Where have you been?!
Argggh! I hate that question. So what if I haven’t had a release in two years? Anyway, I’m not an actress who did 20 films every year! I like working at my own pace.
What was it about Life of Pi that caught your attention?
Ang Lee. I wanted to work with him so badly. Also, it’s a character that I thought would come easily to me. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with this film. When Ang Lee is at the helm you know that you’re going to be a part of something big and significant. None of his characters –– even if they have just one scene –– are frivolous. I have been his fan for years now. After I saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I wanted to move to China and do a film with him! I wanted to live that dream.
Did the length of your role worry you?
Why should it? When I received an e-mail offering me the role, I knew that the film wasn’t ‘Life of Pi’s Mother’. I knew that the film was about this boy. When there are only four characters in the film –– mother, father, boy and tiger, how insignificant can any role be? Each time I do a film, it doesn’t have to revolve around my character. Aise toh I would never be a part of anything interesting. I don’t want to let go of a film because my role is not long enough.
Anything particular about the experience of working with Ang that has stayed with you?
Ang is constantly working. If you look at him, you can almost see his mind constantly ticking away and you don’t want to break that rhythm. He is interested in what’s going on inside a character’s mind rather than the physical space. He is very demanding. If he needs to do 30 takes to get a shot right, he will.
That sounds very exhausting.
Hmmm.... It was very exciting because it was a new experience for me. Suraj (Sharma) had the big challenge of seeing this film through and I’m sure it was tough for him — physically and mentally. But I think Suraj is very lucky to have had this kind of a break. I told him that.
The general perception is that you didn’t capitalise on the opportunity that Namesake offered… of breaking into Hollywood.
I didn’t do Namesake, or for that matter Life of Pi, hoping it would take me to Hollywood. I considered them like I consider any regular film. I don’t want recognition from Hollywood. I’m already a “somebody” here. I believe that the opportunities that have come my way are because of the work that I’ve done here.
Irrfan seems to have made a smooth transition to Hollywood...
It’s too much of a risk for me to leave what I have here and go looking for work there. I didn’t want to make that kind of an effort. I would have to live there, get an agent and look for work. I didn’t even consider Hollywood as an option.
After more than two decades in the movie business, do you have a wishlist of the kind of films you would like to do?
I want to do something fun… not the ‘typical’ Tabu roles that people associate me with. Those will always be there but I want a change. I want to do something like a Biwi No 1. (Laughs)