You are shooting with Pawan Kalyan for Jalsa. Finally, is that the title of the film, or is it still a tentative title?
I have the lead role in the film. It is with Pawan Kalyan, so it is coming out good. It is not called Jalsa or anything yet. It is still very tentative.
A liíl something about your role. We have heard there are other girls in the film apart from youÖ
There is Kamilini and there is Parvati Melton. I wouldnít talk about my role. But itís different. Much different from all the other roles I have done.
Tell us about the filmÖ
I canít talk about the story at all. I will keep mum for now. It will be really very different from what I am, totally different from the image I have on screen. It is a huge comedy flick and a complete entertainer.
When will you start shooting for Vijayabhaskarís film?
We will be starting Vijayabhaskarís film in November, in the first week most probably.
What other films have you signed in Telugu and in Bollywood?
So far I am doing a film with Pawan, which will be over soon. Then, I have a film with Tarun which will be starting soon. I have also signed a Bollywood film.
Can you elaborate on the Hindi filmÖ
I am doing a film with Shiny Ahuja. Indrajit Lankesh will be directing it. Thatís also a good flick or so I hope.
How would you describe your Bollywood debut film?
It is a very stylish kind of a film. They are using the best of the people to work on the film. My fingers are crossed. I am hoping for the best. Also, I will be seen opposite Shiney, so it should be a good experience.
Are you happy getting the break, after all the hype?
Of course. But Bollywood is not a big deal for me. Yes, the exposure is good, fame is all very good. However, it all depends on the script and the film. If I get better roles in Telugu, then I will do Telugu films. On the other hand, if I get nicer roles in Hindi, then I will do more Bollywood films. Or do both maybe.
What about all those rumours about you being cast opposite Shah Rukh Khan?
I am not doing a film with Salman or with Shah Rukh Khan. I have never even met them and that I hope answers it.
It is rumoured that you are the most highly paid actress in the industry today. How does it feel?
I have so many people coming up to me and asking the same question. It feels good. Maybe it puts you on a new pedestal. But what matters to me is the respect I get, from the people and my producers, irrespective of what I get.
They say you are no-nonsense girl, almost snobbish at timesÖ
Yes, I am very straight forward. There is no way you will get me mincing words. I will never say ĎItís okayÖí. Nothing is okay with me. I am fixed about certain things and thatís the way I like them. If you like it, take me, otherwise, move on. If you are too sweet in this industry, then people tend to take you for granted. You have to be absolutely mean and ruthless sometimes.
Surprisingly, you started acting with Telugu films. How long did it take you to even feel comfortable initially?
When I first started out, I was very young. I just turned18, I was just out of college, very innocent. I had no idea about acting, no idea about being independent. But I worked with a good set. YVS Choudhary was a good person to work with. I had a hard time with getting used to the idea of working more than dealing with people. No one came up to me and asked what a north girl was doing here. I never faced that question. So, it was a good run.
You didnít know the language, the kind of cinema hereÖ what was your criterion to sign Telugu films?
When I did my first film, Devadas, I didnít know the story. After I had signed the film, I was told the whole story, scene by scene. That was when I realized, I have to first listen to the whole story before signing a film. I couldnít just go and accept a film. After Devadas, I made it a point to sit with the producer, director and have a good talk with them, ask them what the story is, what my role would be in detail. Only then, if I am completely sure, I go ahead and sign it.
Pokiri is a huge hit commercially and it has catapulted you to a new level in the industry. Would you rate it among your best?
Frankly, I am really very proud of Rakhi more than Pokiri. I think I did my best work in Rakhi and pushed my limits as far as my acting skills were concerned. People did notice that. Maybe the film didnít do too well; maybe it was too serious for all the people to watch. But it dealt with certain issues that are very close to me, as far as womenís empowerment is concerned. Even today, women are ill-treated. I signed the film solely because we were pushing that cause.
Actually, flops donít really affect me at all. In fact, only today, I was thinking about how many flops I have had. But I think even if the films have flopped, I havenít. If I had flopped, then I would have been out of the industry by now. You get what you deserve I guess. If I deserve to be out, I will go out someday I suppose.
Which banners have you enjoyed working with personally?
More than the banner, I enjoy working with the people more. It would be Ram for starters. I was very comfortable with him. He was my best pals on the set. Then there is Ravi Teja. He is my favourite co-star. He is an absolutely lovely person. Even in this film, I am very comfortable with Pawan and the director. More than working, we are having fun on the sets. So, itís cool.
Recently, there were reports about you being slapped by Pawan Kalyan. So, whatís the real story?
Yes, I did read about in a newspaper and I am sure everybody knows which paper it is. ĎAn ill-tempered Pawan Kalyan slaps Ileanaí, it read. When I read it, my eyes almost popped out of my head. I wondered how somebody could write something that stupid. Honestly, he has been the most decent, most sweet person I have ever come across. He is so shy that he hardly talks to me and we rarely chat. He has never raised his voice on the set and never lost his temper. Basically, he is one of the most decent people I have worked with so far. I think the newspaper should check its facts before publishing them and get its priorities right. I canít believe why people write such nonsense about him. I think what they have done is very wrong. I owe it to him to clear it out. Pawan hasnít slapped me and I donít think he ever will slap anybody.
Among your co-stars, which of them was more fun to work with?
I had lots and lots of fun co-stars. Ram was really fun to work with. We had lot of fun moments. Ravi was the most chilled out person I have come across. Every time I used to be a little upset or nervous about my dialogues, he would come in, pep me up and make me laugh non-stop on the sets. Prabhas is a very chilled out chap too. HmmmÖ Mahesh is very reserved. We didnít really chat. But Pawan is very sweet. I felt very comfortable with him.
You still donít know Telugu. How did you manage all this time?
I found it very odd when I signed Devadas that my director signed me on despite telling him I didnít know to act or to dance. He told me not to worry and leave it all on him. I really donít know how he dealt with me. I had a pretty tough time on the sets initially. I wouldnít get my dialogues right. I used to be very nervous and I used to have butterflies in my tummy. But we managed somehow and it wasnít that difficult. I think once you get the hang of it, Telugu is not a very difficult language.
Whatís your take on glamour, post-Aata?
Glamour is all right, vulgarity is not. I am absolutely okay with glamour, but it depends on how it is portrayed. Even in Aata, there were a couple of my shots which I didnít like. I expected and trusted my cameraman, my producer and the director to make sure that certain scenes were not put on screen. I think when your intentions are right, when your mind frame is right and when you know deep down that what you are doing is not wrong, then, nothing can harm your image. I donít want to show off my body for the heck of it. Being glamourous is fine, but I donít go to the extent of doing it for the sake of getting money. Thatís not fair.
Heard your mom does the clothes for youÖ
Yeah. Itís better when she does the costumes. She knows what I like, what I am comfortable in. She knows I am very particular about certain things like the fit, the material, so it works.
Tell us about your hometown Goa
Everybody thinks I am from Goa. Actually, I was born and brought up in Mumbai. My father is a Goan and my mom is from Mumbai. I spent seven years in Goa and it is a chilled out place, very laidback. I wish I had a house there so I can settle down there. I really liked my life there. I came back to Mumbai only when I signed Telugu films. All my workís in Mumbai, so I can never get back there.
What does Ileana do when she has time?
When I was younger, I used to sing a lot. So, at one point, I thought I would become a singer. But I became an actress. I have lost touch with singing but I am trying to get back to it.
Honestly, do you have any girlfriends in the industry or is it a case of the so-called cat fights among heroines?
So many. Parvati and Kamalini, for example. Parvati and I are just inseparable. We chat non-stop on the sets that we donít like it when itís pack-up time. She is really fun to hang out with. Then there is Tamanna, who I did a film with. We miss those times, as we are all doing different films. Contrary to what people think, we get along like a house on fire.
Given a choice, what are the kind of films you like doing?
It depends on what the audience likes and thatís how a film sells. These days, audiences are very stressed due to work and want to go out and see out-and-out entertainers. So I would like to do fun films, as itís also fun shooting for entertainers. But I would also want to try serious roles, roles that would challenge me. I donít have a dream role as such, but anything challenging would interest me.
Nowadays, it is fashionable for the celebs to be associated with a cause. Are you too?
Charity is something you are doing for somebody else and I donít see why one should publicise it. Even if I am doing charity, I prefer not talking about it as it is something I feel like doing since I am in a position where I can help somebody. People should understand that we have a certain image and some people look up to us. We have a certain responsibility and if we set a certain image, then it is better.