Your new play "Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai" is a huge success.
Yes, I just did its 50th show. "Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai" has been more than a return to the stage for me. It has helped me achieve a complete freedom from fear of failure as an actor.
Even a snake changes its skin every few years. I feel I started my second phase as an actor with "Bend It Like Beckham". I felt like a newcomer all over again.
But you weren't very happy with it initially.
Yes, when I first read the script I felt the role offered me nothing. But then I thought in playing the absolutely ordinary as an ordinary character I'd make it extraordinary. "Bend It..." came at the right time.
I won't do run-of-the-mill films. I just have a few films like "Khosla Ka Ghosla" and "Shukriya" on hand. Except for some backlog you'll never again have to cringe while watching me.
You're supposed to have done a torrid kissing scene with Mahima Chowdhary in a film.
That's rubbish. Where do they get such information? It's a murder mystery called "Chess", not yet complete, about an older man with a young wife. I play the husband and Mahima the wife, in case there's any confusion on that score.
The kissing news is as authentic as that other report some months ago about me being in a sleazy film called "Hot Babes". Where is that film? Such stories are baseless titillation for the tabloids.
Has "Bend It..." and now "Bride & Prejudice" opened the doors for you abroad?
I'm doing an American film called "Spice Of Life" with the actress from "ET", Dee Wallace, in the lead. It's being made by a non-resident Indian, Arun Khanna. At home, I'm doing Amol Palekar's next film in Hindi and a cameo in Yash Chopra's new directorial venture.
I'm at peace with myself; I'm no longer hungering to prove anything as an actor or a human being. I'm not financially dependent on my film career. Earlier I needed to clear debts accrued from the losses my television software company suffered.
As the censor chief what do you have to say about the controversy over films like "Girlfriend"?
I must say people in this country have double standards. When I was appointed chief of the censor board I felt I must address what I felt was the need of the hour. Given the responsibility I took it seriously. At least in the theatres there're age-wise guidelines.
But look at the home viewing medium where uncensored music videos and film footage are freely shown. When I objected to what goes into television I was called insane. Major sections of the media ganged up to tell me to mind my own business. But these people forget India doesn't only exist in the metropolises where women are protected by the bigness of the city. You have to live in the small cities to know how women are looked at by the male population. By guarding the home viewing medium from sleaze I thought I was guarding women in the small cities.
Now I've personally written to all the television channels about exercising self-control. Luckily, I'm here for three years. I don't care if I make unpopular decisions. I'll do what I think is right.
But you aren't moving fast enough.
It's very difficult. There's so much red-tape to go through. Now one good thing is that every state will have a police agency to make sure no uncensored material is shown in theatres. But I'm worried about television. I'm taking steps against music videos which are shown uncensored. I watched some. And I was shocked.
But what about the vulgarity in films?
I'll tell you about "Girlfriend". There's a censor board comprising professionals from various walks of life. Every film is viewed by two men and women. The same is true of "Girlfriend". I'm told a lot of visuals were deleted. But censorship is a constitutional procedure. When a film on the Gujarat riots ("Dev") comes no one wants it to be stopped. We can't stop "Girlfriend" either.
Can't you see the difference between "Dev" and "Girlfriend"?
I can. But I can't take any decision unilaterally.
Now you are chickening out!
No, no. Tomorrow if the prime minister decides a law needs to be changed, he can't do it on his own. Even in the legal system, murderers sometimes go scot-free because of lack of evidence. A system has to be followed for censorship. We can't change that. Regrettably, more people saw "Girlfriend" because of the hue and cry. Why not let such films die a quiet death until we can change the censorship laws?