2004 was a great year for you - you won appreciation and nominations for ‘MHN’, yet the awards didn’t fall into your lap. Very disappointed, were you?
“It was a complete honour even being nominated with such senior actresses like Rani Mukherjee, but I don’t see any reason why I should be disappointed. Even a nomination is a reward, isn’t it? And if we actresses started assessing our work on the basis of awards, then disappointments will be a-plenty. There are many good actresses and a lot of good work happening. Our achievements don’t begin and end with awards but, yes, awards are encouraging.”
This year you’re back with two big banners, and your first hit co-star, Shahid Kapur. Old screen-romance revives?
“Yeah, we’re hoping the ‘Ishq Vishq’ luck will strike again. We do have this amazing comfort level. You know, there are some screen pairs that people don’t forget, like Anil Kapoor–Madhuri, Shah Rukh-Kajol...and what’s interesting is that even after two years, people remember Shahid and me as a great screen pair.”
The John Mathew Mathan film has hot sex symbol Bipasha Basu with you in the lead roles. Any fire on the sets?
“No way! Just like there was no fire on the sets of ‘MHN’ with a diva like Sushmita Sen. There’s no denying that Bipasha is very sexy, but we have such defined roles in the film that there’s no scope for rivalry. Besides, we got along very well. I think I have this strange bonding with Bongs - first Sushmita and now Bipasha!”
How comfortable are you with Shahid’s actress-girlfriend, Kareena?
“I haven’t worked with her, but I’m totally comfortable with her and I think she is, too. Bebo is a cool girl.”
Do you think you’re getting type-cast as this sweet-girl-next-door? That can limit the kind of roles you could get...
“I don’t really think the image is ‘sweet-girl-next-door’, because though Sanjana in ‘MHN’ was sweet, she wasn’t anything like the next-door girl. And you’ll see that my character in ‘Life Ho Toh Aise’ is starkly different. Now just because one doesn’t see me in a film emerging from the sea wearing a swimsuit, it doesn’t mean that I’m only doing candy floss, college-kid kinds of roles, right? The directors who approach me know exactly what I’m capable of and to what extent I can go.”
So that’s why you’re known to be extra choosy about your roles and do fewer films...
“I’m choosy because you have to see to believe what kind of scripts filmmakers come up with - they are hilariously silly! I can’t imagine from where they think of such stories; at times like that, you almost feel that Hindi cinema hasn’t moved for decades. Out of so many that I hear, there might be only one or two worth considering. There’s no choice but to be choosy.”
Like most actresses, do you believe that the industry is largely male dominated?
“Yes, I do think so. But it’s slowly changing, as scripts are being written with women in mind. It takes a lot more guts for a filmmaker to go ahead and make women-oriented subjects in our scenario.”
And the casting couch...?
“At first, when anyone asked me about it, I’d be offended, but this seems to be the talk of the town now. I think these things happen at every level in life in any profession. But how far one will go depends entirely on them. At the end of the day, it’s all about your family background and your upbringing. It’s your values that make you, or don’t let you do certain things.”
If you got a call from Steven Spielberg tomorrow offering you a Hollywood project, what would you say?
“It would be exciting to think that he’s considered me for his film - very few would want to turn down a Spielberg film. But if the film demands nudity, it will be a sure no-no for me!”