Until a few days ago, Bollywood buffs were aware of Regina Cassandra as a debutant who was expected to appear as Sonam Kapoor’s love interest in Shelly Chopra Dhar’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. But with the film hitting screens, critics and moviegoers seem to be in awe of this new girl in Hindi cinema.
Regina, 28, has earlier acted in several Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, also starring Anil Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao and Juhi Chawla, marks her debut in Bollywood. Through the film, she “wants the audience to understand that there are different forms of love and you can’t cage people who are in love or try and fit them in a norm.”
In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, Regina Cassandra shared the experience of working in Bollywood and her equation with Sonam Kapoor. She also reveals who convinced her to play a homosexual on the silver screen in her first Bollywood film.
Here are the excerpts from the conversation:
Q. How did you land the role in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga?
Director Shelly Chopra Dhar had come down to Chennai and narrated the story to me. In fact, she was the first person who spoke to me about the film and said that I need to do it. She was really determined that I play the role of Kuhu and her determination is one of the main reasons that I am in the film. She convinced me since I had issues with the character and the story. She gave me the confidence that this would be the perfect debut for me.
Q. Now that the film is out for the audience to see, we would like to know more about your character Kuhu.
Kuhu is a very sorted person. One thing you will see from Kuhu’s background is that when people are accepted for who they are, they can be what they want to be. If you see Sweety and Kuhu’s character, they could be the same, like they can both like girls. However, they are different because of the environment that they have been a part of.
Also read | Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga movie review
Q. The film deals with the sensitive subject of same-sex love. How convinced were you to play the role?
I was kicked about it from the word go. We are living in the 21st century. We have seen so much. We have overcome things and finally, people are being accepted. Section 377 was a huge thing, which I don’t think we should have been fighting for, but it’s finally out. People are friendly now. So, playing this kind of a character made me feel like I am finally doing something for the society and for the people who want to be heard. There are so many things that have come out about the character now which I didn’t even think about when I was doing it. I never knew it will make so much noise.
Q. We have heard Anil Kapoor’s energy is infectious on the sets. How was it working with him?
Oh yes, he has that energy. Anilji is also familiar with South Indian cinema and he has done a few South Indian films. He is very observant. He always wants to know things and understand things. These are the qualities you build up over the years. It takes a lot of awareness and experience. He is such a wonderful actor and a co-star.
Q. To play the role, you had to develop comfort with Sonam. How did that happen?
My equation with Sonam was beautiful. She is a really fun person and she is exactly the opposite of the character she is playing onscreen. She is unapologetically outspoken and that is a great quality to have as a woman. That’s because the moment you put your foot down to say something, you are told that you are a woman whether it matters in that situation or not. You are made to remember that you are a woman. But Sonam is really strong and I really like that about her
Q. Your debut was supposed to be Aankhein 2 with Amitabh Bachchan and Arshad Warsi. However, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga became your debut instead. Was there a time when you got disheartened?
I feel everything happens for a reason and happens for the best. If Aankhen 2 didn’t happen and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga happened, it’s because it had to happen. Even though it’s kind of a special appearance, I am so happy that it happened to be this. I know for a fact that I will do a lot of movies in the future both Bollywood and regional, but this was just perfect. Shelly (director) is such a sensitive and compassionate director. She understands you and to have people who understand is huge. I am glad I worked with these people.
Q. Now that you have worked in both Bollywood and regional cinema, what do you feel are the similarities or difference between the two?
I like working in Bollywood. I like how they take care of their actors and the respect they give. But more or less, both the industries are similar. There isn’t much difference between them.
Q, Do you think it’s going to be a task to let go of the ‘South Indian actor’ label?
It really doesn’t matter. I am a proud South Indian. I have learnt Hindi in school and college, and I aced it. I don’t think that divide is going to be put. My only apprehension while watching the film was if I sound like a South Indian trying to talk in Hindi, but I think I came out with flying colours. I am very critical about myself. I asked 10-15 people and they told me that I sound like a Hindi person only. I better not have a tag.
Q. Will your focus be on Bollywood now?
Definitely, I want to do a lot more movies whether it’s Bollywood, Kollywood or Tollywood. But I would love to do more films here for sure. Now that my face is out there and people are sort of aware of me over here (Bollywood), I would like to do more films here.
Q. What do you want the audience to take away from Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga?
See, love has different languages. Love is something you can’t force or you can’t cage people or try and fit them in a norm. Love doesn’t fit any norm. It’s free and we take it for granted. What we have tried to portray in this film is that people need to accept that there are different forms of love in this world and they need to accept people who express these different forms of love.