In your latest release "Rakht" you depart from your sexy image to play the mother of a growing boy.
When I heard the script I immediately felt it gave me the chance to break away from my "Jism" image. If you notice, I'm the catalyst in the script although it featured some big male stars. I hold the plot together, and that's still rare for a heroine in Hindi cinema. Sadly, "Rakht" opened poorly. But I've been praised unanimously. This is a new triumph for me. It's very encouraging. I worked really hard on the look of my character. I'm not a hot babe in the film... others are there for that
Have you become wary of your sexy image?
Not the least. I wasn't playing a weeping widow in "Rakht". And I've certainly not become apologetic about my sexy image just because a new set of girls is more upfront about their body. But sorry I'm not comfortable with nudity, never have been.
I can't do anything vulgar. If I did, I wouldn't be able to look myself in the eye. I think it's my personality that makes me appear bold. Even in "Jism" I didn't show that much skin. Yes, I'm comfortable with smooching on screen. And why not? It may still be a shocking thing for our films, but I really feel we need to mature beyond two flowers touching to show intimacy on screen.
I believe in exuding sex appeal. And if your personality is sexy you don't need to take off your clothes to prove any point. If I took off as much clothes as some of today's girls are doing I wouldn't know where to look. I guess our cinema is confused about sexiness. They call me the original sex symbol. But I think women like Zeenat Aman and Sharmila Tagore were really sexy long before me. These women were too hot. And they never did anything vulgar. Neither would I.
But there are girls like Mallika Sherawat and Sameera Reddy who seem willing to go much further?
I don't blame any of the girls, nor the producers or directors. Our audiences are so hybridised in profile. Our films are catering to 'A', 'B' and 'C' centres. At the end of the day this is a moneymaking business. And if these girls become overnight sensations after doing such roles, good for them. For some reason even the multiplex audiences who have seen enough skin in Hollywood films want to see these Bollywood skin flicks. Today, I've started questioning the success of "Jism". Why did it work? Was it the sexual content? Because everything with a sexual content worked thereafter irrespective of who starred in it and who directed it.
It would be wrong of me to judge the sexy films that have come after "Jism". But going by the promos they look forced and false. There's so much strained physical intimacy in these films, it's almost like wrestling. I don't think for even a minute that these films are sensuous. They're all about sleazy, violent sex. Sorry, these are not the kind of films I want to be seen in or be in.
Have you moved on to another image?
I think my image is constantly changing. I've to keep exploring various genres. I can't do another "Jism". I think extra-marital affairs have become a big bore. Being a little different from the routine was good. But now being different has become the norm. Such themes don't excite me any more.
I don't have a career plan... never had. I do intend to act for five more years. I can't ask for any more from Bollywood. My forthcoming film "Chehra" directed by the wonderful Saurabh Shukla is yet another opportunity for me to do something different. As an actress I've done all there's to do. I've done the seductress, the cop, the weird science fiction and the occult. I've done a negative role before it became a fad. But now to be hot, sexy, negative and bronzed is in. That image bores me. I want to do fun roles.
"No Entry" is my first comedy. My next release "Madhoshi" is a love story. But not an ordinary one. In terms of story this is my strongest film to date. And I'm not saying it just to promote the film.
You're again paired with your real life boyfriend John Abraham in "Madhoshi"?
Yeah. But we're evolving as actors. The pair that you get to see in each film is different. Our comfort level on screen is much higher today. John is much more secure as an actor. He has been learning on the job. Whether our films worked or not, our collaborative chemistry has been represented differently in all three films we've done together. If I were doing only love stories with him because he's my boyfriend it would get rather boring. I think we've been very rightly cast in "Madhoshi". There's great chemistry between us. But it isn't erotic like "Jism".
Were you disappointed by the failure of your recent films?
Only "Aetbaar" disappointed me. I thought the film had potential. But when I saw the film I knew there was something wrong. There was a similar film earlier ("Inteha"). At the end of the day we actors are mere puppets. Look at "Rudraksh". Great on the theme level.
We just can't make competitive films with special effects. The special effects in Hollywood are far more advanced. Our forte is emotions and we should cash in on that.
Are you sure you'll marry Mr Abraham?
I'd like to marry John. But I don't know where we'll go five years from now. Every relationship has teething problems. Today we've been together for two-and- and-a-half years. We no longer question each other when we're linked elsewhere. We just smile and say, 'One more'.
All these rumors definitely come from our own profession. Sometimes they're created to generate excitement in a forthcoming film. As marketing strategy such rumors are truly appalling. You can't use the people who work for you. Initially, when I was a model my parents were ruffled by such gossip about their daughter. Now like everyone else they read and forget.
Are you happy with John's career?
Very, very happy. I feel totally elated by his success in "Dhoom". Not just because he's my boyfriend but because he's a very hardworking, intense and good actor. I'm equally happy for Abhishek. Because he's equally deserving of success.
Since when is Abhishek your boyfriend?
(laughs) Abhishek isn't my boyfriend. But I don't mind being linked with cute men like him. No ugly old guys for me. Our item number in "Rakht" was fun. When I call him an item boy he wants to kill me.