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Right from being heavily panned for her fuller figure to being tagged as a Katrina Kaif look-a-like in her early days, Zareen Khan's journey in Bollywood hasn't been a bed of roses.
What's applaudable about the actress is that she has taken all these criticism and labeling on the chin and never feared from speaking her mind.
Excerpts from her interview with Filmibeat...
'I Decided To Speak Up When Fingers Were Raised At My Professionalism'
Q. Post Aksar 2's release, we saw you giving a lot of explosive interviews about the makers and their film. Did that affect you personally considering you had yet another film up next?
A. As a person, I like living my life very simple because I come from a very simple background. I like living my life controversy and drama free. I don't like unnecessary mess in my life.
When Aksar 2 come out, it's not that those things which I mentioned in my interviews happened after the release. It was happening to me throughout the making of the film. But I chose to keep quiet back then because if I would have said anything, I realized that it was my own film too. I cannot be saying bad things about the people I am working with or my movie because at the end of the day, it was my movie too. I thought whatever I am going through was okay. You don't want the outside world to know these things because then notions are formed.
But, after the release of the movie when fingers were raised at my professionalism, that's when I decided that it was time for me to speak up. I am somebody who is a no-nonsense person and I will not tolerate injustice in any manner. A lot of people has this whole idea that if a person doesn't belong from a film background or has no godfather or an influential brother or father, it's okay and let us kind of see things because there will be nobody in their support.
Luckily or unluckily, I am not somebody who needs support. That's the reason why I tried to take a stand and speak up my side of the story. A lot of people even thought that it was a publicity stunt. It wasn't! I wanted to come forward and tell my side of the story because I didn't want any other girl who is very new to this industry, be taken advantage of or exploited.
'I Am Not Against Doing Bold Roles'
Q. But what was exactly the bone of contention?
A. (hesitates and then continues)... The film turned out to not be what was promised to me. It was clearly told to me that they were not tying to make another Hate Story 3. When we started filming, a lot of inputs came whose reasons were unknown to me. Whether they lost faith in their movie or their vision..I have no idea.
I am not saying that I am against doing roles what I did in Hate Story 3. However the makers of Aksar 2 in the beginning said that they were making a clean film and then just added stuff in between. When I tried to agitate towards it and put my foot down, they just chose to not make me a part of the film anymore. I saw the movie after it released by taking my family and friends to a theatre and paying for it. Anyways that whole negativity is left in 2017..(laughs)
'Even Established Actresses Have A Small Role In A Salman Khan Film'
Q. In recent times, we have being seeing you take up centric roles in not-so-large budget films unlike how you made your debut with Salman Khan starrer Veer?
A. My role in Veer wasn't small being a newcomer. Take any established actresses today, they will have small roles only in a Salman Khan film. Because Salman is Salman! I don't think even the audience don't want to see anybody else in his movies. Inspite of that, me being a newcomer, I had a very prominent role in Veer. It was my dream debut. It was something which I had never even imagined off.
I don't think any film is big or small. Now-a-days, it's the small-budget films which are doing a lot of business. I am a huge fan of Salman and it's because of him, I am a part of this industry. His film Tubelight too didn't do well. Today it's more about the story and the characters.
'Had Veer Released Today, It Would Have Been A Much Bigger Hit'
Q. Do you think that had Veer released today, it would have done better business?
A. If Veer had released now, I do think it would have been a much-bigger hit. In fact, I was actually speaking about this to a few people some time ago, and then, too, I had mentioned how the timing was wrong. I do believe that timing also plays a crucial factor in the fate of a film, and had Veer released today, it had every chance of doing extremely well."
'I Can Even Make A Wall Talk To Me'
Q. How was it sharing screen space with Karan Kundra?
A. Karan is a super fun person. I had never met him before. Initially, we didn't talk much. I had seen him only on TV doing Roadies where he is seen insulting people on the show (laughs). I didn't have a great opinion about him. But once I got to know him, I realized that he is quite fun like me.
Q. When you do a horror film, does it enhance your rapport with your co-star considering you can laugh about a scary situation once the shot is canned?
A. I don't know if horror films have anything to do with creating a rapport with the co-star. I am an easy-person. I can really break the ice with people in no time. I think I can even make a wall talk to me (breaks into laughter)
'People Need To Change The Perception That We (Indians) Don't Know How To Make A Horror Film'
Q. Why do you think most of the times in our country, horror films made here fail to click?
A. In our country, horror as a genre isn't explored much. There are very few filmmakers who make horror movies. It's surprising that there is a major part of the population who likes watching horror. Unfortunately most of the times, a horror film ends up as an unintentional comedy.
Today's generation would love to watch a Conjuring or an Anabelle. But if you try giving them the same content in Hindi, they will be like what bullsh*t! I think we have double standards here. We, Indians, love imported things. (laughs)
Further, it's assumed that Indians don't know how to make a horror film. People need to change that perception. They need to come out of their influence of the west and try to accept what's being made here.
I Stopped Doing Multi-Starrers As I Was Being Perceived As A Person Who Can Only Fit Somewhere
Q. When you started in Bollywood, you were a part of many multistarrer films. But now it looks like you have put those kind of films on a back-burner and are focusing more on newfound status in smaller films. Is that a conscious move?
A. The things is that I never planned all this (shift from multi-starrers to smaller films where she's the lead). It just happened in my career. When I became a part of this industry, my debut was with Salman Khan. It was a dream debut. After that, I did a song in Ready, then I did Housefull 2. They was all big films in big genres with big stars attached to them. But, after some time, I was just getting lost in all that.
Then, I kind of took a backseat to understand what was going on. That's why, there was quite some time when I wasn't visible on screen because I was utilizing that period to figure out what I was supposed to do.
And I realized I didn't want to do a lot of multi-starrers anymore because I was being perceived as that person who can only fit somewhere. Once I figured that out, I decided not to do such films just for the heck of it even though I was getting similar offers and reading such scripts. I was the only one who would cope a lot of criticism after such big films wouldn't do well, although there might have been a number of reasons. I had to become a little careful.
Then, Hate Story 3 came my way. Initially, I was quite skeptical as it was difficult to imagine myself in a role like that. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to pull it off. I wasn't sure if the audience would accept me in such an erotic movie with a role that demanded copious skin show since they have seen me as a princess or a girl-next-door. Plus, coming from a history, where I was criticized a lot for my weight, and still am at times, I was quite nervous about Hate Story 3 working for me. But, I took the chance, and it somehow paid off.
Now, films are being made where I'm the central character, and the film revolves around me. So, I'm now in that space, where I feel it's okay if a film doesn't boast a high budget as long as it satisfies me and I have a good role in it."
Q. Your last few films dealt with bold theme. Do you think it would be cumbersome to get back in the family audience space?
A. I did one film (Hate Story 3) which was erotic, the second one (Aksar 2) unfortunately turned out to be erotic. However, 1921 is a very clean film. This is a very beautiful, soulful love story. There will be a change in perceptions after this film. I am also doing a film with Anupam Kher where I am playing a cop. So if people were just seeing me as an erotic actress, then I don't think these films would have been offered to me. Luckily, I haven't been stereotyped.
'As Actors, We Should Be Judged For Our Acting Skills Rather Than Our Weight Or Clothes That We Wear'
Q. Finally, when you entered Bollywood, you underwent a lot of body-shaming in this industry that holds ladies up to unreasonable beauty norms. Has things changed for you now?
A. I am come to terms with it. For me, being a certain weight is only for my fitness. I do not need to go out and prove to the world that if everybody else is becoming a size zero then even I need to become that way. My body type is different. If I try to follow those fads, it might not look good on me.
I am a big structured girl. I was always at peace with my body type. It's people who need to do the same. The whole body-shaming and all of that coming in talks, it has kind of gone down but I am not going to say that's completely died down. A lot of these people who come out in the open and give speeches about body-shaming are the ones who judge and criticize you behind your back. As an actor, we should be judged for our acting abilities rather than our body weight and the clothes that we wear.