It’s been three years since your last film, the Rohit Shetty-directed Dilwale. What made you take up Helicopter Eela?
I loved the script, the thought behind it, the fact that it has humour and is directed by Pradeep Sarkar. I knew that I could do something significant with this role. For me, first and foremost, it is the script that matters, and, then, the cast and other people involved with the project, and, of course, a director who will put the script in its nicest format.
At this stage of your career, what do you look for in your character? Do you offer inputs?
I do offer inputs for every character I essay. That’s inevitable since an actor sees the role in a certain way. However, I don’t have an ego, I go with whatever seems better for the character. It is important for a movie to be a combined effort. If my co-actor Riddhi Sen does well in the movie, I’ll do better because of that. If we do well, then Dada (Pradeep Sarkar) will do better. And, if we all do well, then the quality of the film will be lifted.
You are playing a singer. Did that require preparation on your part?
No. I’m not playing a real singer. Thank God! I can’t sing at all. I’m not even going to try that.
What was it like essaying the role of a single mother to a teenager?
A mother is a mother. The single status does not change anything about her. We mothers have the same insecurities and problems. However, the relationship between a single mother and her child is a little more intimate. The film tries to show that they love each other even though they might not like what the other person does at times.
After so many years in the industry, do you still get Friday jitters?
No, I don’t, even though I have produced this film. Everybody who meets me says they loved the trailer, maybe they are being nice. But I do believe that we have made a quality product and I’m proud of it. More than collections, I have always been more concerned about my performance. As long as I put my 300 per cent in the film — on screen as well as by doing promotions off screen — I believe I have done my job well.
Do you read scripts regularly? Going by your sporadic screen appearances, do you reject a lot of them?
I listen to all the scripts offered, even when I believe certain concepts don’t work for me. I do reject a lot of scripts. I believe that really good scripts are very hard to find. One may find a certain script awesome and when I read the same, I may think just the opposite. My point of view doesn’t often match with the director’s.
Do you see yourself taking up direction or writing some day?
I definitely want to write some day. I may start with a Mills & Boon book (laughs). They are difficult to write though they seem very easy to read.
Do you still read them? Does your daughter Nysa share your love for books?
No, I don’t read them much. But I read a lot of historical romances, fantasy fiction, paranormal fiction and something called ‘steampunk’, which I discovered last year. Nysa reads a lot, though her reading list is very different. She is more open to reading different kinds of books and has read a lot of more classic titles.
When not working on a movie, how do you keep yourself occupied?
I have to take care of a house, children and husband. I travel a lot. I try to meet Nysa, who’s studying in Singapore, at least once a month, for my peace of mind. I don’t know what she feels about it (laughs).
Do you notice a change in the way woman characters are treated in films today?
I definitely do. Movies may influence the society only up to a point but they are written keeping in mind what the society is going through at that juncture. The way women’s characters are written now reflects the mind and behaviour of today’s women. It is hugely to do with the fact that there is so much digital content available. Everyone has a voice today — be it on WhatsApp or Facebook — anyone can put out their opinion. Some people do create drama on social media out of nothing. However, the fact that one is able to do that and get attention is a huge thing — like, in the (2012) Delhi rape case, there was so much pressure from the public with everyone demanding justice on every media platform possible.
Which character has been the most satisfying for you?
I have been honest with each one of my characters — whether I believed in them or not. I don’t regret any roles I have played. I had a blast working and still do.
In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Anjali’s transformation was disappointing…
Because she wore a sari later? It was cinematic liberty (laughs)… It was a cliché within a cliché. Today, you may turn around and say why did she have to wear a sari, the point is that it worked for the film. You had to show that she had become mature and also that the heartbreak affected her so much that she changed as a person.
Was it a cop-out?
You have to ask Karan (Johar) that question.
The ’90s is considered to be a time when women characters were objectified. I did Udhaar Ki Zindagi (1994), Gupt (1997) and Dushman (1998) during that time. I did not feel that women characters were not written well or not given justice. Probably then, society viewed women that way. Today, the movies we make have changed because society has changed.
Is there more emphasis on gender equality in the industry today?
As far as equal pay is concerned, it’s still a conversation and we will figure it out eventually. The issue of gender equality in the industry is like taking two steps forward and one step backward. We are all going through a change right now. The audience, too, has to change. A recent survey said 90 per cent of the viewers on social media are male even though I would like to believe that it’s around 70 per cent.
You recently said that you would want Shah Rukh Khan to attempt something that he is scared of. What are you scared of as an actor?
I have not come across that yet. I have not done a horror movie. I don’t watch horror.