I learnt Carnatic music for eight years from Naada Brahmam school… (but) as far as playback is concerned,I am a bathroom singer,not a great singer. Besides,I feel its not necessary to involve everything you learn into your profession
Yes,they (Malayalam film industry) did approach me,but I found their projects less exciting. I can never forget what they did with me. I am okay about facing rejection,but making someone feel small and insulting them is not something that I appreciate. I did a song for Santosh Sivans Malayalam film Urumi,but it was more like a gift from me to my parents,who wanted to see me acting in a Malayalam film
You received much acclaim with films like The Dirty Picture and Kahaani last year. Will your role as Neetu in Ghanchakkar garner the same response?
Firstly I would like to say that I am proud to be a part of a film like Ghanchakkar. Having worked with Rajkumar Gupta on two films (No One Killed Jessica and Ghanchakkar),I can say that he is going to be remembered for the kind of work he does. He has done some really ground-breaking work,and is changing the direction of Indian cinema with every film that he makes. Just like the drama that he presented in Aamir or No One Killed Jessica,the comedy in Ghanchakkar (a comic thriller) too,is derived from real situations.
As far as my role in the film is concerned,it is completely different from what I have done before. I dont do characters thinking if they are commercial or non-commercial. I always see to it that the story connects well with the people. I dont think any leading lady in Bollywood has ever played a character like Neetu in Ghanchakkar. I hope the audience share the same joy and enthusiasm that I felt in my attempt to do something different. I just want people to watch my movie and leave the theatre with smiles on their face. Ive always being looking forward to doing comedy,and I am happy that my first comic venture is with Rajkumar Gupta and UTV.
You are playing a loud Punjabi woman in the film,did you take inspiration from some one around you? Reports state that it is based on Dolly Bindra.
Thats not true. Besides,you dont have to take inspiration from one particular person,because you see such people,who love being over-the-top in their day-to-day life. You may find that strange,but they just love being that way. Neetu,my character in the film loves being modern,and like so many (in real life) equates it to dressing up in western attire. She is a middle-class housewife who prefers economic shopping at Mumbais popular spots like Elco market or Manish market,where you get cheap fabrics and clothes. She then goes to her tailor with those fabrics and gets him to stitch outfits for her as seen in filmy glossies. Shes quite unique and fascinating!
Like your previous films,were there any physical preparations for the role?
I had gained 12 kgs for The Dirty Picture,and just when I started on a regimen to get back to my pre-The Dirty Picture body,Rajkumar Gupta asked me to stop my workouts and retain the body fat. He wanted me to look like a hatti-katti Punjabi woman,who isnt into exercise or dieting.
Promotions of Ghanchakkar are on in full swing with you and Emraan Hashmi making the rounds on different TV shows. One cant help but notice that you come across as the extrovert one,while he is reserved. Was it the same while shooting for the film?
This is my second film with Emraan. I did not get a chance to interact with him much on the sets of The Dirty Picture as we were told to keep a distance from each other by the director,Milan Luthria; it was necessary for the kind of equation we had to portray in the movie. I got to know Emraan better while working on this movie. I must say that though he is a private person,he has a great sense of humour. He is like the Amitabh Bachchan of Sholay,who can say funny things with a straight face.
As for the chemistry that you see on TV shows,it is just an extension of what we portray in the film. When we promote our movie,we are Neetu and Sanjay,not the real lifes Vidya and Emraan.
Since Ghanchakkar is your husbands (Siddharth Roy Kapur) production,was he present on the sets to support you?
He just visited the sets on the very first day of the shoot. Thankfully,I had no scenes that day,only Emraan had. We are husband and wife at home. We dont interfere in each others work. In fact,whenever I have to discuss about Ghanchakkar,I approach Ronnie Screwvala (also the producer of the film).
You came in for a lot of criticism for the outfits that you wore at Cannes…
For me,Cannes was an international film festival,and I was honoured to be on its Jury this year. As far as my clothes are concerned,I thought they were beautiful. When I was there,I wasnt following what was being written about me in India. People there liked my clothes,and I was basking in the great comments that came my way there.
These days we see you being very active in pushing causes for women empowerment. Were you always inclined to doing something for the society?
Well,I have been a part of such causes since my college days. I studied at St. Xaviers,where we were taught to stop complaining and start acting. The change,they said,should start with you. We were asked to put 60 hours of the year at an NGO. I remember working at Sevadaan Special School,a school for mentally challenged. Today,if I am able to leverage my stardom,my connect with people,to give out a certain message then I am glad to use it. Currently,I am the international brand ambassador for sanitation,therefore you see my advertisements where I go to villages and ask the people to build toilets in the house,instead of going out in the open.
Are you in touch with your friends? Do they gang up on you and ask you for some Bollywood gossip?
(Laughs) My friends from Chembur are very simple. They are not the kinds to pick up and read Bollywood glossies and fashion magazines! They hardly watch movies,but they make an effort to watch the films that I star in. Actually,my friends and my family help to keep me grounded.
Actors,these days,multi-task when it comes to working in movies. You have taken professional training in Carnatic music,why not playback for your films?
I learnt Carnatic music for eight years from Naada Brahmam school,Mumbai. I love going to concerts and listening to live Carnatic music,but I have not been able to do that for a long time now. I will try and catch up with some of them in July,when I dont have work for a few weeks. And as far as playback is concerned,I am a bathroom singer,not a great singer. Besides,I feel its not necessary to involve everything you learn into your profession.
You started your acting career with a TV show Hum Paanch. What was the experience like?
Shooting for television was fun then! We shot for Hum Paanch one week a month,in which we used to complete shooting five episodes. One episode took one and a half day. With five girls (Rakhi Tandon,Vandana Pathak,Bhairavi Raichura,Priyanka Mehra and myself) as the cast,it was just crazy on the sets. While Ashokji (Saraf) had his own vanity van,we all ladies shared one van. There was a bed where we all girls used to sit down,gossip and do all kinds of madness. Today when I look back,I cannot believe that I was a part of the show.
Are you in touch with anyone from that team?
I am in touch with Bhairavi,who played Kajal bhai. We message each other at times. We accidentally bumped into each other,while I was shooting for The Dirty Picture. Bhairavi was shooting right next door in the same studio. Sometime ago I do see her on TV shows. The last time I saw her on TV was in the serial Balika Vadhu.
Is it true that after Hum Paanch,Anurag Basu had offered you a serial?
Yes,after Hum Paanch,I got busy studying at St Xaviers. Anurag Basu contacted me,and offered me to play female lead in one of his daily soaps. I dont remember which show it was. But by then,I was in talks for Parineeta. So,I turned it down saying that I wanted to concentrate on movies. When we met wo years ago,Dada (Anurag Basu) told me that when I rejected his TV show,he wanted to tell me that Kya paagal ladki kai! Serial mein lead role de raha hoon aur yeh manaa kar rahi hai. Filmon mein sab thodi na Shah Rukh Khan bante hai.
Today,you are one of the most successful actors in Bollywood. But you did face a lot of rejection before Bollywood happened to you,majorly in Malayalam film industry. Do they approach you for movies now?
Yes,they did approach me,but I found their project no t exciting enough. I can never forget what they did with me. I am okay about facing rejection,but making someone feel small and insulting them is not something that I appreciate. I can never forget that. I am open to doing good regional films. In fact I did a song for Santosh Sivans Malayalam film Urumi,but it was more like a gift from me to my parents,who wanted to see me acting in a Malayalam film.
Whats next after Ghanchakkar?
I will start shooting for romantic comedy with Farhan Akhtar,Shaadi Ke Side Effects,next month; just 10 days of work is remaining and the shooting will be complete. I havent signed any other movie. Nor am I am playing safe by going slow. I have offers,but I am taking my time to decide. I have done that before. For instance,after Paa and Ishqiya,I had nothing to do. I took time before I did No One Killed Jessica.