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'Could you get me something to munch on', Sarah Jane Dias quipped to one of the girls and turned her focus towards me. Instantly, she welcomed me with a warm smile and that was just enough to break the ice before we settled for a quickie Instastory round.
What followed next was some no holds barred tête-à-tête about her latest web show 'Time Out', dealing with unsavory trolls, casting couch and more.
'Tahir Is One Of The Most Intelligent Actors I Have Worked With'
Q. In one of our interviews, Danish (the director) mentioned that he had auditioned a lot of actresses for your role. But the moment he saw you with Tahir Raj Bhasin in the test audition, he knew he had found his Radha. How would you take that compliment?
A. That's a huge compliment considering he has never told me this, I am going ask him. (laughs) It's an amazing feeling to work with somebody who is that clear with the fact that they want you on board. That's the kind of stuff you want to hear as an actor, right? You want to walk into the audition and know that you have nailed it.
Q. How was it working with Tahir on this show?
A. Honestly, Tahir is a brat and a clown. But, he is also one of the most intelligent actors I have worked with. He's very focused and analytical. It's really funny because sometimes he would go with suggestions to Danish and Danish would be like 'yaa, we can do it like that as long as it's my way.' It's nice to have such a giving co-star. He's also equally present when the camera's turned around for his OTS and the camera is on me.
Q. Danish has a knack for love stories. But at the same time, he chooses to stay away from typical cliched romance. Was that one of the reasons why you come on-board?
A. When I got the call for an audition, I had just read a bit of the script. But when I read the scenes for the audition, I was already hooked. It was a comical take on a real, relatable story of an urban couple. For me, that was the deciding point to take up the project.
'Even With My Career To An Extent, I Haven't Planned Much'
Q. How much did you relate to your character Radha in real life?
A. In real life, I am a mix of both. I have things in my life which I plan to the T and there are things in my life which I just free flow with. Even with my career to an extent, I haven't planned much. I have been very open to the possibilities which the universe brings to me. But, my character Radha is extremely planned. I am not that kind of a person. So in that sense, it was a bit tough. But I think what was easy was her irritation with the fact that this man whom she's married to and known forever, wants to leave her at a crucial time in their relationship. That's something a lot of women have been through. That was easy to relate to.
Q. If you had to imbibe a trait of Radha in your life, what would that be?
A. It would be her indisputable clarity. But to a point. What I like about her is that she is very firm and clear and for the most part of it, quite calm.
'An Actor's Life Is Very Unpredictable, You Don't Know When You Will Receive Your Next Paycheck'
Q. In real life, how you ever faced a situation where you had to hit the pause and reanalyze your choices?
A. Yes, many times (pauses). Without quoting a specific occasion, I would say that this happens to everybody. An actor's life is very unpredictable. You don't know when you will receive your next paycheck...You don't know when your next job will come.
So very often, you would have heard of a project, you would have auditioned for it and are 99.9 percent sure that you have got the job. Your tickets have been booked for your international travel and at the very last minute, the producers drop out. Something unfortunate happens to somebody and then you are back to square one again. And that's very relatable and understandable to most actors because of the general unpredictability of the profession. Yes, I had to do that many number of times. I had to pick up my phone and call up my manager and say, 'What do we do now?' We need a backup plan.'
The good thing about that is it keeps you on your toes and teaches you how to adapt to situations. In personal life, there are many times when you are facing a situation...let's say you are in a relationship with somebody and you have planned a trajectory and then a year down the line, you realize that it's not going that way at all and you sort of hit the pause. In my experience though, it's very rare that people come back from what you call a 'break'. It's difficult because you have to really love that person and what you have with them to come back from something like that.
'I Would Tend To Think Of Better Reasons Than For The Sake Of Getting Married'
Q. Time Out revolves around the complexities of an urban couple. In today's time it's considered very easy to get in and out of a relationship especially in the time of Tinder and other dating apps. Few also think of marriage as a crumbling edifice. What do you believe is the reason for this change?
A. I think accessibility to people has become so much easier, individuality has gained importance, self-expression has become important; thanks to social media. You can be an individual and express yourself as much as you want to and yet have a connection with thousands of people and feel wanted and feel that love and appreciation alone without actually needing a partner. (pauses)
I think the institution of marriage is also fading to a very large extent. Because what it used to represent is not what it represents any more. Especially in urban cities, people are taking much longer to grow and became their own person which is very emphasized these days.
A lot of people don't want to have kids any more. So, the reason why my and your parents got married- to procreate and take the family name forward, bring together finances...all those reasons don't exist. Women are standing on their own two feet, making their own money and living on their own. The role of what a man used to be is not the same either. The dynamics of society at large is sort of changing. It's natural and necessary that something as important as an institution of marriage also changes with it.
Today, it's so much easier to have many partners at a time. It was probably which was done before as well but was very much under wraps. Now, it's sort of very much out there. The lines of sexuality are being blurred completely. There is not one sole reason why the institution of marriage is failing. I don't want to think of it as failing but, I would think of it more as changing and adapting to the times.
People are getting married when they are a lot older these days. I would tend to think of better reasons than for the sake of getting married. Divorces are at an all time high. We are moving more to a place where people are getting married and settling down because of the want to genuinely share life with the other person than for anything else.
'I Have Been Body-Shamed Which Really Got To Me'
Q. You have always been vocal when it comes to expressing your opinions. While social media is a boon, there's also an ugly side to it. In recent times, lot of actresses had to face slut-shaming whether it comes to sharing bikini pictures or photo-shoots. How do you react to all this negativity? Do these trolls affect you?
A. I am very fortunate that my attitude towards these kind of behavior is quite tolerant and mostly, I don't care. Also, I don't face that much trolling yet but I don't know if that would ever change.
Recently, I put up a picture of me in a bikini on a beach. A guy came up with a terrible comment because he combined a religious insult with calling me a 'slut' at the same time. It was horrible. But, I feel bad for them more than for myself. So, I either laugh or just delete the comment. I will respond as well.
I have been body-shamed. That really got to me. Calling someone a 'slut' or whatever, you can't alter such people's perception. I feel bad for them because they are such narrow-minded. Most of the times, it makes me wonder that if they are so offended, why are they even looking at my picture to begin with. I know these guys are watching porn. So really, stop it! Honestly, you ain't fooling anybody.
It's a mix of two things. One, it doesn't bother me that much and two, I don't face that much of it. I hope I never do because it's not nice for anybody. What needs to stop is that people think it's okay to talk to other human beings like that. Most of the times, these trollers are sad, lonely and lack confidence.
Q. When it comes to films, you have been quite choosy about taking about projects. Is that a conscious move?
A. It's a bit of both. A lot of things need to fit into the place before you say yes to a project. Secondly, you need to like the script, the director or the franchise if you are taking up something like that. The choices which I have made have very much to do with where I am in life at that particular point of time and what I want to express creatively.
'Any Man In Hollywood Today Will Think A Million Times Before He Even Lays A Finger'
Q. From modelling to a successful VJ to becoming an actor, you have had your own set of struggles. Recently, in Hollywood a lot of celebrities spoke out against film producer Harvey Weinstein in the wake of his sexual misconduct scandal. In Bollywood too, a lot of actors have opened up about facing casting couch but rarely do we see them pinpointing names unlike their Hollywood counterparts. What do you think so could be the reason?
A. It's because women won't support each other enough. It's like if I point names at somebody today, I could be sitting right next to someone who has done the same thing to her and she won't say anything because she's afraid that she might not get another role. That's the sad reality of the industry.
In Hollywood, they backed each other up and there is always strength in numbers. It did take one bold person to say something once and then the number of people who backed that case up gave strength to all those other women to say something about it. It's like with anything in life and not just applicable to this. We have always been living in an age where abuse against women is high. But we also live in times where people talk about it more and more and I am happy to be a part of this age.
Because no matter what anybody says, any man in Hollywood today will think a million times before he even lays a finger. And yes, there might be some women who must have got on board just for the name. But, it has changed something for ever. That's not going to happen here for some reason. I could be wrong but I don't feel everybody has the courage to put their foot down and say something about it. It's hard for me. Even, I will think twice before saying something.
Everybody has been victim to this at some point of life and not just in my line of work. The assault against women and sexual advances is rampant even in the corporate industry. We live in a culture where we believe that the more we hush something up, the better it is.
I think it would be a matter of time before it does come out and people do back each other up and say 'enough is enough.' All you really hope for is someone starts a conversation and then people will back you up. That strength, I don't think existed before what happened in Hollywood. Now it's happened over there and people are like 'okay we can talk about this.' I can say that I was a victim of casting couch and explain who did it to me and point a finger.
But, it's scary for anyone because you are talking about tycoons and people who can make and break careers. It's difficult to go against such people. It takes a lot of b*lls which woman have grown over the past couple of years and I think it's just a matter of time.