You’ve been busy juggling many duties — motherhood, films and Cannes. How do you do it so effortlessly?
The trick is that it is seeming effortless. It is a lot of hard work, like it is for every working woman or every working mother. But the choices are what we make. When it comes to work, we have to find pleasure within that. When it comes to the kid, it’s all pleasure, there is so much love in that space.
In your latest film, Fanney Khan, you play a singer who has an admirer in Pihu, who wants to be like you. People somehow don’t believe in her because she is fat. You’ve been through body shaming at Cannes post your delivery. Did it affect you in any way?
We’re all human, we all go through the sting but the truth is only we can develop the ability for ourselves to try and withstand that or negate it or push it aside or take it in your stride. It’s really about your perspective and your outlook… that’s why I keep going on and on that we have to be our own best friend, and by that I mean be brutally honest with yourself. In doing so we can self-help, we can self-heal. The idea of doing a Fanney Khan is not just to bring to fore the very obvious topic of what a lot of impressionable youngsters/kids go through. It is also about people at a later stage in their lives, who are possibly internally still battling with their sense of self.
What are your struggles, if any?
I can see why perceivably life seems easier, especially in case of those for whom life has been extremely challenging. It’s all relative. So within your own story, you know that it’s taken a lot of commitment, a lot of hard work, a lot of struggles within your own dynamic and nothing comes easy. Nobody is free of perceptions, and jibes can hurt anyone irrespective of who they are.
Being in the profession that you’re in, would you ever consider cosmetic surgery?
God’s been kind so far and its each to their own in the choices that they make. When people have not explored it, we tend to say maybe not yet, but if you asked me 20 years ago would I ever colour my hair, at that point, I would’ve been like no. I think people should make informed choices.
You’ve been among the first to demand pay proportionate to your stardom, way before conversations started on wage parity. Do you think Bollywood has changed for the better ever since?
From the time I started, I’m grateful for the producers I’ve worked with, but right from the beginning, I’ve worked on my own terms. I don’t think I ever brought up pay parity. I was never compared to anybody, even from my modelling days, in the little bit work that I did. I still remember that I did very few shows on the ramp. I bring that as an example because I remember that I was a student and I could hardly attend rehearsals but I had a natural sway to my walk. This was a bit of a debate, because I was obviously getting the pay scale of a top model and if you have to define height, I’m 5’7”, I’m not somebody who is hitting the gym, I was not attending rehearsals. They said you’re doing your job and you’re fine, you’re getting paid for what you’re delivering and what you’re commanding. I’m grateful that there were people who got that because I’m not just shooting the breeze and negotiating. Fortunately, I got to work with some great talent but I had to walk away from a lot of work as well.
You were one of the first actors who made it to mainstream Hollywood movies, outside the Indo-British projects. You didn’t do many films. Why?
I’ve always been righteous about the films I’m committed to. Films in the West work a little differently. They say ready to roll out in two months and then they lock you off for that period of time because of the insurances. In India, schedules are interlaced. Even when Troy was spoken about, they were saying at least six-nine months to lock because it was a huge film. Of course, you understand the impact of the largesse of the piece of cinema, but to lock off that kind of time when you have those, albeit very small films here, which I was committed to, I couldn’t get myself to just kick those to the curb. It’s exciting because these are huge offers, it’s difficult because you know you’re walking away.
We see you once every couple of years in smaller parts. What are your upcoming projects?
I made my statement with Iruver where I said I would love to work with filmmakers in parts. I’m glad I did that in that in my first film so that people don’t think it’s a transition phase at any point in time. You work in a regional film not because you don’t have work in Hindi films. You’re showing the world that I’m open to doing parts and it has got nothing to do with what time in your career, what phase of your career. I’ve always mixed it up — there is Indian, traditional, mature, contemporary, there is light-hearted and now with Ae Dil… I’m not going to announce it as guest appearance. There was a thought about should you be doing publicity when you’re a chapter, as I politely put it, in film, and I said, I’m a team player.
How is life with Aradhya growing up?
I guess perception is going to be a part of her life as well. She is my daughter so I’m obviously going to be gushing. Life is beautiful with her, she’s the reason I breathe. People ask me if it’s hard work. Parenting is, but something just clicks, it becomes a part of you. You don’t ever feel the onus of it at any point in time. It’s not pressure, there is no rule book, every day is new.