A fresh blend of fame

After emerging as the driving force motivating the character of Kabir Singh, along with several other big-banner projects – Kiara Advani talks to Bhakti Mehta about how life has changed since starring in the highest grossing film of 2019, her balancing act with films and web, and what drives her to pick the right scripts

How does it feel to be a part of Kabir Singh, the highest grossing film this year?

The love that this film has received makes me so happy! People have gone to watch it two or three times in the theatre and that is something we have not witnessed in the recent past. Kabir Singh has a terrific repeat value. Wherever I go, people come up and tell me how much they loved the film. It is just sinking in, and the film is still running successfully in theatres.

You had said earlier that your life had changed post Lust Stories. How different is life now after Kabir Singh?

It is a progressive change. Lust Stories opened several doors and after that, everybody started noticing the performer in me. In fact, this time, almost every single person in the industry messaged and appreciated me. It took a lot of time to sink in. The love of the audience feels very new and different. It is a small thing. Earlier, when I would walk outside my house or at the airport, people would faintly recognise me but now, they recognise me for a film that they have loved. I keep telling myself to calm down and not let all this go to my head. Honestly, I just want to give the love back. Now, when I am reading scripts, I still have the same approach and thought process. Earlier, people approached me with smaller roles but now they say that they do not want me to do small roles. The entire perception that they have had about me has changed.

You are among the few mainstream actors dabbling in both films and the web. Why do you think it is important to strike that balance?

It is important to be relevant with the times. I feel very lucky that Lust Stories and my next digital project for Netflix, Guilty, have been exciting and female-driven. The script really fascinated me and then, they happened to come on a platform like Netflix because of which they could reach out to so many countries. Being able to balance it all is something that I have not given much thought to. I just let it happen. Even Guilty is made like a feature film based on a very relevant subject, which excited me right at the onset. As I said, it is very important to go with the times. Today, everybody is hooked to digital platforms watching series and films. For me, it is not about being on the digital medium or appearing in films, I just want to do great content irrespective of the medium!

The first look of Guilty is quite intriguing.

It is very different; there is not a single part of this character that resembles me. This is also the first project which I prepped for so much. We did such extensive workshops on getting the look and also characterization right. That is what my director wanted. She wanted to take me and put me in a space that nobody would expect me to be in. Though I do not know the release date yet, I am so excited to share the film with my audience. It is very, very close to my heart.

It is interesting what you just said. You had earlier said that Preeti in Kabir Singh was very different from how you are in real life. So, do characters that are completely different from you attract you more?

It is very interesting when I am dealing with a different head space and personality. It is so exciting to explore that and be someone throughout that duration when I am shooting. It is challenging because there are so many different people in this world. I always say that people's perception of right and wrong are very different. When I think of Preeti, I think that there are so many things that she did that I would not do. Playing a character with conviction is important. Being and thinking like someone whom you are playing is exciting. A director who has written my character so passionately and who understands it so well and is very clear about it makes things simpler. As an artiste, you have to have that chameleon-like feature where you can slip into different roles. It is boring to always be yourself. Today, with social media, people know who you really are. If you play that same person on-screen, people will get bored. If you want to shock, excite, entertain and surprise the audience, you should be able to show different sides of yourself to them. In order to do that, you need to play exciting characters. I am very fortunate that I have not been put into a bracket. The roles that I have done so far and the ones that I will do with my next five films are all very different. Now is the time for the true test. People loved me in Kabir Singh. I received a lot of appreciation for MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. It is challenging when you are doing different things, you want to give your best and hope for people to accept you. But that's a thrill.

So, you do enjoy the pressure?

It is fun and exciting. As an actor, I look forward to going on set and trying something different.

Success also brings with it a huge sense of responsibility. Does that come into consideration or pressurise you when you choose a film?

It does not pressurise me when I am choosing roles. After Kabir Singh, it makes me realise the magnitude of accountability and the reach that one has in this field. Your voice is now heard more than ever and people look up to you. It is a privilege to be in a position where you can influence people. If you are doing something that you are passionate about and you feel strongly for it, you should do something about it. People do charity or involve themselves in different causes but, of course, it is very personal. If I do something, then I will do it personally and not go around talking about it. Today, when I realise that I am in a position where people are listening to what I am saying, maybe I can share with them my thoughts, my experiences or something that I have to say about a cause we would like to support. It is a great feeling that I have this opportunity and privilege to reach out and help in certain situations. I see a lot of my contemporaries who are also doing work like that, which is great. You can make the best use of these platforms and I would like to do that. I still haven't completely gone down that road but I know that if and when there is something I want to do, I will do it the right way.

When you see yourself on the big screen, can you be objective to figure out your strengths and weaknesses?

Of course! All the time! Firstly, I am never satisfied and when I look at it, I think that I wish I did this and I wish I did that. But that is a good feeling. As an actor, you should have the drive to be there and achieve that. I am someone who intellectualises things a lot. I am well-aware of my strengths and weaknesses, what I can or cannot do, what I should work on and I look at it all constructively. I have learnt that with the experience that I have had here over the last 4-5 years.

Tell us something about the characters you are playing in some of your upcoming films.

It is very early to talk about some of these films because they are not close to releasing yet. But Good News comes out first. It will release in December this year. It's such a topical subject and it is relevant and it is done in a beautiful way. It is a dramedy, which has been presented beautifully but it is a lot of fun as well. I don't know if I am allowed to speak much on these films because as I said, it is really very early to talk about them. I surely will when I can.

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