Mid Day - - HITLIST -

When you have in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters com­ing your way, fa­tigue doesn’t even fea­ture in the scheme of things. I’m on my toes and there’s a spring in my walk. I have slogged to get th­ese parts. Man­marziyaan is the last movie of the year. It re­leased with three other movies [Fan­ney Khan, Kar­waan and Vish­wa­roop 2] and had a po­lar­is­ing sub­ject, but I ex­pected it to work. I am not ‘con­ven­tional’ in the reg­u­lar terms, but I am not an in­die or off­beat ac­tor, call me new-age. Mulk was a massy film and I chose it be­cause I am a com­mer­cial moviewatch­ing au­di­ence. My choice of films is based on my mid­dle-class mind­set — will I spend R200 and two and a half hours on a film? I am not a cin­ema stu­dent. I am a Hindi movie au­di­ence and pre­fer a paisa va­sool movie any day. Like me, peo­ple’s idea of what is grat­i­fy­ing at the the­atres has changed too. It no longer means singing and danc­ing around trees. A film needs depth to be en­joyed by the con­sci­en­tious think­ing so­ci­ety. I may be po­lit­i­cally un­aware, but the sub­ject of Mulk was not alien to me. It’s the hard re­al­ity of our times and show­ing it on screen is bound to get peo­ple to the the­atres. The film was a brave sub­ject and I was sold on the in­ten­tion. If you talk math, I can tell you whether a film will profit or not af­ter the first screen­ing. The game and its rules aren’t some­thing I am thor­ough with. I learnt act­ing on film sets. I un­der­stand what peo­ple ex­pect of me and have stopped un­der­es­ti­mat­ing my au­di­ence. I am get­ting a hang of how to choose scripts. When I started off, I was hap­less, di­rec­tion­less, had no idea whom to seek ad­vice from or find so­lace in, but I am not con­fused any­more. I have re­gained, sure, but it’s not like I wouldn’t sub­mit my­self to a film like that again. Un­till my solo films cross R100 crores, I have to keep find­ing newer au­di­ence. Once they like me in massy films, I can plead my case with the ones that don’t be­long to the same pal­ette. On set, I had a ball of a time. It’s a film I’d watch for fun. When some­one wants to re­lax and not use their brains, such movies are a respite. For in­stance, Mulk had a heavy sub­ject, so much so that I would come back af­ter the shoot and watch Gos­sip Girl. It re­ju­ve­nates some­one who gets con­sumed by work 12 hours ev­ery day. Hard-hit­ting con­tent will lose im­pact if not for such films. Act­ing can be men­tally ex­haust­ing. Af­ter a long sched­ule of Man­marziyaan, I brought the char­ac­ter of Rumi home with me. I was ag­gres­sive and ready to punch any­one. My sis­ter was pet­ri­fied of me. [Laughs] I am an in­stinc­tive ac­tor. If some­one is slyly tak­ing pic­tures of me, I won’t apol­o­gise for break­ing their phones. Come up po­litely and ask, I will oblige. It is a story where a woman’s feel­ings mat­ter as much as a man’s. Rumi might not be so­cially ac­cept­able, but she has the spine to not care, which is as­pi­ra­tional. She is a lot like me in many ways. As a cul­ture, we are dif­fer­ent from the West. Imag­ine a set up like Os­cars where artistes openly crit­i­cise po­lit­i­cal hon­chos. Here, if we speak up against a re­gres­sive so­cial norm, stones are pelted at our homes. Women here are vul­ner­a­ble and af­fected by what peo­ple think be­cause that’s how we are con­di­tioned. But I am hope­ful; things will change. Speak­ing up in this so­ci­ety is a test of a woman’s strength and her spirit. Gen­der in­equal­ity is my big­gest prob­lem with this in­dus­try. I have an is­sue with the lesser foot­falls for a fe­male pro­tag­o­nist film. A-lis­ters don’t agree to do movies when fe­male ac­tors have meatier roles. Till date, I strug­gle to get ac­tors to star with me. When I am open to do­ing small parts in big films, I think ac­tors too should be al­right with it [like Ak­shay Ku­mar in Naam Sha­bana]. The bloated male ego is punc­tured by women far­ing well, so women aren’t down­right dis­missed any­more. The re­sponse now is — we will see.

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