PK turned out to be a massive success at the box office but what has been your biggest takeaway from the film?
I feel I stood my own in PK. As a director, Raju Hirani teaches you to be concise with your acting. He doesn’t like big performances. You can’t act in a Raju Hirani film as you would in an Anurag Kashyap film. The climax was the only space where I could ‘perform’ and there, Raju let me be. As an actor I was conscious that my acting shouldn’t look like ‘acting’; I had to make it look real. All his characters are loveable. Even the negative characters are not unlikable in his films.
You were the prime mover for NH 10. What was it about the script that you decided to produce it?
The story. Writer Sandeep Sharma has kept it so real. There is no fake bravado, no heropanti. It’s a human story. I read the script in one go. NH 10 is my picture. Yeh mera bachcha hai.. maine bahut mehnat ki hai (This is my child. I have really worked hard). It has a great story but somehow these films don’t get made. That’s why I decided to make it.
Tell us about your character Meera. What did she take from you and what did you give her?
I did an extensive workshop with my director Navdeep Singh and my co-star Neil Bhoopalam. I had to know Meera — her insecurities and her relationship with the man she loves. I developed a back story in my head. I would make up stories about her to get into her head. For example, in the film when things get messed up and she gets attacked, organically there were different ways that she could’ve reacted — she could either freeze or shout. What she does, it had to come from her character, which the back story helped me to explore.
The NH 10 poster shows you as ‘The Girl with a Rod’ which delivers a powerful message especially when crimes against women are on the rise. Was that the idea?
I didn’t see it like that. What happens to Meera could have happened to a guy too. It’s about survival. I wasn’t thinking what it could be saying. That’s not the right reason to do a film or approach a character. In the film, we have shown it as Meera’s personal struggle. If it becomes inspirational then fair enough but that wasn’t my intention to do the film. Yes, we have shown the divide between rural and urban; but we didn’t put it there for it to be noticed.
How lightly or seriously are you taking your role as a producer?
I’ve just been in the industry for six years and till a couple of years back if someone said I’d be producing a film, I would have said, ‘Hell, No!’ I have never planned anything. My brother and I want to back films that others feel are risky. We want to mount smaller films because they have the potential to become great. If you can influence people then why not tell them what to watch?
How do you select roles?
If it’s a person you have never seen before then I want to do it. If it’s new, then I want to play it.
How do you strike a work-life balance?
I get into things only if I’m sure. I take time to think things through and once I’m convinced then I give it complete focus. I have no greed or want or any aspiration to be in the rat race. Happiness is only to be found in your work.
Are you following the ICC cricket World Cup?
(Smiles) Yes. I’m watching all the India matches. I’m enjoying the World Cup and seeing my boyfriend (Virat Kohli) bat.
You took on the online bullies after the lip controversy. How are the trolls treating you now?
They have suddenly become quiet. What I’m used to are comments like ‘you are ugly, you are terrible, you are a waste… just die.’ The worst comment I got about NH 10 is: ‘I hope the film is as good as the trailer.’ But I’m sure the bullies are still lurking in the corner and they will come out soon.