How do you remain charged all the time considering you have three back-to-back releases — Shaadi Ke Side Effects, Ragini MMS 2, Main Tera Hero — and TV shows?
I don’t charge myself at all. In fact I try to disconnect as much as I can by meeting friends or exercising. But the thing with me is that there is no middle path — either everything happens simultaneously or nothing. So either I’ll have three films releasing at one go or not have a release for eight months.
For someone who’s not married but must have got at least 100 characters married on television, what according to you are the side effects of marriage?
(Laughs) Personally I have zero experience but from what I’ve seen, the biggest side effect of marriage is that men are indeed from Mars and women from Venus. Clashes are bound to happen because one person in the equation has more testosterone and the other more estrogen. Men are good at logic, women better at multitasking, men like to solve an issue while women like to discuss the issue. Men and women are clinically so different that whenever they are in proximity, they will end up having a sparkling relationship. Sometimes marriage can feel like a chewing gum — you can neither throw it nor swallow it. You might be irritated by your spouse but you can’t walk away so easily. All this is so interesting and it’s fun to explore it in a film. In the last few years, marriage has lost its typicality. It is now between two equals staying together.
Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar make for an atypical screen pair. How did that come about?
Credit for that must go to the Nandys (producers Pritish and Rangita Nandy) who cast them as husband and wife in the film. It’s because of this unusual pairing of Vidya and Farhan that I wanted to buy the film. I was very sure that this pair will sparkle because they are so different as people — Farhan is controlled and restrained, yet very witty whereas Vidya is flirtatious
Vidya and you share a strong connection, right from Hum Paanch to The Dirty Picture. Tell us about
I just love Vidya. She is the one person in the industry I feel I can lean on. I share an unabashed, fun and open connect with her primarily because we started our careers together. She has a wicked sense of humour.
When she married Sid (Siddharth Roy Kapur), I told her, “Chal… you landed up with a Kapoor, only.” I wouldn’t have made The Dirty Picture without her. She’s a wonderful and brave actor but I like Vidya, the human being more. She watches my back and she knows I have hers.
Your creative credentials are undeniable. But what happens when you work with someone like Farhan Akhtar, who, while being a writer-director is also a strong creative force. How do you navigate that?
I allied with Farhan because of his creative sensibilities and abilities. I know that when Farhan makes a creative suggestion then he must have a valid point and I must listen to him because I also know that Farhan wouldn’t have agreed to do the film if he didn’t see creative merit in it. I like to give that creative space to the people I work with. Sure if I felt something was amiss, I voiced my opinion, but the ultimate decision always rests with the team. There will be landmines when you work with different entities but once you take a decision then you honour it and try and be on the same page as much as you can.
Your film Lootera was critically feted but the award season has more or less ignored it. What do you feel about that?
I wasn’t surprised. I was expecting it because I know that award season is exactly that — a season. It comes and goes and serves its purpose, which is to get TRPs for a channel. I’m not taking away the credibility of award shows but I don’t take them seriously. I try and not put too many eggs in the output box. Lootera might not have done well commercially but it will always remain a badge for me. I use it as my trump card. Whenever someone says, “Oh, you are making a horror sex film Ragini MMS 2 with Sunny Leone”, I say “Lootera”. When they say, “Oh, the women on television shows are so regressive”, I say “Lootera”. So you see, Lootera is my perfect one word answer to all the naysayers.
Every magazine that does a Power List declares you as the Most Powerful Woman. What does power mean to you?
I don’t think I’m powerful. I don’t know which TV show or film will click so how can I be powerful? I don’t know how to protect my heart, my family or myself so how can I be powerful? Nobody is really powerful. People just perceive you as powerful.
But do people say ‘no’ to you?
Oh yes. And it’s always those who you don’t want to hear a ‘no’ from.
Who is your biggest critic?
My best friend Tanusri Dasgupta. She’s also the creative director in our company. She reads out the riot act to me, sends me memos and reads out my memoirs also.
You have given innumerable breaks to aspiring actors in television and now in films too, you are backing young actors like Sidharth Malhotra (The Villain) and Varun Dhawan (Main Tera Hero). How do you spot talent?
I gamble on people. You can give me a pint of passion over a bazooka of talent any day. Talent without passion is boring but passion without talent is endearing. I just spot passion. Varun and Siddharth are touted to be the next big things. They already have a fan following and my nieces love them. It’s good to see young actors in films. I must add here that Farhan is the youngest of the lot. I’ve known him for 20 years — when as kids we both joined an ad agency and were flunkies together — but he hasn’t changed.
What do you love more — films or television?
Films are my affair but TV is my shaadi and like someone just said to me, shaadi is something that once you are in it, you just can’t get out of it.