You're shooting round the clock
And doing challenging roles in every film. Take "Aetraaz" which I'm shooting for as we talk. It requires a maturity way beyond my years. And to make matters worse, I don't believe in the things that my character believes in. Each day before I shoot, I've to sit for an hour to prepare myself. It's a very bold subject. But it isn't like some of those bold films that are coming out these days. The characters are extremely upfront. When I heard the role I was worried. But when we started shooting, the directors Abbas-Mustan never pressurized me to wear or say anything I didn't like. It's been very challenging.
So "Aetraaz" starts your new performance-oriented phase?
Even in "Asambhav", I was part of the main plot. A lot of the footage was edited to make the film crisp. But it's not just me, everyone's scenes have gone. "Asambhav" moved so fast you need to watch it on roller-stakes, ha ha. I loved this role because I played a wannabe singer.
You're quite a singer yourself.
I try once in a while. No, I do enjoy singing. Rumors keep floating that I've sung for one or the other of my films. But that isn't true. Though a lot of my producers keep urging me to sing for myself, I haven't so far. I'd only do so if it's a really special song and situation.
Singing is very close to my heart. I actually wanted to be a rock star. Instead, I came into movies. Hey, that isn't so bad, is it? Instead of learning to sing more I started taking dancing lessons. That's more essential for our cinema. I'll cut an album. But I don't know when or how. I need to do riyaaz (practice) for three months before I plunge into it.
But you are doing too many item numbers!
Where? I don't do item numbers. The dances are all part of the character. After "Plan" and "Kismet", "Aasmbhav" was the last film where I dance on stage. So that's one more reason why audiences should run for it, ha ha. From now on I move into a different genre of cinema. In "Aetraaz", "Barsaat" and "Yakeen" I've very performance-oriented roles.
The whole of "Asambhav" was shot in freezing Locarno.
Freezing? It was piping hot! While we shot there it was the hottest summer Switzerland had ever seen. We shot on the Italian side of Switzerland and it was 38 degrees Celsius. It was awful. We had to wear woollen clothes and pretend we were cold. My co-star Arjun Rampal got boils on his hands.
That's how things came to a boil between the two of you.
Very funny. Frankly, I get along with all my co-stars, whether it's Akshay or Arjun. I choose roles according to the banner, not the hero.
Weren't you scared to have "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" a week after "Asambhav"?
Yeah... very scary to have two releases in two weeks. Fortunately, I had totally contrasting roles in "Asambhav" and "Mujhse Shaadi..." in which I play a totally sweet and innocent girl next door. Salman and Akshay are the two boys who move into my locality and try all kinds of tricks to win me over.
The whole thing is hilarious, though unlike "Andaz" where I had a lot of comedy to do here I don't do anything funny. I'm the innocent babe in the woods. Till the end, audiences won't be able to guess who gets me. Davidji (Dhawan) is the fastest director I've ever worked with. We shot the entire film in 45 days. Isn't that quick?
Yeah, it is.
For one major schedule, the producer Sajid Nadiadwala and David recreated a set in Mumbai as Goa. It was such a beautiful set. I was totally heartbroken when it was broken.
What about matters of the heart?
I know. Nothing happening there! Am I not lovable? Is there anything wrong with me?
Maybe with Akshay and Salman wooing you, the guys are afraid to befriend you?
But that's only in the movie! I had such fun working with them. And both of them treated me like a baby throughout. In fact, I cut my 22nd birthday cake on the sets with them. They're so protective and sweet. When I first came on the set of "Mujhse Shaadi...", Akshay was the only person I knew. Initially, I was a little nervous about working with Salman. Once I got to know Salman he was very, very easygoing.
Are you signing a lot of films?
Nope. Haven't signed one for six months. The ones I've on hand have kept me very busy. By October, I intend to finish my old lot and start my new ones. I'm completing "Aetraaz", "Waqt", "Yakeen" and "Blackmail" with Ajay Devgan, which his brother is directing.
Isn't there an awkwardness working with co-stars who are much older?
No, why? Salman and Akshay hardly behave like they're another generation. I must admit it was more difficult with Sunny Deol during "The Hero". I couldn't look him in the eye. The same happened with Naseeruddin Shah during "Asambhav". They made it a point to try to make me comfortable. But I was like a schoolgirl with them.
You aren't tied down to any one particular camp in Bollywood?
Oh I made sure that didn't happen. I didn't want to get into any group. I just wanted to do quality work. I'm proud of every film I've done. Even the ones that didn't work like "Kismat". I'm not into camps. I can't play up to producers for roles. I don't go to film parties unless it's for my film. I'm friendly with all my co-stars, male or female. In fact I get along like a house on fire with Kareena Kapoor who's my co-star in "Aetraaz". Everyone seems to find that hard to believe. But I believe you get as good as give to others.
How do you spend your free time?
There's none! No man on the scene yet. I can't afford the distraction. I can't come home at 4 a.m. to have a boyfriend badgering me about lack of time. I'd rather get my proper sleep than get into a relationship. But I know love will come from behind and catch me unawares. For the past two months I've been doing double shifts every day. Sometimes I'd be shooting till 4 in the morning and then going to another shoot three hours later.
This month, five of my filmmakers had to put up sets simultaneously at Filmistan studio and I shot for all five together. It was crazy, but sweet of the filmmakers and important for the films. All five required urgent attention. Everyone has been very accommodating with me. Even while I was shooting for David Dhawan's "Muhjse Shaadi Karogi", Abbas-Mustan came to Film City to shoot a scene in "Aetraaz" with me.
How do you plan to build on your career?
I love my work. I look at each day as a new adventure. I'm a morning person. I'm up and raring to go very early. I'm just 22. I've so much time to discover myself. In all my forthcoming films, I'm different. My spectrum goes from the conventional heroine in "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" to the totally unorthodox in "Aetraaz". And my looks change likewise. Yeah, it's a very challenging time for me. And I'm enjoying every bit of it. Nothing in my career is ever planned. I've always been destiny's child. I leave it to him... or her.