How do you like being called the lucky mascot?
It's very nice. I don't come from a filmy background... No godfathers in the film industry. So it's very, very flattering, but also very, very scary. What if I don't deliver a hit? In the past, actresses who have been branded lucky have faced an uphill task trying to prove themselves over and over again. I'm not only scared of being branded a lucky mascot but also of being typecast as the girl next door.
Is that image a burden?
No it's a wonderful image to have especially now when so many girls have a different image. I'm glad to be seen as a nice wholesome girl, and also a glamorous girl after "Main Hoon Na". I really don't think I've limited myself to one particular image. I've done everything from "The Legend Of Bhagat Singh" to "Ishq Vishq" to "Main Hoon Na".
Do you feel a fish out of water when you see the likes of Mallika Sherawat and Meghna Naidu?
I think everyone has her own comfort level. We all have our priorities and USPs. When you're young, you need to cash in on your assets, whatever they might be. If they can sleep peacefully after what they do, good for them. I wouldn't do such roles because I'm not comfortable doing them. If I wear a swimsuit my discomfort would show, and the whole sensuality bit would fall apart.
In any case sensuality is a state of the mind. I feel Sushmita Sen is so sensual. No one can ever find her cheap. She's so sophisticated.
Are you happy with the ground you've covered?
Yes. My releases have been many, but well spaced out. First came "Ab Ke Baras", a month later it was "The Legend Of Bhagat Singh". Then it took more than a year for "Ishq Vishq" to be released. And you know what? I enjoyed doing all of them including "Masti".
Didn't you find it vulgar?
I wouldn't term it vulgar at all. "Masti" was supposed to be a sex comedy. But actors like Satish Shah, Ritesh Deshmukh and Aftab Shivdasani are so cute they just made you laugh with their antics. I think "Masti" was fun. Children enjoyed the film.
As for my role as the over-possessive wife keeping constant tabs on my husband Vivek Oberoi, so many men identified with the situation.
Did the success of "Main Hoon Na" help you?
And how! My first stage of success happened with "Ishq Vishq". The next best thing was "Main Hoon Na". Doing a Shah Rukh Khan film immediately increases your national and overseas market. I think everyone in Mumbai city has seen "Main Hoon Na". Even at the IIFA awards, the response was amazing. Yes, doing a film with SRK is equivalent to making giant leaps in your career. He's like Midas. Everyone in "Main Hoon Na" -- Farah, Zayed and me -- benefited.
But did the minuscule role in "Deewaar" spoil it?
I had a very tiny role. Lots of my scenes were cut. But I knew all along that it was a hero-oriented film. My farewell sequence with Akshaye Khanna was cut for the benefit of the larger picture. That's why my role looks abrupt. But "Main Hoon Na" has opened doors for me. Now I'm looking at different career prospects.
I don't think I need to do films where I'm one in a crowd. But now I'm doing a film where I love being part of the crowd. I'm doing Mahesh Manjrekar's "Life Ho To Aisi" where I am with a whole lot of kids. Shahid and me are the biggest kids on the sets. I love those kids so much. Every day before shooting they line up to give me a hug.
But relationships in the industry last only as long as you work together?
We're like banjaras (gypsies). We must enjoy every moment while it lasts. Right now, I'm enjoying what I've to do. People believe that because of "Main Hoon Na" I'm flooded with offers. But the fact of the matter is, there aren't too many quality films being made. The A-grade products are hardly there. And the ones that are there will take time.
Maybe you're too young to be paired with the really big stars?
A: That may be true. But you know what? I'm at an age when I really need to prance around the campus. It would look very odd for me to get into saris and cook chapattis in the kitchen, just as five years from now it would look very odd if I'm seen dancing in campus. Right now very few heroines look like collegians. I do. Don't you think I should cash in on that?
Shahid has gone on to do something else. Not all the roles that he's doing are about going to college. The same will be true of me. I'm going very slow and steady. I know I can look very different in all my roles. You know I came to films after 30 commercials. And still I was treated like a fresh face. And although "Ab Ke Baras" was my debut, everyone thought "Ishq Vishq" was my first film.
Do you feel like an outsider with no sugar daddies?
No. The problems arise when you don't know your mind. Some people get carried away by the trashy offers. I think I'm fortunate to have selected carefully. It helped. Even Farah Khan said she wouldn't have signed me for "Main Hoon Na" if I had a string of flops behind me. Because I did "Ishq Vishq" with Ken Ghosh and Farah trusts Ken's judgment, she signed me.
Were you disappointed when he didn't sign you for "Fida"?
Nooooo! If he saw Kareena in the role, then great! Just like I moved on to Shah Rukh Khan and Farah Khan, he has moved on too. I guess we all need to move in life.