g> is like a brother so we discuss films too.
He also said he was planning a sequel to Tanu Weds Manu. I refused and told him not to nurture this thought. In fact, Vikas says people are asking him to make Queen 2, and I have firmly told him he should not even entertain that thought as I don’t want to do the same character again. I also believe that the magic that was created shouldn’t be tampered with.
So I said no to <g data-gr-id="153">Aanandji</g>. But he kept telling me it was a very sensitive husband-wife love story and I thought that <g data-gr-id="154">Aanand</g> was not a gimmicky director. He will make a film only when he has a good story to tell. He will not make a sequel simply because he wants to cash in on the first part. He is a very intense person, a very intense director. So I thought I would hear it once, and I was blown away by the narration.
Was it difficult to get the Haryanvi accent?
Playing a Haryanvi girl was difficult but what was even more challenging was keeping both the characters’ chemistry. There is rivalry between <g data-gr-id="165">Datto</g> and Tanu’s characters and both of them can’t overshadow each other. Their rivalry drives the plot forward. If, at any point, Datto’s existence was to become superficial, we would have lost the plot. If you see Kangana Ranaut as Datto, the film dies then and there. So that was very challenging for me. Moreover, both characters I play in the film are very contrasting.