BellBottom is your first film set in the retro era and also based on a real-life incident. Tell us about the kind of prep that went into playing the character.
My character was pretty much clear on paper. I play the wife of a spy (played by Akshay Kumar). Yes, the film is very interesting and intriguing as it is set in a certain time and derives from real-life events. To prep for my role, I went through some movies and looks as references from that time. I saw films starring Parveen Babi and Rekha. The director (Ranjit M Tewari) and I drew certain references that I could incorporate in my looks. What I like about this character is that irrespective of being from that time period, she is a working woman, a level-headed and centered individual.
The film was shot post the first lockdown in 2020 and is the first big film to release in the theatres after they have reopened in several parts of the country. The shoot itself saw reduced crew members and protocols that are the demands of the new normal. What was this experience like for you?
We began shooting right after the first lockdown was lifted. So, there was that paranoia as you were stepping out after being locked up at home for months. I was living all by myself in Mumbai and taking all the precautions necessary. Cut to, I fly to Glasgow with the team for the shoot where I am suddenly in the company of so many people, with no masks on in front of the camera — romancing and dancing. I think we just bounced back to normalcy as it felt safe in the bio-bubble that the team set up there.
A multi-starrer film like BellBottom is likely to offer limited scope for you as an actor. In these times when the thrust is on content-driven roles, what drove you to give your nod for the project?
I feel that sometimes it’s okay to be a part of a big, good film, even if you are only a small part of it. A movie like this brings credibility and visibility. At times what happens is that you could be a good actor, but you are a part of a project that doesn’t somehow reach the maximum audience, but it doesn’t usually happen with commercial movies like these. I think to be cast opposite Akshay Kumar in BellBottom is a big deal. Every actor wants to do a great part in a great film. That’s the ultimate goal. Whether it is a two-hour or a 10-minute role, I am happy to do it as long as I make an impact or a difference by being a part of the film. And honestly, an actor can only choose from whatever they get. There are times when I say, ‘I wish this film came to me or that director had thought of me for this project.’ But these are only desires, and ultimately, you pick the best from what comes to you.
As an audience member, I was stunned watching films like NH10, Thappad, Piku and Badla. Today, there are such incredible films being made, but then you also have those many actors who have proved themselves. I hope that my upcoming movies, like Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui and Shamshera, do that for me. After all, every actor needs to chart a different course in this industry. I am choosing parts that I feel will add more value to my work. I can’t compare myself to anybody. I am happy that I got to work with actors like Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor in such a short period. I get to learn so much on a set while working with them.
In a span of eight years, you have been a part of only a handful of films. Are you happy with the pace you have set?
I follow my gut instinct, stick to it and never regret my decisions. During a lull phase between Befikre and War, it wasn’t like I wasn’t offered projects. It was just that I wasn’t content with those and so I chose not to do them. I would rather sit at home than do something that takes me five steps back in my career. I would prefer to wait it out and pick up a project that satisfies me as an actor.
Aren’t you worried that long gaps between films can result in an out-of-sight-out-of-mind situation, considering the fact that you aren’t extremely active on social media and neither do you ever talk about your personal life?
That is a huge risk I am taking. It is not easy because that way you make less money. Plus, I am not privileged. I am an outsider and I have to provide for myself. My team members, folks from the industry, or friends often make me aware of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind situation. They ask me to do movies in bulk for survival, but that is not what I am looking for. In terms of my personal life, you don’t hear much about it is, because I am a very private person and an introvert. I like my space. Even at work, I barely talk to anybody. I am such a quiet person that either I come across as arrogant or a snob.