You were missing in action for a long period. Why did you go off the radar?
The gap in my work was not a conscious one. From the beginning, I’ve been a bit of a game-changer — I landed a TV show as the leading lady when I was just out of high school, and then, I debuted in films with Rock On!! when I was freshly out of TV. It was all early on in my career and it was rare for someone to get these opportunities so quickly. But even then, I worked on my own terms and I am still like that. Yes, I know that a lot of people want to be visible, but I have not played by that rule. There are various reasons I was not exactly on the radar. I didn’t realise where time flew; it passed by quickly. When I look back, I realise how big the gap has been. I have never wanted to work in films that are sexist. And in this industry, I have fought with this notion for a long time. All that people wanted me to be was “hot”.
How does a woman only get defined by that? Why is it that everyone wants to change a woman’s imagery, regardless of who or how she is? The feedback I got from several male producers and directors was that I had to work on being hot. So, I picked less work and I chose to stay away. I said no to some big, but very sexist films.
What do you think worked against you?
There were some prominent directors who approached me, but I felt disrespected by them. It felt like they were doing me a favour by giving me a role in their film. The problem is that they were not used to someone saying no in the absence of a narration or a script. On many occasions, I would go all the way to meet the filmmakers, but they would not want to tell me what they had in mind for me. Neither would they share a script, nor would they narrate the story. It’s like me going for a look-test but refusing to show my face. I could not possibly give the nod to a film like that. I dealt with this for two years before deciding to not put up with it anymore. The notion that others developed was that I was not interested. Word spread, and some people merely on hearsay didn’t approach me. I recently did a movie for the web. I got a brief on the phone, and then, a screenplay was shared and I liked what I read. I loved the role and it was done.
In the last two-three years, did you take any advice or discuss the way ahead for you with your mentors in TV and cinema?
I feel grateful and fortunate that I didn’t need help. If I needed it, all the people who I worked with would have been there for me. As far as advice goes, there have been times I have reached out to my immediate colleagues, and that has worked out fine. As far as reaching out to Ekta Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar goes, they have always given me the right advice. But I have never asked them for help or work. I don’t think there is a problem asking for work, but I didn’t feel the need to. I don’t get seen as much, so no one knows what I am up to. I have read a lot of scripts, and I have had narrations. There are times when I have loved someone’s project and messaged the person to say that we should collaborate. But that number of people is low because I am shy, so I don’t end up messaging everyone. Whenever I have approached someone, I have always asked to audition for work. The answer I mostly get is ‘Someone is already on board’.
While the big-screen experience is loved by most, today, there is a lot of focus on OTT content, with some of the biggest stars in the country stepping into the digital space. Where do you see yourself fitting better?
This is a brand new start for me. Today, an actor is loved regardless of the platform and the role. I feel that I have a chance to step in and make the most of it. Thanks to the digital space, people don’t hold that one character or movie against you for two years, something that happens with theatrical films often. For me, this phase in my career is that of experiments and a fresh start. Experimenting is the only game plan I have now.