Though she denies having any nerves on the first day. A change in position from the last time I met her, when she categorically stated she didn’t know whether she’d remember to act in front of the camera. She has an explanation: “The last time I spoke to you, I hadn’t faced the camera even for a TV interview. So I was a little wary about the whole process of acting. More, I was hesitant about how I would react to the process. Would I be different in front of the camera?
“But then I did a few commercials just before I was to shoot for the film. It was like a trial and I realized I was normal in front of the camera. There was no need to worry.”
When she signed on for Kunal Kohli’s tentatively titled Fanaa, she wasn’t daunted either by the fact that there were absolutely no vibes between her and co-star Aamir Khan to begin with. “I was really looking forward to working with him,” she smiles. “In Ishq, I wasn’t paired with him and I had precisely two scenes with him, which required just two days of shooting. And there wasn’t much interaction between us. So I didn’t really get to know him. But it’s fun to work with him. I think we’re fine. And I really feel you don’t need to have vibes if you are good actors. Though you do need them if you’re bad actors!”
Quickly she adds, “I’m not saying that vibes don’t help. But I don’t think the lack of them hinders too much either if you know your job. It’s definitely a boon when you know your co-star well, because you then almost know how the other person will think. And that helps a lot while giving a shot. But if you don’t know somebody, it really doesn’t matter.”
The fact that she’s a spontaneous actress while Aamir likes to mull over his performance doesn’t pose a problem either, she insists. For the two went through innumerable script-reading sessions together. “By the time we finished, we’d locked exactly what were going to do on the shoot,” she explains. “Frankly, there isn’t too much of an area for discussion on the shoot because everything has been dealt with. So even our different styles of working aren’t a problem. Because all of us, including Kunal (Kohli) and Adi (Aditya Chopra), know exactly what we’re supposed to do on the sets.”
What of those rumours that Aamir had changed the script without her permission and she was cut up with him?
“Utter stupidity,” she snorts. “To begin with, I hadn’t even met Aamir Khan when those rumors started. That’s the funniest part of all. Chalo, I may not have met Aamir and politics could still have gone on behind my back that I didn’t know about.
“I grant that. But the point is that Aamir hadn’t even heard the final version of the script when he was said to have suggested a few changes. He was so busy with Mangal Pandey, he didn’t have time to even breathe. He heard the final version only a few days before the shoot began. And that’s much later than I did. So, as far as that controversy is concerned, it’s completely stupid and fictional. Stupid, really stupid.”
Ask her about the script that has everyone raving about it and she shakes her head, saying it’s too early to reveal anything. “All I can say is that it’s a very nice script. I fell for it the first time I heard it. And it’s something I’m very comfortable doing. I mean, there’s nothing in the script that I would be uncomfortable doing. Besides, Adi was very sweet about my timings. I’d made it clear that I could work only a certain number of hours every day. He agreed. That really tilted me in favor of the film.”
Also, the fact that she really liked Hum Tum. She grins, “Frankly, I didn’t have much faith in Kunal when I saw his first film Mujhse Dosti Karoge. But I really liked Hum Tum. Now I have complete faith in him. Secondly, I loved the script. So I thought this would kind of work. And I knew Adi was producing it, so everything would be done to a T before we actually got down to shooting. I was in safe hands so I thought, why not do it?
“I was willing to do Karan’s (Johar) film as well,” she adds quickly. “But it required 70 to 80 days of shooting abroad and I wasn’t willing to go out of town at that point because my baby was too small. Besides, I wouldn’t have had a family life at the end of it. I was tempted, I even thought about it for a day, but it wasn’t happening. So I told Karan and he was very sweet about it.”
The hazel-eyed actress is aware that there are expectations galore from her. But she tempers them by saying, “Yes, I would like to believe that people are excited but I hope they have reasonable expectations. I just hope that they will enjoy the film.”
She has her own theory regarding the buzz about her signing a movie after such a long gap. Says she, “I’ve just done something like 20-odd movies and that’s the only reason I can attribute to the buzz. That they want to see more of me only because they have seen so little.”
The actress reiterates that she does not intend making a comeback as a full-time actress ever.
“I want to do one film, take a break, do another film and then take another break. I can’t do films full time because I enjoy my baby too much. It will be very difficult to tear myself away from her for too long. When I do a film, it will have to be something equivalent to being with my baby. It has to be so good that it should compensate for my not being with her. That makes it a tougher prospect. I mean, I was picky as it is. Now I’ve become super-picky.”
In spite of all the precautions she’s taken in terms of timings on the sets, there are still worries galore. “I’m worried most about not being there for Nysa,” she sighs wistfully. “What if she needs me at some point of time? What if she’s sick? Will I be able to leave her and go to work? I don’t want to make that choice. Hopefully, God will spare me that choice.
“Then I may not get enough time to spend with J (Ajay Devgan to you and me). I mean, he may not have a holiday when I have one. That’s workable, I know. But knowing myself, I know not being able to spend time with him will pinch me at that point.”
Does she think her marriage and motherhood will go against her career plans? No. That’s a myth, she believes. “Look at all the major actresses of yesteryear—Saira Banu, Sharmila Tagore, Dimple, Raakhee-they’ve had their major hits after their marriage, after their babies. Madhuri Dixit did Devdas after her marriage and people loved her in it. It’s only today, with this youth fixation, that people say no, you have to be 16 to do a film. It’s only in our heads.”
As we chat on, she tells me she’s always lived by her own rules. And what are they? “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” she replies instantly. “And I’m not talking about small stuff. I’m talking about big stuff. I truly believe that I haven’t even inadvertently hurt someone to get where I am. I’m no Miss Goody Two Shoes. But I’ve never lied to get what I wanted; my mother beat it out of me at a very young age.”
She continues, “I know people say I’m rude and arrogant. But I don’t think I’ve ever said anything to a person, which I didn’t feel they deserved at that moment, especially to a person who’s elder to me. I don’t know whether this makes sense, but I won’t let anyone walk all over me while at the same time, I have enough manners to let them walk a little bit over me, just to give their age consideration.”
Tell her that she had a serious reputation of being arrogant and she retorts, “When you stand up for yourself and say what’s on your mind, it’s considered arrogant and rude. When you don’t agree with the general opinion of the herd, it’s considered arrogant. If you don’t agree with someone who’s a bigger star than you at that point of time, it’s considered rude.
“So when people say, ‘Oh he is arrogant, or rude, or he thinks he knows best,’ you really have to take it with a pinch of salt till you actually experience it. I’m not saying that there aren’t arrogant people around. And I’m not saying that I haven’t been arrogant, according to other people’s estimation. But I don’t think I’ve consciously hurt somebody or viciously put someone down just for the heck of it or because I had nothing better to do that day.”
Then, naughty, tongue in cheek, she signs off, “I’ve been tempted to, but I haven’t!”
Copyright © 2005, Filmfare. All rights reserved.