While there have been quite a few double role performances by leading ladies in the past, there aren't many movies where a Bollywood actress has played even a triple role, let aside coming close to enacting a dozen odd characters in a single outing. As the film releases today, this correspondent gets conversing around the ego boost that she must have got once Ashutosh Gowariker approached her for the role. She also chats about the complexities involved in bringing the 12 characters alive on screen, her friendship with Harman Baweja as well as the contribution that he has made in her rise as a top Bollywood actor.
The moment Ashutosh Gowariker broke the news to you that you would be playing 12 characters in What's Your Raashee?, what was your first thought? Were you already thinking of a record?
Record? That thought just came and went. What was of paramount importance was the fact that I had to play 12 characters, all of whom belonged to the same age group. See, if an actor is required to play different roles but belonging to different age groups and social milieus, then I guess comparatively it is still manageable. You can make use of prosthetics, bring a difference in the way they talk and get a different cultural background. Yahan kya karte? After all each of the girls here was a Gujarati, lived in Mumbai and were all a marriage material.
Not really an easy place to get some differentiation running...
Not at all. Working in films is not as easy as you think from outside. You have to treat each of your assignment as an art and craft. You have to do a lot of things even if your film is a rom-com. Frankly, it was not an easy role to do as it may sound to you as an audience. For playing these 12 characters differently, I had to change my body language and personality practically every day of the shoot. What's Your Raashee? has indeed been the most challenging role of my career. We were all pretty clear that we couldn't take the film lightly. For this reason, we also did one and a half months of research to get the right personality traits as per different 'raashees'!
With so many complexities involved, did you just leave yourself in the able hands of Ashutosh Gowariker and follow his instructions?
See, when a director gives a script to an actor, lot of work is already etched on paper. Still, if you are an actor who wishes to contribute to the written material as well, you have to bring in a lot of your own self too. It is an amalgamation of vision of both the director and an actor. Just like a director cannot make a good film just on the basis of a script, similarly an actor too just can't rise above the script and rock the show on his/her own. Cliched as it may sound but the fact remains that it is all a team work.
Ashutosh says that it is a 'smile through' film. How would you like to call it as? Candy floss?
Really, I don't understand the definition of candy floss! What I know for sure is that this film is entertaining, intelligent, funny, real, light hearted and quite humorous. And no, it doesn't turn slapstick at all. It is a film that you can go for with your family.
Coming to your co-star Hurman, since you have already done around 30 odd films while he has been seen in only two (which were unfortunately unsuccessful at the box office), did you play a mentor of sorts on the sets? Was it the case of you being a little protective about your co-star and hence came up with a shielding act?
Who am I to do that? No, I don't think I would have even thought of being responsible for his act in front of the camera. He is himself quite talented and on the contrary I have learnt a lot from Hurman.
That's right. He knows a lot more than me about cinema since he comes from a filmmaking background. I have known him before I started working on films. I used to take his help in my career as an actor. We have been friends for five years now. While I have learnt everything on the job after making mistakes, he is trained and is much better placed. Rahi baat hits ya flops ki toh jaisa kehte hain naa, samay se pehley aur bhagya se zyaada kisi ko nahi milta!
The worry factor must certainly have been there though once both Love Story 2050 and Victory didn't work at the box office, isn't it?
But then there have been some of my own films that haven't worked at the box office, so what can one say about that? It is all a part of the business. We do not have any actor in the history of filmmaking who hasn't given flops.
If one goes down the memory lane, one can comfortably say that with What's Your Raashee?, Priyanka Chopra may well be boasting of the biggest ever film written for a woman protagonist in the history of Indian cinema. After all, 80 years after legendary British actor Lupino Lane created a (yet unbroken) record for a male actor playing 24 roles in one single film, Only Me (1929), Priyanka Chopra is all set to emulate a similar feat when it comes to female actors. In What's Your Raashee? (2009), she plays 12 different roles and the film has already been referred to Guinness Book of World Records for further consideration.