You have portrayed strong women characters in Pink (2016) and Uri (2019), and now in Mission Mangal (2019). Do you consciously pick such roles?
A part of it is conscious but what I do want is my work to speak to me. It has to be a situation where I can add value to the film, else there is no point. I want to start conversations, and tell stories that haven’t been told before. There are things we don’t talk about often and I wish to bring these things to the fore. It is an honour to be an actor and being one means you have great power but also responsibility. Also, I am terrified of monotony and want to find new stories to tell.
Do you see a competition between web series and theatrical releases?
It is competition at the end of the day, and movies are having to up their game, and it’s good for people like me who want to do something different. Web series have put content in the driver’s seat, and not star power, and I feel that’s great. In the interim, filmmakers are having to make better films and create a better cinematic experience.
You have some big names in Mission Mangal (such as Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Sonakshi Sinha and Taapsee Pannu). Do you think having so many stars in one film helps? Was it ever a case of too many cooks spoil the broth?
Not at all. We all got on extremely well off camera and it is always great when so many stars working together on one project. Akshay was, in fact, the most fun person to be around, always sharing a joke. As for star names, we could’ve done without them and got newcomers in their place. But where their presence helps is in promotions. The film is meant for the masses and we want it to reach as many people as possible.
Did you follow the Mars Mission in 2013?
I read about the Mars Mission in 2013 but I was never a space geek. But there was a lot of homework I had to do for my role in this film, which is why I love my job so much. It allows me to explore new avenues. The beauty of the film, however, is that even though its dealing with complex topics, it is in a language that is easy to understand. I play Neha Siddiqui, who hails from Lucknow. Besides being a space scientist, she is dealing with a divorce and is also struggling to find a house for herself, being a single woman from the minority community. It’s a complex character I enjoyed playing.
Eyebrows have been raised over Akshay Kumar’s face being the biggest among the seven lead actors on the film’s poster.
That is a call the producers and marketing team take. Yes, he is the highest-selling actor among us and is someone who would attract the most audiences. Would I have designed the posters differently? Probably. I would not have any faces on it, not even mine. The film is bigger than any star face. However, I am not an expert in that field and those who make the decisions to promote the film know better.
What are your upcoming projects?
There is a web series called The Bard of Blood, based on a spy novel of the same name and will be out on Netflix on September 27. Its director, Ribhu Dasgupta, is someone I am working with again in the remake of The girl on the train. I play a British cop and will fly out to London for the shoot. I have just wrapped up the shoot for Four More Shots Please’ Season 2 in Udaipur.