Her cat eyes draw you in her world of fame and fortune. Then you begin to understand how unfortunate you are not to have her in your life. Then your eyes open up and you see the reality that you're still interviewing her. Then you start to go red in fury, but for Celina Jaitley, she's been busy painting the town red after she won her first Best Actress Award at the Cairo International Film Festival. And it's a fact that the colour red has indeed proved lucky for her, thanks to her film Red, she got her first overseas agent, then went on to get her first English film and then again winning the Best Actress Award.
With her striking good looks and talent, Celina has become Bollywood's most glamorous actresses. But not any more. For her latest film, Accident on Hill Road, due to release on the last day of this year, the leading lady has gained weight, cut her hair short looking completely de-glam and goes on to say, "People will now look beyond my glamour image and take me seriously as an actor." We got to chat with the lovely Celina on the challenges in portraying the real life characters on screen, her new hairstyle, her rapport with co-stars Farooq Sheikh and Abhimanyu, her instant international fame and her confidence that 2010 will bring her even more success and good luck than 2009.
First thing's first, your first ever award for an English language film as the Best Actor Female at the Cairo International Film Festival. Still in a state of shock?
Now comes the after shocks (laughs). I think there couldn't have been a better beginning than this. This is completely justifiable. The award is a proof of the fact that hard work does pay off at the end of the day, someday (laughs).
How important is it to be 'just' to your character in a film based on a real life incident?
The thing about real life stories is that you cannot act them out. You have to be it. Being true to the character was the most difficult part which, by the way, was American but has been re-adapted to India. Yes, there were a lot of issues to it but I feel that it is important for an actor like me to dabble in a diverse cinema and Accident on Hill Road is one of those films which is going to be a new genre all together. For me, this film is an entertaining experiment and I hope people enjoy it as much as I loved being a part of it.
Even your hairdo makes you look different and de-glam.
Thank you. Yes, some actors have a glamorous image for so long that they can live in that image for the rest of their lives. I can also do that. But the actor in me wasn't satisfied and it was very difficult for me to prove myself. The only way I could do that was if I stripped every bit of Celina from me. That's what I did for this film. I stripped every bit of Celina in me, including my hair. The director of course, suggested that and I instantly agreed to do a different hairdo.
And you do seem to have put on a bit of weight too.
(laughs) Yes. Good observation. I've even put on a lot of weight for this film. I completely stopped working out two months before this film so that I didn't look muscular, toned, and just looked like a next door girl. I did everything I could to make this real life story come to life. It's been a difficult and an endearing task to make Accident on Hill Road.
How does it feel to be the senior most actor in the entire cast along with Mr Farooq Sheikh? And how much of a rapport did you share with your new co-star Abhimanyu?
It feels great. Abhimanyu, my co-star in the film is relatively a new comer but I feel he is one of the most talented actors we have today. He proved that in Anurag Kashyap's Gulaal. Actors like him don't need to prove themselves at all. I felt that the best thing about this film is that both, me and Abhimanyu and Farooq saab are three different identities. We're people who've made their identities in the film industry in a totally different way. In a film like this, all this works so well.
You're pretty optimistic about bringing in your New Year, 2010, with a success smile from Accident on Hill Road?
I pray for that...and a lot of people are telling me that 2010 is going to be even better for me than 2009. I am really looking forward to it. At the end of the day, it's about appreciation, whether the film does well or not. This is one of those films where I believe that I'll receive appreciation for my work.
After A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty, it's Celina Jaitley on the international podium receiving an award. Do you think that your flight has finally taken off now?
All I know is the fact that my flight was always in air. People refuse to acknowledge it, which is fine with me because I'm ready to work over and over again till I prove myself. As an actor, I've started making my mark. People will now look beyond my glamour image and take me seriously as an actor, thanks to the Cairo International Film Festival.
You best performance you once mentioned came out from the film Red. With your latest release, here's wishing you 'Paint the town red Celina'.
Thank you so much. But to be honest with you, Red was a commercial attempt to a parallel cinema and though it may not have done well at the box office, it gave me my first English film, it's the film which got me my overseas agent. Sometimes, lessons come in disguise of failure. I don't know what the box office result of Accident on Hill Road is going to be but I'm sure people are going to love everyone's work in the movie.