After the favourable reviews she got for her role in Lamhaa, Bipasha Basu is no mood to swing back into the hottie's groove. Both Bipasha and John are on to a new phase in their respective careers, he with Abbas Tyrewala's Jhootha Hi Sahi and she with Lamhaa, Aakrosh and Dum Maro Dum.
In fact, when John saw Bipasha in Lamhaa he was so blown away. He immediately advised her to get only into projects that bring out her acting skills.
Says Bipasha, "John loved me in Lamhaa. He has done a film on terrorism New York and he feels we both need to stretch ourselves as actors beyond entertainment."
The time for both John and Bipasha to be just body-beautiful is over.
Says Bipasha, "Sure I am very proud of my physique. I've worked hard on it. But now I'm hungering for challenges as an actress. In Lamhaa, I was not only in a burqa throughout. I also got a chance to understand how life is lived in an atmosphere of crisis."
Though she didn't plan it that way, Bipasha's next two films Priyadarshan's Aakrosh and Rohan Sippy's Dum Maro Dum again feature her in films and roles that address themselves to socially-relevant issue.
Says Bipasha, "Until I finished Lamhaa, I didn't notice that the only two films I've signed after are about burning issues."
While Aakrosh is about honour killing, Dum Maro Dum is about the drug mafia in Goa. In both Bipasha pulls out all stops to deliver real performances.
Explains the actress, "Real doesn't necessarily mean de-glamorized. While in Aakrosh I play a school teacher in a dusty small town of North India and wear cottons; in Dum Maro Dum which is about substance abuse, my character Zoyi is very zany with-it and a girl of today. I'm very glamorous in Dum Maro Dum."
Both the films would again require her to stretch her limits as an actor. In fact Aakrosh has been as exhausting to do for Bipasha as Lamhaa. "The way Priyadarshan has dealt with the subject of honour killing is remarkable. Again as an actress I was put in a situation I had little knowledge of. I learnt about honour killing and Kashmir on the job.
Not that I don't read newspapers. But reading about these things is one thing. Seeing them first-hand is another."
Everyone is talking about the sequence in Lamhaa where Bipasha's character is attacked by hordes of burqa-clad women.
"It was very, very humiliating and painful. I had all these women screaming abuses and hitting me everywhere on my body until I fell to the ground. Even after the director Rahul Dholakia called 'cut' I was on the floor sobbing inconsolably. The director kept recording my trauma..."
Now in Aakrosh too she has similar sequence of mob trauma.
Says the actress, "At least one could prepare and rehearse in Aakrosh. No such luxuries were there in Lamhaa. We sometimes literally had seven minutes to shoot in a crowded lane or street of Srinagar and flee before being accosted. That suited me fine because I am a one-take actor."
Bipasha now intends to return to the Valley in a more kindred spirit. "I was shocked by how alienated Kashmiris are from the mainstream of Indian life. Innocent children who have nothing to do with politics referred to India as 'aapka Hindustan'. They actually see Kashmir as independent state."
Bipasha was specially appalled by the lives that children in Kashmir live. "They are not allowed to go out and play. When Sanju Dutt shot a song in a garden with kids it was literally a treat for them. They had never been to a movie theatre. But the kids had seen some of my movies on pirated DVDs."
Now Bipasha would pitch in her might for Kashmiri children. "It's easy to talk about helping the distresses sections. But assuming an initiative is very difficult."
John and Bipasha will create an awareness of Kashmir's issues in Bollywood. "We can turn a blind eye only if we want to lose Kashmir forever," Bipasha warns.