My appointment was scheduled at 5 pm, however, I got to meet her at 10 pm. But five hours was worth a wait to meet the former Miss World turned actress-now-turned Mrs. Bachchan.
You've been a part of three big costume dramas - Devdas, Umrao Jaan and now Jodhaa Akbar. Can't it get any bigger than this?
(Laughs) You know, the person I really pose this question to, is Nitin Chandrakant Desai. Though he didn't work on Umrao Jaan, but when he worked on Devdas, the sets were so huge and incredible, that I never thought it could get any bigger than that. In terms of scale, here we were working on a movie of this grandeur and magnitude, Jodhaa Akbar, and never before, had I seen sets and the backdrop like in this film. It transported us into another era.
You said in your earlier interviews, that the way in which films are made in the West, are completely diverse to the way they are made here. But that's films. What about your audiences? Are they any different?
To be specific, I had said that in terms of the start date and the end date. That's the way the overseas films are scheduled and I'm not complaining. In the West, the way of working is very methodic. Over here, it's an emotional experience and a family gathering. Everyone is very accommodative. As far as the audiences are concerned, the one very over-whelming aspect about the Indian and overseas fans is that their love for Hindi cinema is incomparable. It can't be defined and it's there to be experienced.
Is it physically challenging to be doing stunts like fencing, riding on elephants, etc. when you are a part of such a big epic?
There was a lot to do, but it was Akbar (Hrithik) who had to go through the challenges. The princess, (that's me), had to do very little sword fighting and an even lesser horse riding, but, overall, I had a good time in whatever I did.
Does that mean you are adventurous?
Yes, I love to do action. My first taste of it was in the making of The Last Legion. I remember when I read the script of Jodhaa Akbar; there were mentions of some fight sequences. But in the final scripting, the scenes were cut on the editing table. But I have no complaints though I would've loved to do a bit more action.
You 'provoked' the U.K audiences with your career's best performance in Provoked. You melt your audiences' heart every time they visit Madame Tussauds. What are you going to do next?
(Laughs) My fans have been so supportive that they've allowed me to realize my dream when I started out in cinema. The industry has been very generous and by the grace of God, I've been spoilt for choice in terms of the kind of the offers coming my way. I don't know whether I've been wise or not in my choices, but I just did a film because I wanted to do or I felt like or both. Provoked was a very vital story to be told and I'm glad that my fans and critics have appreciated the film and my performance. The same goes with Madame Tussauds. It's my audiences love and support that has got me in there.
You wished Jodhaa had Abhishek or Akbar?
(Laughs) I've got Abhishek, so Jodhaa can definitely have Akbar.
A.R.Rahman in Guru and now in Jodhaa Akbar. Two different eras, one music maestro. Are you disappointed somehow when you hear that Jodhaa Akbar's music isn't living up to it's expectations, or do you think that it will pick up after the film's release?
The case with Rahman's music is that it grows on you and it stays with you for a very long time. That's him. The special factor about a movie like Jodhaa Akbar and a filmmaker like Ashutosh Gowariker is that he is not compromising in terms of trying to make music that would just be a trend or something that would necessarily be dubbed as popular. He had absolute clarity in the fact that he was here making music for an epic romance and not a historical film. As you rightly pointed out, when you watch the movie, you will relate to his choices as to why he chose those tunes and lyrics for the music of this film.
Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan went to the Oscars. Where would you wish Jodhaa Akbar to lead?
To the hearts of my audiences.
Period costume dramas haven't really worked at the Box Office, as far as the figures are concerned. Are you at all afraid of failure?
Movies like Jodhaa Akbar don't get made every day and I'm thankful that a director like Ashutosh, who is also the producer of the film, had the conviction to follow his dream and make the movie rather than succumb to these doubts, fears and apprehensions. The beauty of cinema is that it's there forever to be embraced at whichever point in time, by the audiences. Nobody has a place in this industry who is afraid. Everyone just enjoys cinema and respects it too.
This is your first UTV film ever since you've become an actress. How does that feel and were you aware of it?
Wow! That's something I didn't know. Oh my God! Ronnie Screwvala and me have interacted so many times that I've never made a note of this fact. I'm glad that it has finally happened. There were so many ideas we have discussed and kudos to Ronnie for supporting the movies, he has been a part of, for all these years. He has backed and has been a part of the current big movement that we are seeing and experiencing in Hindi cinema and to be a part of his production is simply an honour.
What was your experience like working with Hrithik?
Working with Hrithik was wonderful but I wouldn't use the word 'was' because during the music launch he was saying, "We shouldn't be meeting up after couple of years and saying - 'That is the way it was.' So yes… I'd like both of us to share screen space again. He is also very focused, committed and very healthy in terms of his food habits. I'm also glad that we both have worked back to back in two different types of films - Dhoom 2 and now Jodhaa Akbar.
What was so different in the costumes you've put on in Umrao Jaan and now in Jodhaa Akbar? Or do you think that you've started off from where you left?
I'm glad you've at least asked this and cared to observe the costumes. Yes, both the films you've mentioned are set in another period. The backdrops are very different. From being a courtesan to a Rajput Princess, the journey was very diverse in terms of the look, the make-up, the hair and the costumes. In Jodhaa Akbar, I've really darkened my hair and have got light brown hair. I've also put on dark lenses. My costumes in Jodhaa Akbar are heavy, bright and colourful as compared to Umrao Jaan.
Any message for your fans?
Believe you me, Love conquers all.