Thursday, March 28, 2013

Manoj Bajpayee

“I’m very instinctive”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the February 9, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Manoj Bajpayee, for real, is a far cry from the characters he plays on reel. The actor who is known to play slightly grey, serious, or intense characters on-screen is extremely cool and calm off it. Yet, he manages to essay each of these characters, seeming effortless. Undoubtedly, Manoj Bajpayee is one of the finest actors that we have, who’s given several memorable performances in films like ‘Shool’, ‘Satya’, ‘Pinjar’, and ‘Raajneeti’, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Chakravyuh’ in recent times. Of course, last year we saw him steal all the accolades for his stellar act as Sardar Khan in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. Lately, he has been busy promoting the Neeraj Pandey directed ‘Special 26’ that stars him along with Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Jimmy Shergill. In this chat, let’s try and get to know Manoj Bajpayee, the person, behind Manoj Bajpayee, the actor. Here we have the national-award winning actor in a candid mode…

You’ve been promoting ‘Special 26’ in a huge way along with the whole cast…promotions seem to have become as important as making the film, isn’t it? 
Promoting this film has been quite an experience, going to different cities with the entire cast. I’ve been promoting so many films but travelling to various cities, promoting ‘Special 26’ has been a completely unique experience. When a person of Akshay’s stature travels to these small cities, it’s truly amazing to see people react. And not many people know this but it was actually me who started with this whole ‘city tours’ concept. I started that with ‘Shool’. I travelled to Hydrabad, Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Patna, when the film was to release. And then we had Rakesh Roshan who did it during ‘Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai’. Since then, this has become a trend and now it’s a necessity. Promoting a film in this manner has become extremely essential now because the audience also has gotten used to it. So, big films with a big budget, that can spend on promotions, for them it’s great. But the problem is, because of these heavy promotions, small-budget films are left behind. A small-budget film, despite being extremely good, will be thought of as a bad film by the audience because it’s not promoted well. So, for some people it’s a great thing, but for some others it’s not good.

How was it working with co-actors like Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher for ‘Special 26’? 
Akshay is a lovely guy. He’s somebody who’s so easy in his skin, and there’s so much pleasantness that he brings on the sets. It’s been quite an experience working with him and Anupam Kher. And when you have actors like these as co-stars, there’s a lot of understanding because they’ve been in the industry for so long. It gets much simpler.

Today, what is your criterion while choosing a film? 
I go by my instinct. I’m very instinctive, so if I hear a script and it attracts me, I immediately say yes, whether it’s a big budget film or a small budget film. If I’m offered a character that makes me want to jump on it, I say yes to the film. But if I think I want time to decide, then I don’t do it. If I’m offered to play a police officer in like 4-5 films, I wouldn’t mind doing it, if all the characters are completely different from each other even though the profession is the same. Each character comes with a graph, and if that graph challenges you, and attracts you, you just say yes. A character just needs to excite me.

Is the director a priority when you sign a film? You’ve worked with directors whose films are quite complex…be it Ram Gopal Varma, Prakash Jha, Anurag Kashyap or Neeraj Pandey… 
All these directors have some quality, and they’re all extremely different from each other. They belong to different kinds of cinema. And for me, I always want to learn something from every director I work with. Each director comes from a certain background, and has a certain vision. So, you try and learn something from his vision, and also form a great relationship with each other. I’ve utmost respect for all the directors that I’ve worked with. And I share a great rapport with them.

And, how has it been working with Neeraj Pandey for ‘Special 26’? 
I think Neeraj Pandey is one of the best directors of our time. I’ve been lucky to be directed by him. And we’ve had a great time working together.

When you’re offered a film and a character, what’s your approach like? Are you spontaneous? Or are you a method actor who likes to prepare? 
You know, I wouldn’t be able to clearly say that I have this kind of approach. I read the script, and at times it is spontaneous, sometimes it needs a lot of preparation, depending on the script. It also depends on what the director wants from me. I like to be spontaneous sometimes, but I’ve had to actually prepare quite a bit for most of my characters.

So, if you had to choose, which character so far, has been the most challenging and has required a lot of preparation? 
Actually, not just one but I had to prepare extensively for most of my characters. ‘Bandit Queen’, ‘Satya’, ‘Shool’, ‘Pinjar’, ‘Aks’; actually for most of my films I had to prepare.

Being someone who’s been an actor for several years, and played different characters… sometimes do you tend to become like any of your character? 
No, not really. But yes, actors become extremely moody at times, because we’re constantly moving from one character to another. Hence, most serious actors are extremely moody and eccentric. But apart from that, Manoj Bajpayee is not like any of his characters.

So, then how is Manoj Bajpayee? 
Manoj Bajpayee is the most normal guy. He’s not really ambitious; he loves to stay at home. He’s too lazy. If given a choice, I’d not like to even move to get a glass of water (laughs). But he’s someone who respects the dignity of labour, and tries to be a good father, good husband and good son. Apart from that, I don’t really have a friend circle, I don’t like to party. I’m just happy being at home.

Over the years, how has your journey been? How do you see yourself? 
I’ve never treated my job as anything special. I’ve always been this normal person who believes in destiny and God. And I’m just happy to be here, because this is what I have always wanted to do. I’ve been extremely independent right from childhood, so I’ve always been this very serious guy who knows his responsibility and all that. It’s only now that I’ve become much easier as a person.

Tell us about your upcoming films… 
This year I have two releases after ‘Special 26’ – ‘Shootout At Wadala’ and ‘Satyagraha’. Last year, all the films were slightly niche be it ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Chittagong’ or ‘Chakravyuh’ and this year, all of them are huge films.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bipasha Basu

“I’m quite unaffected by failures”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the March 16, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

She’s so beautiful, and of course, so sexy, that most people don’t think of her beyond that. And no, we can’t blame them, because Bipasha Basu is, certainly, hotness personifying! But there lies a lot more beneath her poised and glamourous avatar. She’s simple, sweet, sensitive and emotional, just like any normal girl, yet she puts up a tough exterior. She’s a complete child at heart who’s extremely mischievous and that’s quite a contrast from what most people would perceive her to be. All this, I explore about Bipasha, through my rendezvous with the lady, where she speaks about her upcoming film ‘Aatma’. She also talks about being in the industry, her journey, success, failure and, more. Here we have the lovely Bipasha Basu being herself! 

Seemingly, you’re a pro at horror films now…
I said this as a joke, somebody took it very seriously. I said I’m going to set up a production house and will only produce supernatural and horror films and then, I’m going to soon be like the specialist on board for all horror films in India. No, but jokes apart, when you see both the films, ‘Raaz 3’ and ‘Aatma’, and if you put yourself in my shoes, as a Hindi cinema heroine, you’ll understand why I did these films. Firstly, these films are highly entertaining, great screenplay, it’s a new-age genre, because horror has not been tapped in India much and then it’s the roles. It’s these roles which are so fabulous. They’re written out so well. These are performance roles. If you see Shanaya, she’s this evil person, and Maya is like 360 degree different from Shanaya. Both were challenging roles. Shanaya was evil, and she was evil without any reason. She was just born evil right from frame one to frame end. Shanaya was all dark, there was no light in her. I think that was the challenge for me; to play something so dark. And I think the challenge went off very well. Everybody who saw the film came out saying that I’ve done a fabulous job. Especially, if people like such a dark character that means your job is done. I don’t think anyone can be like that. It’s a crazy character.

While ‘Aatma’ does look different from your previous release, ‘Raaz 3’, didn’t you have any apprehensions about doing two back-to-back horror films?
You get these kind of roles once in a lifetime. You know, the opportunities for women are so limited in Hindi cinema; it’s mostly about looking good, being stylish and singing some pretty songs. So, once in a while when you get roles like these, why won’t you do it? So what if the horror is genre. Horror I think, worldwide, from Alfred Hitchcock, to Sam Raimi, to Steven Spielberg, just name them, and everyone has done horror and their films have been cult classics when they’ve touched that genre. In India, horror is being slowly fed to the audiences, and they’re definitely accepting it well. It’s come to a credible platform now. Earlier, there were B and C grade horror films, so that’s why I think people were not looking into it much. But it’s the most untapped genre, because how many comedy films, or how many 80’s masala movies will we have? You obviously want something new. This is also creatively, for a director and an actor, very fascinating. Because when you’re creating something that is unknown, which doesn’t have any guidelines, nothing bars you. It’s on you how are you going to project fear. Because, comedy, action, romance, all these genres have guidelines, that ‘aisa hi hota hai, but, unknown space mein kuch bhi ho sakta hai’, It’s the creative call of the director as to how he projects fear. So, I’ve done, back-to-back horror films with two directors, Vikram Bhatt and Suparn Verma, and both have their individualistic take on fear. I’m the same actress, but you’ll never feel like I’m the same actress in both the films. Everything is different – visual appeal and the shot-taking, the way the fear is put in, the human drama is very different, the characters are different. It’s a completely different film, so for me, it just made sense to do it.

Tell us your experience of working on ‘Aatma’
Suparn and me are mad. If you see us, we’re like physically mad also. We hit each other. I told him, next time if he speaks too much, I’ll bite his head, his ‘takloo’. He’s like, ‘she’s a ferocious crazy actress’. We’re quite insane on set also. When there were emotional scenes, I used to tell Suparn, ‘today you will not speak. If you speak, I’m not doing this shot.’ Because he’s a very happy soul, he has this very happy energy. And he’s so hyper. I used to think I’m hyper, so when there are two hyper people on set you can imagine! We make people mad together. Nawaz is the calm one. He was all ‘shaant’. He used to only laugh at both of us. We always say retarded things. He would be like laughing. Because, he can’t believe, half the times that it’s me talking. He came with a pre-concieved image of mine but we did some really good work together. He’s very sweet. He’s a gentleman. And he’s playing a fierce character, so we had to have that kind of physicality where he shouldn’t be intimidated by me or anything. In any case, I’m not very intimidating when I work, except that when people around me don’t want to work, then I get very angry, and my anger is like visible, you see it on my face, when things are not happening, the way they should be. My anger is like five-second anger, but it’s out, and I forget about it. I don’t keep anything inside.

Tags like ‘hot’, ‘sexy’ and ‘glamourous’ are associated with you, hence people might sometimes overlook the fact that you’re a good actor. Is that why you’re now being conscious about doing roles that are more performance-oriented? 
I’m just looking to do roles with more meat, but, I’ve not done anything to show anyone anything. The fact that I’ve been here for 12 years, doing well for myself, speaks a lot. Just a beautiful face cannot be here for 12 years. It does not. I’m that intelligent to understand it. And if I look back, the kind of films I’ve done, some have been credible, some have been disgusting, some have been average, some are like I look really good, so it’s been a continuous phase. But, after every few films, there has always been a film where people have said, ‘Oh she was really good!’ So, after a point of time, you want to do a challenging role, but, thankfully, I never got flak in any of my films. Even in my worse films, I don’t know, I guess critics are nice to me. I smooth sail through it. I’m very lucky. I’ve always been safe with that. I think the audience connect is very strong, that’s why I’ve been here for so long.

12 years in the industry…how have they been?  
When you see my filmography of so many years, you’ll see that I started out very young, I had no idea what I was doing; I didn’t even want to be an actor. So, from there, when you start learning the business, or you start getting attached to a business, there’s a lot that I’ve learned. And I’ve also made a lot of mistakes, which has kind of taught me more. I think I’m one of those most foolish actresses, who’s actually, pushed away a lot of opportunities coming her way, in her prime, in the peak of my career, for various different priorities in my life, at that point of time. Four years back I was almost like shutting shop. I started saying no to offers. Everyone in the business knows that. But, it was a personal call. It’s not like anybody put a gun on my head, I did it myself. So, you learn from it, and post that I realised that if I don’t do this, what am I going to do? This is what I love doing. When you understand your love and affection towards the business you’re a part of, you kind of bounce back. But I think it was a very good learning phase for me, because it got me even more involved in films. Today, I think, because of the kind of work that I have done, there’s some credibility, where even though, I’m a female actress, ideas come to me, concepts come to me. If I say yes, then it develops into a film. So, that itself is a big deal in a hero-centric business. It’s just a germ, not a full-bound script. If I like it, then it’s developed further. Then I work on it, I work with my director in every possible phase, till the time we shoot it, till the post-production, and till the promotions. So, I think I’m a way more involved actress now.

So, it’s been a whole lot of learning experience for you… 
Yes totally! And, it’s wonderful. This business just makes you such a wholesome person. It tests you. It tests the strength of the human being that you are. It’s a very vulnerable profession because one day you’re called like this hottest thing in town, and in the next few months, you’re shattered and you’re thrown down by the same media. It tests your balance, it tests your vulnerabilities. It tests your strengths. And it all happens at a very early age, so, it strengthens you somewhere.

Do failures still affect you?
I’m quite unaffected by failures. And it’s not just now, but it’s always been like that. I’ve had that attitude. You know, what has helped me be the calm person that I am…though, I’m not really calm, I’m really hyper. But, what has helped me is that I’m just in my own world. I’ve always been in my own world in this business. A lot of people tell me all the time, ‘you’re not cut out for this business’. But my answer to them is, ‘if I’m here for so long, how can I not be cut out for this business!’ It’s just that I’m unaffected by success too. Nothing has really changed in my life, other than the fact that I live in a bigger house, and I can provide a lot more luxury for myself and for my family. Yes, the only thing is that people have a lot of love for me. A lot of selfless love; people who don’t even know me, love me. So, for me, I want to make movies right now which are going to be watched, and which from the business point of view, make everyone happy. But I’m not that actor, who’s dying for all the accolades. For me, I want to be a part of this business and make good films and have interesting roles. That’s it. Nothing more than that!

Most actors try and relate to every character. But if you have to play a character like Shanaya of ‘Raaz 3’, which
is a far cry from yourself, how do you go about it?

That’s why ‘Raaz 3’ was the toughest for me; because I had no benchmark. Or I didn’t even know a human being who is like that. So, there was no point of reference. And there is nothing so evil in me that I could relate to the character. But you know, it kind of pushes you to that level when you’ve accepted it. I really have to say, that particular film got me in touch with some kind of insecurities that I had in life. I used to think that I’m the most secure person, because I’m not involved in anybody’s life. Most of the times, I’m in my own world. I do my own thing. But it made me feel that I’m quite fragile. I’m quite vulnerable. And it made me think, that as much as I say that this profession is not everything for me, my life is a bigger thing for me, as much as I’ve said, that there’s more to Bipasha Basu than just being an actor, it made me think that, it is not really the truth. There were times you know, when my balance would tilt, and I think that this profession really means a lot to me, and I don’t want to lose it. And that’s why I’m so fierce in my performances now. That’s why my honesty is right there. That’s why in ‘Aatma’ I gave my heart and soul. And in ‘Aatma’ also I realised something! There are realisations when you play a character and don’t have a reference point. If you want to be honest, you tap something inside you. In ‘Aatma’ I’ve realised that there’s this beautiful maternal instinct that I have, and I’m blessed with it, and I never thought about it, until date. But when I had to spend, 8-10 hours with this kid I realised that; I’m good with kids but I’ve never spent more than 2 hours, even with my niece who’s my favourite person in the world. But to live with a child, 8 hours a day, a child that gets cranky, sleepy, nagging, hungry, happy, fun, it kind of opened a new relationship in my head. My mother keeps telling me, ‘When you’ll become a mother you’ll know how much you torture mothers’. I did get a glimpse of that. It’s nice to know that every woman in blessed with the motherly instinct, even if you don’t have a child of your own.

So, you’re good with kids.
I like kids. I can become like a kid with a kid. So, that’s how I bond with them. I don’t patronise them; I’m like a kid with a kid.

You’re this strong, independent, sexy woman who looks all tough, but, I think you’ve got a child-like heart…
I have this big child in me which is not growing up only (laughs). The thing is, I’m very emotional. I don’t think that there’s anything that I’m not emotional about. I’m not a very detached person. I get very attached to anything. I try to put up a very tough exterior, since I live alone right from the age of 16 in a city like this. So, I have kind of got this tough appearance, but I do it for a reason. I don’t want everyone to reach out and know the real me, and take advantage of that. So, that’s something that I have cultivated over the years. But if someone gets to know me, they get to know me. I’m not very difficult to read. I like myself, I like it this way (smiles).

What next after ‘Aatma’?
After that, it’s only ‘Creature’ for now. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taapsee Pannu

“I take life as it comes, but I won’t take everything that comes”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the March 9, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

One look at Taapsee Pannu, and you know that you probably cannot forget that face. The lady has a different level of vivaciousness, that I notice when I meet her. Her animated face, and high-pitched, modulated voice are testaments to her excitement, for her Hindi cinema debut. After doing some considerably good work, down south, the actress is all set for her stint in Hindi cinema, as she makes her debut with David Dhawan’s ‘Chashme Buddoor’. Having done few films down the south, and bagging a David Dhawan film here, Taapsee still seems like any other normal girl, who is strong, independent, fun-loving, and follows her heart. In a long chat, she talks all about ‘Chashme Buddoor’ and herself. 

So, how did acting happen?
Basically, I don’t come from a filmy background. So, nobody was very supportive of me being an actress. Supportive of me as in, nobody really saw me here, because I’ve always been very studious, and a high-scorer, so it was a big shock for my family to know that I want to get into acting. And it happened very gradually, step by step. In college, in my second year, suddenly people put this thing in my mind that you should try something in modeling or something here and there because you look decently good, so I thought I should give it a shot. I went for Channel V, ‘Get Gorgeous’, got selected in the top ten girls from Delhi, got my portfolio made after that, then there were a lot of print ads, few commercials down south, and parallel to all this, I was doing my graduation in B.Tech. So, I’m an engineer, and then it was a totally different thing all together, to shift base from there to here. And I wanted people to know that the reason why I took up acting, is not because I had lack of options, it’s because I chose it. I had an Infosys job. In my third year itself, I got placed. I sat for the interview itself because I wanted to prove to my family and people around that I’m capable of getting a job. It’s just that I don’t see myself doing a 9-5 job. Then I gave my CAT exam and scored an 88 percentile, but decided not to go for B-school, because I’m not someone who’ll settle down for an average thing. I thought I’ll give it next year again. So, I thought, what to do within that time spent. Then I got really good offers from the south. Good directors, good actors, good production houses, which I didn’t get in Hindi at that point of time. Probably, three years from now, Hindi cinema was not as open to newcomers as it is right now. I didn’t see myself modeling for long, for sure, because I’m a person who gets bored very easily, so I have to keep doing different things all the time. So, I did films down the south. After 1-1 ½ years of working there, I got an offer for a Hindi film. Puri Jagannadh wanted to cast me in ‘Buddah Hoga Terra Baap’, but that didn’t happen as I didn’t have dates at that time, it was too immediate for me. Viacom was producing the same film and they were looking for a new girl for ‘Chashme Buddoor’, and Puri sir recommended me, and that’s how, I got into the film.

The original ‘Chashme Buddoor’ is a cult classic, so, comparisons are inevitable…
Comparisons will be made only till the time people walk into the theatre. Once they walk out of the theatre, they won’t even think of comparing it, because it’s all together a different movie if you see. Only the soul of it is the same where there are three guys trying for this one girl and eventually, one of them gets her. The character-sketches are completely different, especially my character. I’m no longer this shy, coy girl that Deepti mam played. I’m today’s gen X girl, whatever you call it. I’m not the one who’ll be waiting for other people to help her. I’m the one who’ll be standing up for myself. And it’s not the guys who’ll make me run around them, it’s me who’ll like drive them out of my area if I want to. It’s a 180-degree shift from what Deepti mam played and that’s probably the reason why I was cast for this film, because they were like, you just come on to the set, and be yourself, that’s what we want you to do. That’s why it was easy for me.

How do you go about it, when you’re offered a particular role?
I’m not a trained actor, so I don’t know what this preparation for acting is, so I don’t know what homework, am I supposed to do. The only thing that I’ve learnt over a period of time is to know, how will you say a particular line and how your character would say that line. There should be different ways. You are not you in the movie, so, you should find a difference between how you would say a line, and how your character should say it. I haven’t come across any role so far, for which I’ve required extensive preparation. This film, I was taken because I had to play myself. I just had to be myself. That was the easiest thing I was asked to do.

We have this quintessential David Dhawan comedy, so how well did you adapt to that? And how was it being directed by someone like him?
His films have on-the-face comedy. This one is not like that. Because, he was working with all-together a different set of people. He was working with youngsters and even if we try to do that kind of comedy, it will not click on us. Because the age group we belong to, people are very subtle and spontaneous. They won’t like on-the-face comedy. That’s not how the generation today is. So, it’s so surprising that a director, who is such a veteran, could like re-invent himself and work with a newcomer like me, and youngsters like the other actors in the film. He recreated the feel of the youth. He’s actually the youngest by heart. It’s his youth that has reflected in the movie. He’s a fun-loving man. He’s so raw and real, that you don’t feel like you’re meeting ‘The David Dhawan’. He’s very real in front of you. He doesn’t have the aura of being ‘The David Dhawan’, he doesn’t make you feel like he is that. Moreover, he didn’t make me feel like I’m a newcomer. He never really told me that you’re supposed to do this scene in this way. He asks you, how you want to go about it and lets you do it your way. If he wants you to do something else, he’ll tell you, but otherwise he just lets you be. Our job is to just make him laugh, nothing else.

Tell us about your equation with your co-stars in the film
Ali (Zafar) is a shy person, he hardly speaks and I’m a total contrast, and that was the funniest thing because in the movie also we play similar characters. His role is of a guy who is very shy and soft spoken and all. I had maximum scenes with him in the film. He’s very sweet. We used to force him to sing to just lighten up the mood or when we were just relaxing. Siddharth, I see him as my senior. He’s been a very encouraging co-actor for me. Whenever I have to do a scene with him, he sees a shot, and if he likes me, he makes sure he comes up to me and tells me that I gave a good shot. Something like that, coming from an actor like him who’s senior to me, is very encouraging. And Divyendu, he hails from the same city as me – Delhi, so that’s the connection we have. I have a good chemistry with Divyendu as well.

So, from here on, is there a plan as to the kind of films you wish to do, in Hindi cinema? Or you like to take things as they come?
I’ve never been a person who plans things, because nothing happens in my life the way I plan otherwise I wouldn’t have been here. But also, I’m not the person who’ll pick up anything and everything. I take life as it comes, but I won’t take everything that comes. I’m already busy enough down south, so it’s not like I have to force myself to take up a Hindi movie, just because it’s a Hindi movie. I waited for the right script to start off in Hindi cinema, I could have started off before only, but I didn’t do that, because I waited for the right thing. So, I have the patience to wait for the right movie. I don’t see myself doing only big superstar movies and all. I’m open to working with younger actors, if the script is really nice. I don’t have reservations as such as long as my script is good enough. I’m busy enough down south so, I don’t have to do a film for the sake of it.  

People who’ve worked for both, south, and Hindi cinema feel there’s a difference in the working styles of both the industries. Have you come across any difference?
Being just one film old here, I don’t really spot many differences. But just what I hear, or see around, I can say that down south, we work faster. Here they’re a little laidback and they take it slow. They’ll take it easily. From the time I started shooting for ‘Chashme Buddoor’, till date, I’ve just done one movie in Hindi, and three movies down south. That’s the difference in the amount of work we do there. In terms of the professionalism and all, I didn’t see any difference. Also, because we were all young actors, always prompt and on time. Another difference is that in the south, people treat an artist like God, so if we’re coming and people have to make way for us, they’ll make way as if some God is coming. There would be so apologetic, just because they’re standing in the way. Here it’s nothing like that. People treat each other as equals and there’s nothing wrong in that. Here we are like normal people. There we’re treated like God.
So, the journey of the film must have been a smooth one?
The funny thing is, since I belong to a Punjabi background, my Hindi is a lot like the Punjabi Hindi, and I have that accent. So, when I was shooting for the movie, I didn’t care about how I was sounding, I was more concerned about seeming real. I had dubbed for two of my Telegu movies, so I was like, dubbing in Hindi will be a cakewalk, but the moment I went for dubbing, the first scene itself took like 1-2 hours to dub. I couldn’t just get that normal Hindi accent because I’m so used to talking in the Punjabi style Hindi. I was struggling to speak in normal Hindi. My pronunciations sounded so much Punjabi. And my dubbing engineer was like ‘madam we have to release this film in India, not just in Punjab and Delhi’. That’s one major problem I faced. And, they were like, instead of Seema Raajan, should we change your name in the film to Seema Ranjan? If she’s from a Punjabi background, we could at least justify the accent. (Laughs)They were almost on the verge of giving up and said, ‘this girl can never stop sounding like a Punjabi’. I had to really work hard for the dubbing.

You said your character in ‘Chashme Buddoor’ is like you. So, how are you?
I’m definitely not reserved or shy at all. It’s a difficult task for me to give ‘shying’ expressions on camera even today. Every girl is emotional in her own different way. I might not be emotional on the face, but you won’t know what is going inside me. I get attached to people very fast. That’s one thing that works against me many times. I get attached to and trust people very fast.

What genre do you think is the easiest and the most difficult for you?
Whatever I did in ‘Chashme Buddoor’ was not difficult. Because, I didn’t do a typical comedy role. I just played myself and the situation becomes comic. Doing this was easiest, because I’m playing a girl who’s more real, practical, forthcoming and all that. What becomes difficult for me is to portray a girl who thinks about hundred people before what she wants. That is unreal. Those are the characters that I find difficult portraying. I’m not a trained actor so if I don’t relate to a character, how will I perform it!

Any one director that you really want to work with?
I want to work with all of them. But if you ask me this, the director who comes in my mind is Mani Ratnam. That’s one director who I don’t want to go out of the industry without working with. Even if he makes a film in German or anything, I’ll do that also. But he should make me work in his movie at least once.

When not working, what do you do?
I sleep. I enjoy when I sleep. Or like any other girl, I go out and shop (smiles). 

Thursday, March 14, 2013


“I attempted and failed. And then, that became a habit”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the March 9, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Simplicity is under-rated, and it’s rare to find actors with so much simplicity. While his intense, intimidating eyes, and strong persona, tell something else, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is such a simple man! An actor who just wants to keep working hard and, an actor who’s extremely comfortable in his individuality who would never want to ape anyone. While it’s only last year, that he saw a rise in his popularity with his acts in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Kahaani’ and ‘Talaash’, what most people tend to oversee is the fact that he’s faced so many failures, and struggled all through, to be where he is today. And obviously, the man deserves the accolades coming his way. It’s nice to know the real Nawaz behind the dark characters he’s been essaying. In a freewheeling chat, the actor talks about his journey, failures, his craft, and his upcoming film, Suparn Varma directed ‘Aatma’ that has him opposite Bipasha Basu. Read on…

The whole experience of shooting for ‘Aatma’, how has it been?
It’s been a tough process. But more than me, it was tough for Bipasha. It’s more difficult to get scared, than scare people. To portray fear is difficult. But the toughest part was to move away from the horror films that we see generally, and to do something different. Suparn (director) had the same expectations that if we’re casting Nawaz for the film, we have to do something different in the horror genre. We did not want to take the typical route and be predictable. So, I didn’t even go by the formulaic route of horror films. We didn’t make the film, over-the-top or unbelievable. We’ve tried to show fear in the normal day-to-day life. For instance, if you’re just sitting, you’re not expecting someone and they suddenly open the door and come in front of you. Or for example, you’re sleeping, and suddenly at 3 in the night, you see me sitting and staring at you, you would get scared.

Your choice of films has been quite unique…has that been a conscious decision?
For me do to a film now, it’s important that the film touches me in some way or the other. I should somewhere relate to it because of the experiences I’ve had in my life, or read something, somewhere. Generally, that’s my criteria for doing a film. As far as ‘Aatma’ is concerned, I signed it, because I could connect to and relate to the emotional triangle in the film.

Tell us your experience of working with director Suparn, and a co-actor like Bipasha, for ‘Aatma’
I’d always heard about Suparn that he’s very good, and very strong technically. But I didn’t really know how he treated his actors or what kind of performance does he get out of his actors; that I came to know when I went on the sets. Suparn’s way of getting the best out of his actors is truly commendable. He’s really good at it. He can even get an average actor to act well, just because of how he treats his actors. He explains the essence of a scene, and then leaves it to the actors to execute it the way they want to. For this film, Suparn gave me a lot of references and we had long discussions on it. I think that technique of his is very good. And, when I came to know that Bipasha was opposite me in the film, I was like, ‘Oh my God. She’s like this glamourous, very hot actress, and I’ve been a part of rather realistic, hardcore films’. I may be an actor, but at the end of the day, I’m first a normal human, and when you’re working with an actress like that, you tend to get nervous. I came to know 20 days before we started shooting that she’s with me in the film, and honestly, I’ve had a tough time those 20 days thinking about how it is going to be. And Bipasha remained in my thoughts all the time in those 20 days. Then when I went on the sets, she was all normal, and I was very nervous for the initial scenes. But she’s very easy-going, and very nice. So, she calmed me down, and slowly, it was all normal.

When you started out, did you think that, “I just want to be a part of this particular kind of cinema”?
Honestly, I had no expectations at all, because I had no work. A person who has nothing will always think that ‘whatever I get is good enough’. So, for me, it was like that. I was okay with any film that came my way. I was ready to do any little role that came my way. I didn’t really have a choice.

Your journey hasn’t been easy at all…
Initially, I started with very small roles. I kept going, because I didn’t have anything else to do. But, it’s only because of those small roles, that I started getting slightly bigger roles. I went step by step. I attempted and failed. And then that became a habit. I got to do 3-4 scenes in ‘Black Friday’, but before that I had already seen five years of struggle. Later, ‘Black Friday’ was banned; I sat at home and had nothing to do. When ‘Black Friday’ released, I finally got some appreciation. And then, again after a long struggle, I got a film like ‘Kahaani’. Thankfully, ‘Kahaani’ was a hit, and it got its due. At that time, I was already doing ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. It was an old promise that Anurag kept.

And did you ever anticipate that ‘GOW’ would do so well?
Not at all! (Smiles)

Seemingly, your failures have made you so strong, haven’t they? 
When you face failure, unconsciously, you start getting stronger from within. You can’t get weak. Just as I kept facing failures, from my core, I kept getting strong. I used to get frustrated, and also got depressed. But I didn’t have any other choice or option because I didn’t know what else I would do, if I returned back. I didn’t know any other work. The thought of returning back came to my mind several times, but later I thought, it would be a big insult, and people would make fun of me. So, then, I knew that I had to be here only, and I had to keep at it, no matter what. Then I was like, ‘Let’s see how it goes. I’ll just keep trying. Ten times, hundred times, thousand times, I’ll just keep trying.’ To keep attempting, became a part of who I am. I started believing that, ‘To attempt is Nawaz’s only job. That’s it. I don’t care if I get work or no. I’ll just keep trying’. And after a point of time, I had become ‘besharam’. Even in my personal life, things got so difficult that a task that a normal person could finish in three attempts, I took ten attempts for it, and still couldn’t accomplish. Obviously, it hasn’t been easy. But like I said, I didn’t have an option. It was my destiny, to just try, try and try!

The characters you play on-screen might leave people intimidated. People who don’t really know you, might think that you’re quite like your on-screen image. But you’re not…
An actor shouldn’t have any image. An actor should be like water. Just like water takes the shape of a container, an actor should fit into any character easily. So, I lead a very simple life. I lead a very simple life so that I can play complex characters easily, and can do different roles. If I made my life difficult, then, I’d only be able to do a certain kind of roles. As an actor, you need to have an extremely neutral personality, only then you’ll be able to do justice to various emotions you portray on-screen. If you have a typical personality, or thought process then you bring it on-screen too. And then, it seems fake. For instance, every actor wants to be smart. I see actors on stage dance, and talk. They talk well. But everyone wants to be smart and cool. But there’s monotony in every one’s personality. So, a person should stay according to what his nature is. He shouldn’t be like somebody else, in order to seem smart and cool. In the process of being all smart, your real core personality stays behind. The notion, that ‘a quintessential Hindi film hero should be like this and like that’, takes away your individuality from you. And then actors bring in so many changes, and shades to themselves to be someone else, that their originality, individuality gets lost. I’ll be what I am, and I’m okay with what I am. But when I’m playing a character, I will be totally different from what I am, because I allow that, since otherwise I am an original. But if your actual personality is only fake, then the character you play on-screen looks fake too. Having said that, I bring in something from my real self to the characters I play. One person can have ten emotions and various sides to him. You’re different with different people. I bring in something from myself to each character. So, I have the arrogance of a gangster and I can be Faisal Khan, and at the same time, I also have that reluctant guy from ‘Talaash’ within me that I bring out on-screen when I have to.

What is it that you love the most about being an actor?
In our real lives, we lie, I lie. This profession allows me to say the truth in that one moment through my character. I love acting, because in our real lives, we lie so many times, but while I act, I can, at least, get that one moment when I can be true to myself by being true to the character. When the camera is on, I want to be the character. I want to be Faizal Khan when I’m supposed to, and be absolutely true at that time. The normal man doesn’t get that opportunity to be true at most times.

Over the years, who has been your inspiration? Not just when it comes to acting, but in general too.
As far as acting is concerned, actors like Dilip Kumar, Naseeruddin Shah have been inspiration for me. But generally, people who just work hard, do small jobs, and someday dream to grow big, remain an inspiration. You know, those people, who just work with all their dedication without any expectations. Like I had this teacher in my village who never missed to come and teach us. Every normal person is my idol. The profession doesn’t matter. But nobody knows these people, and still they just keep working hard, without expecting much. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Arjun Rampal 2

“To let someone down, to let audience down; that’s my fear”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the January 12, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Over the last few years, the man has demanded your attention. He’s made you sit up and take notice of the actor he has proven to be. Most definitely, with a variety of roles in his body of work, he’s broken the stereotype, ‘models can’t act’. You can’t help but notice Arjun Rampal’s range as a performer when he does an ‘Om Shanti Om’, ‘Rock On!!’, and then goes on to a ‘Raajneeti’, ‘Chakravyuh’ and now ‘Inkaar’. Also, notice the kind of filmmakers he’s been working with. Arjun, though, continues to remain modest. Amidst all the maddening promotional work for his forthcoming film ‘Inkaar’, he makes time for a lengthy chat. In his plush and beautiful apartment, he seems in a relaxed mode as he sips on coffee, dressed in a casual white shirt and denims, looking as handsome as ever. He smiles, and breaks into a contagious laughter every now and then. His dimples coupled with his husky voice add to the charm. He laughs even while I tell him that women are drooling over his hot avatar in the promos of ‘Inkaar’. Anyway, let’s get going then. Here we have, Arjun Rampal talking about this Sudhir Mishra film, the subject of sexual harassment, about films, films and more films in a completely candid chat

The way you’ve been promoting this film, or perhaps, any other film, it shows how necessary it is to do so, isn’t it? 
Today promotions are very important. You have to put your best foot forward just to make people aware about the movie and why they should come and see it. Yes, it’s hectic but one has to do it because it’s very important.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen you doing characters and films that are unique and more concept-driven. That’s been a conscious decision?
That’s what I look for. That’s what excites me. That’s what I want to do. I love to get a part where I don’t see me and I see my character. It’s fun to build that character. I like to do a film that has more to say than entertain. Of course a film has to entertain, that’s very important. But the story must entertain, the screenplay must entertain. It must grip you. Also, you get to know a lot through that process. If I get to learn a lot from a film while we make it, I’m sure the audience will get to learn a lot while seeing it. And if I find films like that, well and good. I’m totally comfortable with these kinds of films. But otherwise it’s also good to do completely commercial, larger-than-life films. But again, over there, there should be something new.

Moving from one character to another…do you have to go through preparations while doing so?
Any good performance comes from hours and hours of rehearsal. Really! It’s a lot of preparation. And that also helps you to understand a character better and get more clarity. Especially, when you do a film like ‘Chakravyuh’, or even an ‘Inkaar’ or ‘Rock On!!’ For ‘Rock On!!’ when I had to play Joe Mascarhenas, I didn’t know to play a guitar, but I needed to learn it to get the whole vibe. So, I went through three months of training, to be into the character and get a feel of it. For it to look that effortless, on-screen, it is about getting into the skin of it. It requires some kind of training and very few films allow you to do that. Even for ‘Ra.One’ I had to create a look, an image which would get stuck in people’s minds. To be robotic and to be that kind of a character was not easy. Then, in ‘Raajneeti’, to be this wild guy, get that whole madness, be negative and then, he’s also good. He could kill for his brother and also die for him. In ‘Chakravyuh’, to be that cop to be fit, be single-mindedly focused to get this job done. To bring to the audience a message and then to entertain them – to get that mix is a very tough job. And that’s a similar thing in ‘Inkaar’ too.

So, how did you have to prepare for your role in ‘Inkaar’?
I don’t know anybody who is like my character Rahul. I’ve never sexually harassed or been in this kind of situation. So, you speak to people, and you read them a few scenes. Sudhir and me spent a lot of time on the script. When he showed me the script, it was very linear format. I liked certain things, but wasn’t completely satisfied and neither was he. And I wasn’t working that time, had a month and a half off, so I thought if we could sit and work on the script and get these two point of views nicely, make it in non-linear format, treat it like a psychological thriller, it would be exciting. Spending that time with him on the script, by the time I was on the set, I was already into the character. As a director Sudhir is great with layering characters. He brings various nuances to that character. What’s really nice about working with him is that he easily brings you into that zone of being effortless where everything looks real. It’s nuanced.

Again, the concept of ‘Inkaar’ isn’t something that we’ve seen on-screen before. Tell us about it.
In ‘Inkaar’, it’s a scenario which is very relevant in today’s times. You explore the dynamics of a man and a woman, today in modern India in an advertising agency. What happens in the working environment between them? What happens when a woman is too powerful? What happens when you’re slammed with a sexual harassment case. And what is sexual harassment really? Where have you studied about it? What is the knowledge you have about it? It’s not molestation. It’s a mind game. Why would someone go through that mind game with you? What are the dynamics of that and when does flirting become harassment? I asked someone the other day, as to how would they define this relationship between a female boss, and a male intern? So, someone called it a toy-boy situation. Someone called it cradle-snatching. And when asked how would you define a male boss sleeping with the female-intern, the general perspective would be that she’s sleeping with the boss to get promoted. That’s what the way the whole perception would be. But nobody said it could be love. The film answers a lot of question and explains a lot about what a man or a woman needs to do. May be a man needs to be more sensitive towards a woman. People generally say that women don’t make good bosses. Why? Because women tend to get very emotional and it’s easy for them to over-react. Also, why does a woman have to become a man in a work environment? She just needs to be herself and the focus needs to go into productivity. And when you talk about sexual harassment, there’s a fine line as to when it can be termed as sexual harassment. But how do you find that out? You don’t know what the rules are. The film is about all of this.

Do you think ‘Inkaar’ would break the stereotypes and perceptions that generally people have towards an issue like this?
It will genuinely make people think. Anything that is offensive sexually becomes sexual harassment. If you call someone hot or sexy or beautiful, a girl could find that offensive, or a guy could find that offensive. A work environment today is becoming unhealthy. People do stuff like that. There’s nothing being defined correctly. A man still thinks he can get away with that. A woman still keeps quite. While making the film, we did a lot of research and found that in some IT companies, they have 60 sexual harassment cases in a month. They have an in-house department to iron them out. Now, that’s healthy if there is some solution to it. At least you have something where people say, you can do something. So, I think the film will make people think and make them aware. The most interesting part of the film is the screenplay that spans over seven years. It’s about Rahul and Maya’s journey through these years. It’s a non-linear story so you keep going back and forth. That’s very exciting. You will not know who’s right and who’s wrong till the last scene in the film. It has very equal perspectives from a man’s point of view and a woman’s point of view. So, that would make the film entertaining, and I hope people connect to it. Also, if a film is based on sexual harassment, you’d instant think it’s an adult film, but it’s not an adult film. It’s got a U/A certificate and me as a father today of two girls, if my girls were 15-16 which they’re not, I would take them to see the film. To show them that if anything like that happens, it’s important to take a stand. These things need to be spoken.

People are raving about your unique pairing with Chitraganda Singh? How has it been working with her?
It is certainly a very unique and clean casting. She’s really beautiful and a fine actor. She’s worked very hard and acted very beautifully in the film. And it’s also very well written. Even my wife when she saw it, she said the chemistry between the two of you is very good. So, it’s nice that the pairing looks fresh.

One notices, that lately, you’ve been working with directors whose films have these complex characters and have a slightly dark side. Be it Madhur Bhandarkar, Prakash Jha or Sudhir Mishra…
I work with directors who see me differently. That’s what excites. That’s the surprise. I work for the surprise. And if a director can see me in different light and wants to put me in that kind of scenario and situation and has the belief in me, to give me that kind of a part then that’s the challenge and that’s exciting. I get bored very fast, that’s my biggest problem and may be my biggest plus point. You should feel like you’re on a different set. You can’t do similar things. Directors like Prakash Jha, Sudhir, Farah…all the director I’ve worked with in recent times, they have all seen a different side to me. And when they see how you work, they want to give you something different next time. For instance, from playing Prithvi in ‘Raajneeti’, I went on to play this tough cop in ‘Chakravyuh’ and now, in ‘Satyagraha’, Prakash has again given me this different character. I play this ruffian kind of a guy. And then, there’s Sudhir who wanted to bring out my sensitive side. He told me, I want to bring out the woman’s side of you (laughs).

Does it make you nervous when the audience starts expecting something from you?
It’s now happening that the audience is expecting a certain kind of work from me. I’ve consciously tried to make that happen and hopefully they should continue to do so. Hopefully, I’ll continue to entertain them and not let them down. To let someone down, to let audience down; that’s my fear, because you’re trying to do something different. People are investing money to do something different. But the biggest pressure is the day you say yes to a film, and it continues from that point. You have to be focused and you have to feel it through completely. The film I believe in, I can give it 3 months, 4 months of my life. I give it everything to bring it out to the audience. On Friday, you have to say bye to it, because then that’s for the audience to judge and except it. After that, it is destiny. It’s like sending your child to the boarding school. For me, as an actor, what I walk away on that Friday I think about how the experience was. If the experience is a good one and healthy one, you don’t feel that bad. Of course, you want all your movies to do well. Who doesn’t want that? Because that’s what you work for, you want people to like your work, you want that adulation and work. But for me, I think, the films I’ve done for the last few years have been quality films, they’ve been respectable. They’ll be films which I could watch even few years down the line and be proud of them. So, it’s important to make the right choice while choosing a film.  

So, now you’ve got more conscious while choosing a film?
Yes, very conscious! That’s the toughest part. Choosing a film is the toughest part, but once you say yes, you give it all.

Today, the line between niche cinema, and out-and-out commercial cinema, is fading away. What’s your take on that, as an actor and a producer?
There’s an audience for everything. I believe, every film gets watched. Hopefully, people watch it on big screen. Or else, there’s satellite, or DVD. Most films get watched, because through social media and all, you come to know. A film that released two years back and someone’s talking about it now. But yes, you’re right! It’s a great period for us as actors, filmmakers, people who want to do all kinds of cinema. There’s an audience who’s gone larger and beyond a single screen or a multiplex. There’s no such divide now. It’s a great time for us.

2013 looks interesting for you as well. Tell us about your line-up of films…
I have Nikhil Advani’s ‘D-Day’, in July. It’s a thriller, with lots of action, so that was fun doing. There’s ‘Satyagraha’ which I think would release on August 15. Then, there’s another film that I’m doing with a new director called Sam Ahmed, which is titled ‘Villain’. I’ll start with that film once I’m done working on ‘Satyagraha’.  

When not working, how do you spend your time?
I love to travel. Spend time with close friends, mostly at home only. I like to read. But I think travelling is the best way. The best is when my kids are on summer holidays, we go somewhere. I don’t take up any work at that time. That’s the time I completely de-stress. And even the gym, when you work out, that’s like a good de-stress every day. So, that’s what I like to do.

After achieving the kind of success you have, how much does success mean to you?
It means a lot. It means that I will get more opportunity to do something more than what I want. For anybody, success is being able to create more. Success is growth for me. I always look upon growth as…like my first unit had 50 people, today, when I work on a film, there’s a crew of 500 people. So, that many more people are getting employed because of that growth. That’s success for me, when more people can get employed if my film does well. For instance, I have my club Lap. If it’s doing well, I can open another branch, and that can employ more people. It’s about how many more people will grow with me. That’s why success is important to me.

Acting, producing and being a businessman. What do you love the most?
I’m the happiest when I’m in front of the camera. So, that’s what I love the most I think.

Do we see you produce another film soon?
For sure, I would concentrate on that, sometime soon. The thing is, right now, I’ve very good parts which I’m liking to play as an actor. If I produce, I’ll only have to concentrate on that and won’t be able to do anything else. I can’t multitask. So I rather concentrate on one thing at a time.

And would you be producing a film, similar to the kind of films you do as an actor?
Yes, of course. I still don’t understand when people categorise cinema as niche and commercial. For me cinema has always been big. The whole experience of watching a film on the theatre is big, so a film has to be like that. It must give you a nice theatre experience. So, I would love to may be produce a biopic or something. Or may be a unique subject or a larger-than-life film and at the same time keep it real. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mahie Gill

“I’m so sensitive, I cry at the drop of a hat”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the February 23, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Mahie Gill has always been perceived as this unconventional Hindi Cinema heroine. She’s not really seen dancing around trees with the hero, or just seen as a glam doll. Of course, now we do have roles being written for actresses, that go beyond just looking good. But, ever since her debut, Mahie has carved a different niche for herself. In recent times, she’s one of the actresses, who has broken the stereotypes built around Hindi film heroines, by her bold acts. Interestingly, she’s completely opposite of her on-screen image. She’s calm, composed, and shy. Yes, shy! Can you believe that? Yet, she manages to speak her mind, doesn’t think twice before saying what she believes, and isn’t diplomatic. When I settled down for a chat with the lady, she had finally managed to catch up on her coffee, and some food after spending several hours giving interviews. And no, still no sign of fatigue or boredom as she talks to me. Donning a saree, getting into her ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns’ look, Mahie gets talking about the film amidst several other things in a candid chat, while sipping on her cappuccino, and munching on her sandwich.

How was it to go back to the ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster’ mode?
I always had this intuition while we were doing the first part that we shall have a sequel to this film. In fact, after I saw the first part, I knew we would make a sequel. Tigmanshu (Dhulia) had thought earlier only, that if ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster’ does well, we’ll make the sequel. I had the intuition. And now I have another intuition, we’ll definitely make the third part.

Working on a sequel…is it easier since you’ve already got the hang of the character, or is it difficult?
I think it’s much more difficult. Because people have loved the first part, so they expect the second part to be better. Even in terms of the character, I feel that the first part was much easier for me to portray than the second part. This one is much more complex. The character has many shades and lots of emotions. So for me, it was a more difficult role than the first one. But this an entertaining film. People must watch it. It has the right ingredients in terms of dialogue-baazi, dhishoom dhishoom, romance, aggression, everything, and of course, it is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s film.

You seem to be extremely choosy about your projects…what do you see in a film before you sign it?
The script has to be good, then my role, then my director. And then, of course, the producer matters. Because I want my film to release, and don’t want it to be lying in the ‘dabba’. All four things are important. But, so far, I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been offered these kind of roles. The roles have chosen me. These are the roles written for me. So, that has made it different. All the films I’ve done so far, be it ‘Dev D’ or ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster’ or ‘Not a Love Story’, had very important women characters. I’ve been lucky to be a part of such films.

What has drawn you towards becoming an actor?
I never wanted to become an actor. I wanted to join the army. I was even training for the army. But I had a personal issue because of which I wanted to get away from Chandigarh; I thought acting is the only thing I could do. I thought I’ll come to Mumbai and get a small role in a serial or something. This had to happen, so it happened. I was probably destined to be a part of films. I have a Filmfare, and all these awards in my house, and I still think ‘are they real?’ Because, I had never really expected this.

In very little time, you seem to have carved your own niche in the industry…
I’m not that good. It’s just that the roles that have been offered to me are good. If there would be anyone else also, instead of me, in those roles, they would have done good job. What’s important is, you have to be intelligent enough to understand the director. You need to understand what your director wants. Coming from a theatre background, I understand my directors. Like during ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster’, I did a particular scene and Tigmanshu said you should do it some other way. I understood what he wanted from me and I did the scene that way. A lot of actors do not understand what the director wants. And this is a director’s medium, like theatre is an actor’s medium.  When you’re on stage, nobody can tell you what to do, you’re there for two hours and the stage is all yours. Here it’s the director’s call. If he thinks a scene hasn’t come well, he can tell you what he exactly wants.

So, when you’re given a character, how do you go about preparing for it? For instance, let’s talk about ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns’ in particular.
This film has required no preparations at all. When you’re working with Tigmanshu Dhulia, you have to leave your brains at home and go. We reached the set and directly shot. Of course, only vodka helped a lot. The only preparation was vodka, having vodka at 8 30 in the morning. Other than that, I didn’t really have to prepare. But yes, when I was doing the first part, we were living with the royal family, where we shot the film now also. Plus, costumes, atmosphere, working with good actors, it really helps. My co-stars in the film, they’re all good actors, and when you’re working with good actors, it automatically helps you deliver well. But if you’re working with an actor who’s a duffer, it will spoil the performance.

As an actor, how do you manage to portray something that you may be aren’t feeling at that moment? Like if you have to do a scene that wants you to cry…
In that case, I go in the past and remember things that have made me go through that emotion. I remember when I saw my father dead in office. That is one image I can never forget. Whenever I have to cry, I think of that image. I can cry very easily. Even right now I can cry. I’m almost in tears thinking about that image. I’m so sensitive, I cry at the drop of a hat. Most actors are sensitive and it really helps them perform.

This is the second time you’re working with both Irrfan Khan and Jimmy Shergill. How has it been?
Irrfan is a baba! He’s really good. He’s a lot like me. We’re both shy, and we’re not very flamboyant. So that’s the fun of it. He’s a genius as far as acting is concerned. Jimmy is a fabulous actor, he was the best in part one. I think he’s under-rated, and he deserves much more than what he has got.

Men find you extremely sexy. And ironically, you’ve usually donned a sari or salwar kameez in most of your films. Be it ‘Dev D’, or the ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster’ franchise. What do you have to say about that?
The characters written were such. The characters were bold and aggressive. I think men like aggressive women. For the first time, sexuality was unfolded, in ‘Dev D’. The women I’ve portrayed are very strong. So, I think that’s the reason why. And it’s also about the attitude. Men always want their wife to be like their mothers. When a man sees a woman in a saree, they remember their mothers who for them, is the most relatable woman in the world. Men find it very homely. I suppose men like that, ‘thoda dikhana thoda chhupana’. Men like mystery (laughs).

Making your debut with a film like ‘Dev D’ that was niche, and extremely bold. Didn’t you have any apprehensions?
I didn’t have any work when I came to Mumbai. I didn’t even know who Anurag Kashyap was at that point of time. Coming from Chandigarh, you’ve only heard of Yash Chopra and Karan Johar. That time, new-age cinema wasn’t accepted. I was lucky Anurag saw me and cast me. I am in the industry at a right time when films are getting critical acclaim and commercial success both.

What next after ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns’?
I’m a part of the ‘Zanjeer’ remake and in that film, I’m supposed to look all sexy which I don’t feel I am. And I’m not wearing sarees in that film, so I don’t know if I’ll look sexy in that. Also, I’m doing an item song in ‘Bullet Raja’ which has been quite a challenge. I think Bollywood dancing is very difficult. Trust me! I can do ‘bindaas’ dancing. But to match the steps then and lip sync, that’s a task! Hats off to all these actresses who do it and then you’re also supposed to be looking good all the time. I think it’s very difficult.

On-screen you’re expected to wear all the stylish outfits, depending on your character. Off-screen, what do you love wearing?
I love wearing sarees, but I wear it occasionally. Usually I just like to be in my pyjamas when I’m at home or a simple pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

You’ve come a long way. Are you happy today, when you look back?
I’m happy with the way things have moved for me. It has been a roller-coaster ride and that is the fun part. Otherwise, life becomes boring. I did ‘Dev D’ and then there was a gap, one or two films didn’t do well, and then again another film did well. That’s how it keeps going.

As an actor, is there any role that you loved, and you wish you could do it?
I’d say Waheedaji’s role in ‘Guide’, and Sridevi’s role in ‘Chaalbaaz’ and yes, Rekha ji’s role in ‘Khoobusrat’. All of these were beautifully written roles.

Any genre that you wish to try soon?
My friends tell me I’m very funny and comedy is the most difficult genre. I don’t mean slapstick comedies, but to make people laugh without making funny faces, or without making it obvious is very difficult. That’s something I want to try.

Your on-screen characters have been aggressive and bold. Off-screen, you seem extremely calm and composed…
That’s the fun part ­– When you’re not something and you portray something. I like to play such characters since I don’t get to do that in real life. I enjoy doing what I do. I’m very shy person. But people who don’t know me think I’m like my characters, in real life too.

You don’t really go out, party et all that, and maintain a very low-profile. You aren’t a very social person, are you?
It’s just that I mingle with people who I’ve known. I’m shy, and I’m not really an extrovert. During ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, everybody in my crew thought I have an attitude problem. But, on the last day, I danced like a maniac, people were shocked. They saw this other side to me. I just take time to gel with people, and later, I’m like a house on fire!

Apart from films, what else do you love?
I love travelling. Travelling across the world and exploring India. The east side is still left though. I like to try different cuisines; I’m a big foodie so wherever I go I like to try different cuisines. And I love to spend time with my dog!