Suddenly you're so hot!
That's good, isn't it?
Are you proud of being designated the best villain?
As long as I'm the best I don't mind. I was competing for the baddie's sweepstakes with Abhishek Bachchan, Ajay Devgan and John Abraham. "Aitraaz" was a very scary role. I'm very grateful that I was accepted as an actor rather than a man-eater.
The character's sensuality came from little details that I worked out with the director. There were lots of arguments. I wanted the character to go one way while Abbas-Mustan wanted it to go another. I didn't want to be part of a character that seemed undignified. Finally we worked out a compromise. She (the character) wasn't entirely the way I wanted her to be.
She's very predatory?
Yeah, I wanted her to be like Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct" or Demi Moore in "Disclosure", or Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago". I did a lot of research on how women in charge behave. I was very scared. It took me a month to decide whether I wanted to do the role, and when I did I had to decide how to do it.
Will your next release live up to the expectations raised by "Aitraaz"?
I've always tried to choose roles that justify my presence (in the film). "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" last year may not have been a performance-oriented role, but it was designed as a blockbuster. And I needed that. It's important to be associated with a hit.
"Aitraaz" was always a performance-oriented opportunity. And now I've got "Karam." The film and its characters are very different. It will be followed by some very different films.
In "Yakeen", I play a psychotic housewife. There's "Waqt" in which I am very much a part of the father-son conflict between Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar. In Suneel Darshan's "Barsaat" I play a small town girl for the first time. I've always been selective. I failed commercially in my earlier films because I was too inexperienced.
Do you think you can carry off something like Rani Mukherjee's role in "Black"?
I don't know. It's one of the most awesome characters I've seen in films. There are two categories of actors. The trained ones like Karisma and the untrained ones like Kajol. And they're both equally competent. I don't know where I belong. I don't know whether I can pull off a "Black". Maybe I'm not experienced enough. But I do know I'll work hard on it.
Do you think your perception within the industry has changed?
They've started seeing me as an actress rather than a glam doll. I'm grateful for that! It's so difficult to make that transition when you're perceived to be glamorous. Even while doing "Aitraaz" I was afraid I'd be seen as a bold and hot seductress. I didn't want that.
now I have to be careful. This year I'm working in just two to three films. I want to focus on one film at a time. Even a glamorous role should be performance-oriented. You just have to make the right decisions. And Rakesh Roshan and Subhash Ghai seem like the right decisions to me. Beyond that I'm still considering other offers. I don't want to do a bunch of films that don't excite me.
What are the projects with Rakesh Roshan and Subhash Ghai?
Rakeshji's film is called "Krish". I like the sound of that, though Krish is not me but Hrithik Roshan. For Ghai I'm doing a film to be directed by Satish Kaushik.
Have you raised your price after "Aitraaz"?
I do films for creative satisfaction. I do stage concerts and ads for money. I'll be seen in ads very shortly. I guess they were waiting to rope me in after I was successful.
As long as you aren't selling gutka or nuclear bombs!
Ha, never! I'm a socially responsible citizen.
Do you feel secure about the niche you've created?
Everyone out here is insecure. Success cannot be taken for granted. I've seen failure in my early phase. I didn't do a successful film like "Humraaz". Then "Andaz" happened. Life looks good so far. I did go through rough weather last year. But these experiences helped me to grow as a person. Today I trust no one except my family.
And Lara Dutta?
What about her? We're unnecessarily pitched against one another. I think Lara is a very hardworking girl. I've always looked up to her. I was just 17 when I was Miss India, I was a complete babe in the woods. She helped me a lot with my makeup and clothes.
And now you can advise other girls on their looks.
My advice is to not wear make-up and lots of clothes, ha ha.
Any burning ambitions?
To be a singer. That's my first love. Everyone thinks "Tinka tinka" in "Karam" is sung by me. Alisha sounds so much like me. I used to be a big fan of hers. And today she has sung for me.