Chitrangada, an army officer's daughter, says: "I knew no one from the film industry. I never thought it would be easy for me to be in movies. But I've always been a total movie buff - acting, dancing and singing through school. Then I did a number of ads and music videos. `Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi' just happened. Someone from Delhi suggested my name to Sudhir Mishra."
She admits the political ideology of Mishra's film was a bit too much for her. "Sudhir briefed me about it. But he told me not to get into the politics. He wanted me to look at my character Geeta as just a girl who could belong to any phase or time. 'Don't let anyone intellectualise the character too much for you,' he warned me.
"I internalized her to the best of my abilities. But I must admit I was daunted by the complexity of the character. I had never done a film before, but Sudhir was very confident. After the film's release, one of the best compliments I received was from a critic who said I don't act, but react. That's exactly what I tried to do. There were such fantastic theatre actors in `Hazaaron...' I had to go purely by instinct. I kept it simple."
Chitrangada, who is now settled in Mumbai and looking for greener pastures, admits she isn't being offered hardcore commercial cinema.
"I guess because I've done the offbeat role well they presume I can't do anything else. Fortunately, I've another film coming up. It's called `Kal' and is directed by Sudhir Mishra's former assistant Ruchi Narain. I play a regular 26-year old Mumbai girl in a female-centric plot. And it's completely in Hindi. It isn't an out-and-out commercial film, but it's a thriller, a murder mystery. Then I'm talking to other people about other roles..."
She trails off. And you look at her as yet another avant-garde actress unsure of her next move after the first off-mainstream step into cinema.
"The response to my performance in `Hazaaron Khawaishein...' has been fantastic. Vishal Bhardwaj insists he'll write a film only for me. That's how much I've inspired him. Ashutosh Gowariker keeps calling me `amazing'. Ketan Mehta has seen the film repeatedly."
Tell her the film hasn't worked at the box office and Chitrangada protests.
"I think it has worked on some level. I've got calls from youngsters who don't relate to the politics, but love the love story in the film. It's amazing how differently everyone has interpreted the work. Some friends had to sit in the third row of a theatre and watch it... no tickets!"
The film's producers, Pritish Nandy Communications, should be happy to hear that, but none of the admiring filmmakers are coming forward to offer her roles.
"I know. But I'm sure they have me in mind. What I did in `Hazaaron Khawishein Aisi' wasn't easy. If I can carry off that, I'm confident I can carry off any role. It's fascinating how much variety Bollywood has to offer an actor. It's like an ongoing party. Everyone is making a film. Some are crossing over, others are going parallel. It's the best time for an actress to be in Indian movies. I'd love to work with Ashutosh Gowariker, Fahan Akhtar, Mira Nair... I just need to hold on."