The Telegraph
Tuesday , November 13 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Yash Chopra’s girl

What does it mean to be a Yash Chopra heroine?

She is a brand. You don’t hear of any other director’s heroine or even Yash Chopra heroes being spoken about in the same way. What it means is that my name will go down in history as a Yash Chopra heroine. I have looked up to actresses like Madhuri (Dixit), Rani (Mukerji), Sridevi and Karisma Kapoor. For my name to be attached to a brand like this is awesome. Someday I will tell my kids that I have worked with Yash Chopra. Sadly, after this film no one else will get a chance to say this. I keep thinking that what if he had not cast me in the film. I would have regretted it all my life.

What do you think the brand means to viewers?

I think there is interest around a Yash Chopra heroine because she is strong. It won’t be wrong to say that Yashji made his films from the girl’s perspective. He had a lot of love and respect for women and that translated into his cinema. His women have always been strong characters. His heroines also believed in love. Interestingly, my character in Jab Tak Hai Jaan is an anti-Yash Chopra heroine, for she doesn’t believe in love. She is too practical to think that love is the be all and end all of life. She thinks that she will lose sight of her goals if she falls in love.

Having worked extensively under the YRF banner, you must have interacted a lot with Yashji. How different was it to be directed by him?

I was always in awe of him; so there was a little distance. It was only when I worked with him that I had the opportunity to know him as a person. I realised that I didn’t have to be in awe of him because he is so chilled out. It’s so strange that I still talk about him in present tense. (Takes a long pause.) He is really the coolest person I have ever met. I believe that age is just a number. Someone who is young, is not regressive; he changes with the times and Yashji is all this and more. He always cracked us up on sets. I have always respected him but now I also love him. In the mornings, I’d see him on the set, wearing his white beret and he’d be so excited to shoot. He was like a teddy bear.

What’s your one unshakable memory of Yashji?

I had food poisoning when we were shooting in Kashmir and we had to cancel the shoot on that day. Yashji came to my room to check on me and I didn’t want him to see me like that so I put a blanket over my face. (Laughs) He came back to my room four times that day to make sure that I took my medicines. He didn’t need to do that but that was him. He treated his cast and crew like his family.

As actors most of us would do anything for that perfect shot. We’d dance in uncomfortable shoes or sit on pointy rocks and say loving things to our co-stars. There are people who take advantage of that. They will push you even though they know that you are seriously uncomfortable. But Yashji never did. We were in Ladakh on the last few days of the shoot and Adi (Aditya Chopra) and Anil Mehta (cinematographer) kept saying that they’ll make me get into a freezing lake for at least one shot. I knew that if it was up to them they would have. Yashji refused. He actually cares about his actors, which is why he is loved.

You’ve been directed by both Aditya and Yashji. How would you compare them?

Adi is obviously influenced by Yashji. Yashji’s films are about love and human relationships and their intricacies. Adi’s films are about being righteous. Yashji is also very quick. There were times when he would okay the first take and not even bother to take a safety take. We would finish what should have been an eight-hour shoot in six hours and then chill in Kashmir. Compared to other directors, Adi is also very quick but he would always take a safety take. Yashji knew exactly what he wanted.

This is your second film with Shah Rukh Khan. After Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi you had said that it was tough for you to bond with him. Was it easier this time around?

Definitely. I think I have got to know him better these last few years. But I have to clarify that I am not on back-slapping terms with Shah Rukh. I respect him too much. I hang out and talk more with Shah Rukh than I would with actors my age. In my first film, I was completely lost. I always wondered what I was doing in a film directed by Aditya Chopra and starring Shah Rukh. I felt like I was in the middle of a whirlpool.

You apparently have some physically challenging sequences in the film. How did you prepare for them?

My character is that of a documentary filmmaker who is travelling around Ladakh and Kashmir shooting her film. She is very adventurous by nature. Not only was I required to look fit but was required to be fit. I had to do things like river rafting and cross a river on a rope... It was for a song, so I had to do the same thing time and again. My abs were sore for a month after we finished shooting. The terrain was tough. I was constantly walking or running up and down inclines. Also, there was less oxygen and all the physical activities felt strenuous. I am a very fit person but I had to prepare myself.

You haven’t done many films that starred another actress. What was it like working with Katrina Kaif?

I am very clear that you either get along with someone or you don’t. And this is true not just for actresses. It’s human nature. In our case, Katrina and I got along. We found a comfortable place in our relationship where we could be sitting next to each other but not feel the need to constantly talk. At other times Adi would joke that he’d have to wait for us to finish chatting. I am not someone who can pretend to have a relationship with someone because it’s expected of me. She is also like me. I am not friends with any actress. Katrina and I are also not friends but we got along really well. I have a lot of respect for Katrina and what she has achieved in all these years.

You must be looking forward to 2013. You start the year with Vishal Bhardwaj and Imran Khan in Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, then there is Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet with Ranbir Kapoor and then Rajkumar Hirani’s Peekay with Aamir Khan.

It’s a great time in my career. I have films with four directors who I have always wanted to work with. They create such different worlds and for them to think that I could be a part of their films is such a compliment. I am very excited.