Bengali films or Hindi films - what do you prefer?
The reason I do Bong cinema is just for the love of acting. But I still love all my jhatka-matkas in my Hindi movies. Today when I see a rikshawalla playing my song, and when I see the janta like my films, I feel very proud of that. It is so much fun to do shows and stage performances and people really love you. I go to an airport and meet these little kids who come and do my dance steps. It is so touching! It is so amazing how Hindi movies give you the ability to reach out to every section of society. Hindi is really the universal language. So it is not about preference. It is really two different worlds. One is my commercial Hindi movie world and Bengali cinema is another world altogether. I love Bengali cinema but today, everything I am is because of Hindi cinema.
You're also doing a short film on AIDS with Mira Nair.
This is a series of four films directed by Mira Nair, Vishal Bhardwaj, Farhan Akhtar, and Santosh Sivan. All four of these short films have been commissioned by the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation which they have set up in India. Mirabai Films is going to be producing all four. So it started off with Mira's film called The Migration, in which I play the role of a housewife. It is a fantastic way to make the public aware about how AIDS is spread. Mira has traced the path of how AIDS can pass and through what sections of the society it can travel.
How did you get onto Mira Nair's wishlist?
I have known Mira since the time of Monsoon Wedding. I was considered for that film, but it didn't work out. I think she saw my work in Kaalpurush and she was totally taken aback by how different I can look. After seeing my work in that film, she said that she could see nobody else for the role in The Migration. That was a great compliment coming from Mira Nair!
Mira Nair would again have been a distinctive experience
What is amazing about Mira is that she is a very passionate and aggressive director. Her style is totally different, and I think she made me go to areas in my mind that nobody has pushed me to. There is a line that even I don't cross but she made me cross it. I have definitely learned a lot from her.
Have you seen her recent release The Namesake?
Especially after doing The Migration, I promised her that I would go and watch The Namesake. I was there for the premiere. I can tell you it is one of the best films I have seen this year. It is unbelievable. Tabu is absolutely outstanding.
Do you think our audience is finally ready to accept films that deal with serious issues?
I think the masses pay the amount for a ticket because they want to be entertained and they want to come out feeling like they got their money's worth. I don't think they are interested in harsh reality. Although a film like Taxi No. 9211 dealt with the reality of a taxi driver, it was treated in a very fun-loving commercial manner. So a film like that will appeal more. I think that the masses don't want to deal with films like The Namesake or any other serious films. Why should they? They are dealing with reality themselves.
Then where do you think the market for serious cinema lies?
I think that it is opening up now, but only for the multiplexes and that is a good thing. I think that commercial cinema, even like blockbuster movies now-a-days don't work. People are fed up and bored of the same thing. I think our Hindi movies are packaging and re-packaging the same thing. There is no change.
Does that mean we will see you doing more parallel cinema?
No, I think mainstream is my first love. But I will do mainstream which makes sense. I will do films that connect with the youth. I love to do these crazy comedy films which have energy, but I am also looking for films that mean something. I don't want to do any rona-dhona films.
Speaking of your mainstream Bollywood films, what comes next from you?
Next is Firoz Nadiadwala's Fool N Final. I play a Punjabi girl who gets lost in Dubai and it is a very sweet role. It is a multi-starrer so everybody plays an important part in the film. Fool N Final is a very fun film. It will release by the end of May.
What about Abbas-Mustan's Race?
Race should release by Diwali. That is with Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Katrina Kaif and Bipasha Basu. And I can't really say anything about this film because the producers have asked us to keep totally mum!
You're doing multi-starrers then. Do you have a prominent role?
In multi-starrers it is really not about prominence. It is about adding to a good script. Nobody can get up and argue saying that I have a smaller role. We all add to it in our own way and we make a great film.
What's the status of Tigmanshu Dhulia's Ghulami?
I have been told that the producer is trying to recover as he was very unwell. So until that comes about the film is on hold. But Tigmanshu and I are already having talks about other films. We are trying to move to something better.
Finally, is Aneez Bazmi's Benaam coming anytime soon?
Everything is ready and I think the promos will be on air in another month. It is a great film and Aneezji is rocking after No Entry.
But why such a long delay of four years?
It is sad that it took such a long time. But everything happens for a good reason. Two years back when the film started, the music director of the film Himesh Reshammiya was not that well known but today everyone is booting for him. So I think all of us have moved in better areas and I would say it happened for the best.