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! 

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