Have you finished unwrapping your birthday (June 8) gifts yet? Which is best one of all?
The best gift was that dad flew into Mumbai from Los Angeles for four days and then we went together to Macau. His visit was supposed to be a surprise but in all her excitement, my manager Nisha just let it slip out. But that was very sweet of him. I got some 500 books and the most delicious home-baked carrot cake from Monika, my publicist.
At 24, how would you sum up your personality?
I was born and brought up in the film industry. I have seen dad go through a lot - I had the ringside view of his struggle and stardom. He was never aware of his super-stardom, work has been worship for him. That experience, together with my mom and sis Rhea, keeps me well-grounded. I certainly don't have any false sense of self importance.
I am very hard-working. I am like the pit bull - I never give up on anything. Like I get claustrophobic in lifts but I made sure I rode up and down in the elevator from the 38th floor hotel room in Macau recently with a brave face. I am scared of going underwater, so I will take to deep-sea diving.
The easiest perhaps is facing the camera? Your recent photo spreads have been scintillating.
Facing the camera for films surely comes easy to me because that is such a great escape. You are playing someone else! But I hate still camera. I overcame that apprehension working with Mr Bhansali when we had hundreds of photoshoots. I also don't look at myself in the mirror, I get self-critical and self-conscious.
We heard that you will be soon busying yourself in a workshop with your co-stars in Ayesha.
Ayesha is not a pure love story, it is about six or seven friends played by Ira Dubey, Amita , Lisa, Cyrus Sahukar, Arunoday Singh and Abhay Deol. Since the film spans over 63 days, we all have to really be friends before the film goes on floors. So if we have to work together for nearly four months we should have mutual trust too. Now that Abhay is back from New York, we can hold the workshops.
How is it working for the first time with a lady director, Rajshri Ojha?
Oh, we keep discussing back stories for every character in Ayesha. I can be annoying with all my questions to the director. I used to badger Mr Bhansali and Mr Mehra too. So Rajshri is no exception - at times she asks me when I will stop asking questions! (laughs) As for women directors , I think they make films most beautifully. I am a big Mira Nair fan because she uses space with her actors so effectively.
What's Ayesha like? Do you identify with her?
Ayesha is the Indianised version of Jane Austen's character, as you know already. Ayesha is a motherless girl who has taken care of the family. She wants to be in control - she likes everything to be perfect. She's smart and perceptive. But she challenges everybody which makes her self-destructive in a way.
How and why did Abhay Deol come into the picture?
Abhay is a brilliant actor. He can be fun and he has the confidence to carry off this role. He is a very secure actor, he knows who he is. He suits the role of Knightley aka Arjun who is a very sorted-out guy and he is at ease with Ayesha as a woman of substance.
So is Ayesha anti-marriage? What's your view about the institution of matrimony?
Ayesha definitely feels that marriage is not a merger. I am a romantic, so I too feel marriages cannot be arranged, but since I also know that my parents love me so selflessly, I will be smart about bringing home someone whom I love and of whom they approve. I will have to do a balancing act.
You are a Jane Austen fan. What do you admire about her heroines?
All her protagonists are independent, self respecting women. They read, write and play music. They have a definite sense of self-entitlement. And I am quite a feminist, so I love her work and most of my favourite authors are women writers like Sylvia Plath.
Are you doing Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Sahibaan?
Mehra speaks to me about so many films, Sahibaan is one of them. Let us see which one of these works out. But I want to with him for sure. He is extremely realistic - a good man and a great filmmaker. I want to play characters of conflict - like the ones in his films.
You have been signed up by Dharma Productions for I Hate Love Stories opposite Imran Khan. So are you prepared to get away from the traditional mould and don a bikini if "the role demands"?
Punit Malhotra is the young, earnest director of the film. It's a young man's sweet romantic take. This will be a lovely film for Imran and me. It is a love story, a date flick. As for wearing a bikini - well I wear it in real life and I have worn angarkhas, salwar-kameez, bandana, jeans, skirts, gunjee - whatever it takes. If the character I play is on the beach - the correct gear would have to be a bikini. (squeals away naughtily).
What kind of roles are you being offered these days?
Oh absolutely anything - my sister is going through umpteen scripts offered to me. It is flattering that most of these are strong women roles.
Having been an assistant director, when will the director in you surface?
At present, I am still evolving as an actor. But the writer in me is wanting to surface. I don't know if I can be a good director because I am not so good at dealing with people. I would rather write screenplays.