You've done a number of issue-based films. How did "Amu" affect you personally?
I was five when the anti-Sikh riots broke out in 1984. I don't remember the gruesome period. But I do remember that some people warned my mother against dressing and combing my hair in a way that made me look like a Sikh. It was so sad! The riots have become so distant. You just hear it being mentioned by family and friends.
And how were you affected?
During the shooting of "Amu" I wasn't affected. No film can affect you while it's being done. The process of shooting is so fragmented. But the impact happened when I read the script for the first time. I knew Shonali Bose was looking for an Indian American girl to play the role. But I was very keen to do the role. I auditioned for the role. And I'm fortunate. Today, I'm far more aware of the Sikh riots. I'm shocked by the extent to which it was organised and covered up.
You keep coming back to these socially relevant films.
I can't do a film just for its message. I am here to be part of cinema that would be seen by as many people as possible. If a film is too preachy it loses its audience. I really like the way my mother's "Mr & Mrs Iyer" and now "Amu" uses the human relationship to convey the message.
The best part of doing "Amu" was it gave us a chance to rehearse the scenes. We improvised, redid the scenes... Because we had rehearsed we had such a strong grip over the scenes. The most extensive rehearsals were for "Mr & Mrs Iyer".
Now you play another expatriate in "Chai Pani".
Yaaaah! I play a double role. It's a very wry, sarcastic film about a girl trying to make a documentary film whose efforts are bogged down by red tapism. Ironically, the film was stopped by the censor board for my kissing and smoking scenes... "Chai Pani" is the lightest film I've done. I did it mainly for the double role. This is my own "Seeta Aur Geeta", ha ha.
And your first Hindi film "Page 3" is around the corner...
And so is "Amawas". I think in English. So I was nervous about the Hindi. But Sandhya Mridul who co-starred in "Page 3" helped me with the language. "Amawas" is my first non-issue film. It's a horror film. That genre is largely unexplored in our cinema. More than scary I think "Amawas" is intelligent. Let me tell you, I get all kinds of films, though not much potboilers. But I do get a lot of small films where I get to play the NGO types. But every small film isn't a good film. And I don't have to be in all of them. But I'd love to do that one potboiler.
You've acquired the tag of a new-age Shabana Azmi
That's a lovely tag. Yeah I can live with that. I'm doing my mother's film "15 Park Avenue" with Shabana. I've four releases this year. Then I start shooting for Mira Nair. I'll shuffle between my mom's and Mira's film. We've finally managed to work out the dates. I was so tense about it.
Do you like your life?
What a strange question! I like what I'm doing. I'm constantly travelling through three cities, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai, in search of work. I hope I get more interesting offers. Am I being greedy? One must be!