On Saturday, you got your phone back from the I-T authorities and tweeted about the raid that were carried out at your homes last week. After all that happened, could you comment on how things are at home right now and what do you feel about the whole incident?
I was not available for a few days, but I was pretty much fine during that time. My family is okay, too. They’re also asking me the same question, ‘Are you fine?’ And in return, I am asking them that, too. It’s like we know something has happened, but we don’t know what we are supposed to feel about it because we’re just fine.
You’ve always been fairly vocal about various issues on social media — whether it’s standing up for matters to do with the film industry or other social issues. What drives you to do that in a space where everything one says is often met with a lot of harsh comments and scathing criticism?
I have been like this all my life. When you start from scratch and build everything, including this impression people have of me, over a period of time with hard work, and not by fluke, you don’t have to make an extra effort to protect it. By now, people can see this is who I am; it’s not a facade. I don’t have skeletons in my cupboard. My honesty gives me the confidence to be fearless. Apart from my work, I’m a little lazy about other things, which is one of the reasons I can’t lie. It takes a lot of effort to cover up a lie with more lies. It’s better to say what you feel, but not at the cost of hurting others. Even if someone is targeting me in a certain tone, I don’t feel the need to respond to the person in the same manner. What’s the difference between us, then? I like to look at life in a simple, peaceful way. I will call out what is wrong, but without pointing fingers at individuals.
When you were younger, were there occasions when you had to put your foot down and fight for what you thought was right?
I have questioned my family about the things they felt I am not supposed to do, purely because I am a girl. It came to a point when I became an engineer, and I wanted to pursue modelling and acting. My being in cinema was a far-fetched idea for them. They had conjured up negative thoughts about this business on the basis of what they had read in magazines. It took me a lot of effort to change that. In those days, becoming a model was not considered the best career option for someone coming from a middle-class family. My family had barely ever let me stay overnight at my friends’ places. For them, it was difficult to accept that I will live alone in a new city when I started working in the South film industry. Eventually, I also got my sister, Shagun, to stay with me. We moved base to Mumbai, where I started my career from scratch in Bollywood. I knew I might have to go through the same grind again, but I was okay with that. It was tough for my family to warm up to all this. For a long time, my father kept thinking that my acting career will wind up soon, and I will pursue my MBA degree. He’s accepted my career now. My sister is a wedding planner and it has taken him time to come around that, too. I was the first girl in my family to break conventions. It worked in my favour and paved the way for my siblings.
In the last decade or so, in show business, women have increasingly taken up high offices and even jobs that were once executed only by men. How do you think this change can be sustained for the future?
The numbers have increased quickly and drastically. It will only grow exponentially from here. The only hindrance we have to fight, is ourselves. It’s the deep-rooted conditioning, stemming from patriarchal systems that we need to get rid of. It’s been normalised for generations. It affects how we think. The job of any DOP (director of photography) is heavy-duty, as they have to stand on the set all day. On the set of Rashmi Rocket, our DOP was Neha Parti Matiyani, and I didn’t know for a while, even after the shooting commenced, that she was pregnant. It was a challenging shoot, with COVID-19 protocol and locations like the Rann of Kutch and stadiums where races had to be shot. Neha was going through the most critical period of her pregnancy while doing all this. For me, she’s a rockstar and an inspiration. I had never thought aisa bhi kuch kabhi kisi set pe dekhungi. As women, we have to start doing things that inspire the next generation of women. We cannot give up, and why should we?