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Being bijlee

Most actors who have worked with Vishal Bhardwaj say that in the process of understanding their characters, they have learnt new things about life and themselves. Was it the same for you?

I have had a straightforward life without any severe low points. So far I have seen everything in black-and-white. His (Vishal) characters have shades of grey, which is a reality of life. Human beings are flawed. But the intensity of the flaw differs. Nobody is perfect.

You once said that you feel awkward around strangers but with Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola you had to work with a new set of people.

It takes some time to feel easy on the set. I am socially awkward. Vishal is such an intelligent and intuitive man that he immediately understood this. He made me feel comfortable. It was the same with Imran (Khan). He is a no-agenda type of guy. With Pankajji (Kapur) I always maintained a distance because he is such a respected senior actor. But that didn’t stop me from discussing work with him.

What was it like working with Vishal?

First and foremost, he makes it clear that he has confidence in you. He expects you to understand your character and on the sets he allows you to be yourself. This is one of the reasons why actors like to work with him. He makes changes to a scene to make it better…. We were shooting a small scene with just two lines. Just before he took the shot, he asked me to do something very subtle, which made the scene perfect.

What kind of homework did you do?

Bijlee (her character) is a very complex girl. I had to walk a fine line that separates several aspects of her personality. She is a bundle of contradictions; she is bold (doesn’t think twice before swimming in a taalab and has a tattoo on her lower back); but she is also vulnerable.

Bijlee is an attention-seeker and that explains the way she dresses and speaks… she likes to shock people. My homework involved understanding Bijlee. Most of the characters I have played in the past have been fairly uncomplicated. This was quite a challenge.

In a previous interview you said you spent time trying to discover the real you.

When you grow up in a protected environment, you don’t think on your own. It’s only when you start working and interacting with all kinds of people that you begin to form opinions about the world. My father was in the Army where there is uniformity at every level. When I joined the film industry, I realised there were all kinds of people. I realised that it was wrong to generalise. I have had some relationships with friends that have not gone right and I have come to terms with the fact that I am socially awkward. I was never ready to become an actor but when I became one, I was completely engulfed by this… world. I thought I lost myself somewhere along the way and had to rediscover myself.

If link-up gossip is to be believed, you are clearly leading an interesting life.

(Laughs) Do you really think my life is so entertaining? I have been linked to every young hero. You think I can manage the amount of work I am doing and romance all these guys at the same time? I would go insane if I start leading a life dictated by others. If I had to worry about what people thought, I wouldn’t be able to go out with friends. An actor’s world keeps getting smaller when such restrictions are added… they would go mad. Like any normal person, I hang out with my friends and I go out to watch movies. If I had something to hide why would I allow myself to be seen doing it? People should talk about celebrities who are not seen in the public space.

There was talk that Sidhartha Mallya sent his private jet to fly you to London.

I don’t even know that guy! I have probably met him once with Deepika (Padukone) at a party. I was shooting in Kashmir at that point. How could I be in two places at the same time? It’s bizarre.

In a recent interview you said: “Stop throwing garbage at me since I don’t throw garbage at you.” You were clearly upset.

I have always been honest about myself. I don’t know how to be diplomatic. At the same time, I have never commented on any other actress. But I am not going to sit back and take rubbish from people. I respect myself a lot. I don’t want to play the kind of games others are playing. There have been quite a few articles showing me in a bad light. I have so much respect for someone like Vidya Balan… she is so dignified. You think she never had her share of problems? Or that she hasn’t faced competition? All of us face competition but it’s how you deal with it that makes a difference. I was just trying to say that let’s not make things ugly. We like to think that we are very cool but we aren’t. Let’s all just do the work we are here to do and if you are better than me, it’ll show. This is a very small industry, so let’s not run each other down.


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