What makes "Mangal Pandey" so special for you?
Agreed my role is limited. But "Mangal Pandey" is a prestigious product.
It's also my fourth period film after Kamal Haasan's "Hey Ram", Sanjay Bhansali's "Black" and Amol Palekar's "Paheli".
Actually the difference between a period and contemporary film is created by the clothes. Once you wear the costume you begin to feel period specific.
Otherwise the emotions and drama are the same. In "Hey Ram" and now "Mangal Pandey" the period detailing is excellent.
Why do you say you have nothing much to do?
My role started as a cameo. I was supposed to do the widow Jwala's character - the one that Aishwarya was supposed to have done and now Amisha has done. When I read the script I fell in love with the small role of the prostitute. There were some very good scenes. The script underwent a change and I got more space than before.
But it's still a cameo... nothing like what Smita Patil did with Ketan Mehta in "Mirch Masala", though I wish had. Though I play a 'tawaif' (prostitute) I don't have a central role like Meena Kumari in "Pakeezah" or Rekha in "Umrao Jaan". "Mangal Pandey" is completely about the title character.
"Mangal Pandey" has you perform a 'mujra' (nautch item) for the first time?
Yes, and I was really looking forward that. I got a chance not only to do a mujra but also to be choreographed by Saroj Khan. It's a situation where I taunt the British. Actually I'm a trained classical dancer. One day I hope to do a film where I play a dancer. Maybe some day someone will make "Guide", "Kinara" or "Bhairavi" with me.
Aamir and you go back a long way.
Oh yes! He was my first hero in "Ghulam". After that there was a long gap until "Mangal Pandey". Today we're very close friends. The equation is different. I remember how he used to show me to do scenes (during "Ghulam").
He still tells me how to do my scenes. I did "Mangal Pandey" for Aamir. I can never say no to Aamir or Shah Rukh.
Ketan Mehta is a fine filmmaker.
Don't I know it! It's important for me to be comfortable with the person I work with. Ketan was really easygoing and helpful.
"Paheli" didn't do well.
When you do something different there's always a risk factor involved.
But to me everything I do with Shah Rukh is special. And the way Ravi
Chandran shot me in "Paheli" was unbelievable. I've been shot beautifully in "Mangal Pandey" too. My make-up is completely true to the period. Those days women put charcoal instead of kajal in their eyes. I created that effect by smudging kajal.
The film is in English and Hindi. Are you promoting the film internationally?
Where's the time? I'm too busy shooting for "Babul". And after that I've to start shooting Karan Johar's film. Actually I don't look at any film as national or international. I have to be really excited about a role, regardless of where it comes from.
Henceforth I will only do roles and film that will be remembered. To not let down my fans, that's very important. My roles have to have an underlining message for the young. "Babul" has an important message about widow remarriage. Even "Bunty Aur Babli" has a sub-text about small-town dreamers.
After "Black", do you find your roles bland?
Woh colour "Black" to phir nahin ho sakta hai ("Black" cannot be repeated). If I had done "Black" when I had got married and had babies it'd have been a fantastic exit for me. But it happened now, and I want to do more such films.
Yes, I'm greedy. I'm working till end of next year. I'm listening to scripts but at the makers' own risk. I'm not signing anything right now. My priorities now are "Babul" and "Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna". After these two films I'll take some time off.
To get married?
No, to have a holiday. After that I'll take on more assignments.