Your last prominent role was in Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi (2014) and films before that have been few and far between.
The role has to be interesting enough for me to leave the comfort of my home. I have a rich, full life with my sons and husband. I love doing interiors. I also paint, write, cook and watch four films a week. There are days, I just sit at my deck, have chai and do nothing.
Dil Dhadakne Do is one of the best scripts I have read. It doesn’t have huge dramatics but according to me, I have a very powerful role.
How will you describe your character Neelam Mehra in Dil Dhadakne Do (DDD)?
She is a Delhi elite society queen bee but there are multiple layers to her. It looks like nothing can put a chink in her armour, but inside, she is a vulnerable and lost person.
She’s made her compromises, has her complexes. It’s not one of the best marriages. She hates what’s happened to both of them. But when they come in front of the world, she will stand by her husband. She is evidently partial to her son. With her daughter, she displays a mentality typical of many Indian mothers. Even though her daughter is in a bad marriage as well, she discourages her from taking a divorce.
How do you approach a character?
There are two ways of approaching a character: to read the script and go backwards into creating the skeleton of that person. And the other way is to create the skeleton by working on the back story. Where does she come from? What are the choices she has made? What are the regrets she lives with? You go in with all this knowledge and react in front of the camera just the way that person would.
You are 42 now. Ten years ago you played mother to Akshay Kumar in your husband’s film Waqt and to Akshay Khanna in Gandhi My Father. You play a role older than yourself yet again in DDD. How do you end up getting these roles?
I made a few choices in my career. I was all of 21 when I played the mother of a one-year-old girl in the TV show Hasratein in 1996. I followed my heart and told myself, who cares if she is old? That put me into a sort of a bracket, Waqt was the final nail in the coffin. I couldn’t have said ‘no’ to playing Kasturba Gandhi. But then there is a Monsoon Wedding, God’s Room, and Lakshmi too.
Satya (1998), your second Hindi film, has attained such a cult status over the years. What kind of response do you get from people?
They still play or sing Sapne Mein Milti Hai and drive me mad. People talk about the song, that scene with Manoj Bajpayee at the door and the great chemistry. And to think that I had all of seven minutes screen-time in the film.
You rose to prominence with ’90s TV shows. Would you consider going back to acting in TV?
At that time, the focus was on content. Now, there is a rush to meet deadlines, and the race to garner higher TRPs. I don’t think I’ll do a long-running daily soap. I am open to doing a fiction, finite show or a series. Currently, I am the new face of Savdhaan India.
What are your other film projects?
I have only Brothers for now where I, well, play a mother again. My sons have been selected for a soccer camp in the US. I will leaving with them in August and staying with them for two months to help them settle down.