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Friday, July 30, 2021

Suchitra Pillai remembers Dil Chahta Hai: ‘Farhan Akhtar made me jog with Saif Ali Khan in his office’

Actor Suchitra Pillai shared how people still remember her as Saif Ali Khan's girlfriend Priya from the Farhan Akhtar directorial Dil Chahta Hai.

Written by Arushi Jain | New Delhi |
June 30, 2021 8:47:34 am
suchitra pillai dil chahta haiSuchitra Pillai played the role of Saif Ali Khan's girlfriend in Dil Chahta Hai.

Actor Suchitra Pillai has been a lot of things — a VJ, RJ, voice artist in Hollywood films, singer, and actor in Bollywood dramas. But, since the beginning of her career, she has craved to work in the Malayalam cinema. Her second Malayalam film, a mystery horror-thriller Cold Case, starring Prithviraj Sukumaran and Aditi Balan in the lead roles, starts streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Wednesday.

The Tarun Balak directorial has Pillai playing Zaara Zakai, a clairvoyant. “She is a mysterious character. From the first time that you see her, you know, ‘kuch toh hai’ (something is there)” said Pillai about her character.

Debut director Tanu used the process of scrying (a technique used by clairvoyants to interact with souls) for Pillai’s character, which left her intrigued. “I read a little bit about it and watched a few videos that sent chills down my spine. But I was excited that I am getting to do something that pushes my limits a little bit. It’s not the bubbly Suchi or the bitchy Suchitra that you’ve seen before. This is a very controlled, mature, mysterious kind of character, who definitely gets your attention when you see her on the street. I had to delve a little bit into my occult side for playing Zara, and my voice added a lot to it. All of them on the set were getting scared when I was doing those chants loudly,” the 50-year-old actor told while adding that director Tanu didn’t see anybody else in this character but her, and that “meant a lot to me.”

When we asked her about those mysterious sunglasses she wears in the trailer, she refused to reveal the secret, “Mmm…just wait and watch. When these shades will come off the mystery will unfold.”

Speaking of her experience of working with the first-time director Tanu, Pillai shared, “For a character like this, when you have to add a lot of your own, whether it’s your experience, research, or whether it’s just as an actor, what you want to add to it, you have to have a director, who will allow that. And that was Tanu for me. He let me be when it came to Zara’s character and god bless him for allowing me to do my own dubbing.” The Ernakulam-born actor worked hard on her Malayalam, and with help of her cousin and aunt, she managed to ace her pronunciation even before she started the shoot of the film in Kerala.


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Suchitra Pillai is a familiar face in the Hindi cinema and television industry. She played a teacher in the TV show Hip Hip Hurray and grabbed attention with her short yet notable roles in films like Dil Chahta Hai, Page 3, and Pyaar Ke Side Effects among others. Having worked in both north and south industries, she feels people are far more disciplined down south.

Explaining the difference, she said, “The Malayalam film industry is extremely different. The professionalism is brilliant. When they say we’re shooting with you for five days, it will be five days and you will not be called for another day. There is no dilly-dallying at all on the set. Everyone knows their job, everyone’s doing their job from beginning to the end, which is why it makes everything so smooth. There’s no wastage of time, at all. People are so simple, humble and so down to earth in the south. Work is all that matters, egos are just thrown out of the window.”

Lastly, as we reminded Pillai about one of her early films Dil Chahta Hai completing 20 years of its release this year, she exclaimed, “Arre, woh bhi kya din the. I was young. (What days were those, I was young then).” She shared how people still remember her as Saif Ali Khan’s girlfriend Priya from the Farhan Akhtar directorial and come to her saying, “‘I wish we were girlfriends like that with our boyfriends, the way you were with Saif. The boys would say, ‘thank God, we never had a girlfriend like you.’ So, Priya was definitely a well-defined character in the little time that she was on screen.”

Recalling how she landed the role, Pillai said, “It was a role that Farhan gave me just like that. I didn’t test for it or anything. He just made me and Saif do a little bit of jogging in the office.”

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