Has life changed after you returned to the spotlight?
Personally? No. I am still the same mother and wife to my family. Professionally, I make sure I take time out to give my best to what I am doing. When I am on outdoor shoots, sure, I miss my kids but thanks to technology, we talk over the phone or chat online. I believe that once you start living your life, it is difficult to judge whether it has changed or not because everything becomes a habit.
Was it a strategic decision to sign a big-brand film after you decided to make a comeback?
Many think so but I enjoyed Ishqiya thoroughly. So when Vishal Bhardwaj shared the idea of Dedh Ishqiya with me, I said I was on board but send me the script. I loved Abhishek Chaubey’s work in Ishqiya. The way he portrayed Vidya’s (Balan) character and every other character was remarkable. Talking about brand… Vishal has always made unique films, so getting a chance to work with him was great. Speaking of Dedh Ishqiya… I loved the way he crafted my character of Begum Para. The moment you read the script, it propels you.
You spoke about Ishqiya… What attracted you to the director’s vision?
For a director to see a woman like that, a real character… She is neither an avenging angel nor a victim, nor an eye candy. She is a full personality and that was very impressive. Also, Arshad Warsi and Naseer saab (Naseeruddin Shah) were fantastic in the first part. So the idea that they would continue in Dedh Ishqiya made me think it would be worth signing this film.
Ishqiya was a huge hit at the box office as well as a critically acclaimed film. And Vidya Balan’s performance was much-talked about. Since you’ve stepped into the sequel, are expectations very high?
The script is too good and, sure, the first instalment was very intense. But this one is fun as well as intense. There are also more characters like Huma Qureshi and Vijay Raaz. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable film.
It was fantastic! Everything has changed so much; everything is perfect. We finished reading on time; we were briefed on time. I wish they operated like this, years ago. Everything is so organised. With corporate studios stepping in, everything has become official. There is a different department who takes care of production, costumes. Now, at the scripting stage itself, they decide which scene will have what costumes; the dialogue is ready; you know exactly when the dance shoot will happen and the regular shoot will happen. All you have to do is be comfortable on the sets and act. I was thrilled to see everything so perfect.
What was it like earlier?
Earlier… if there was to be a shoot tomorrow, we would be informed tonight. Then we would rush around and scramble for costumes, fittings etc. The writer used to write the scene and dialogue the very same morning. There were times when we were ready and waiting for the scene to roll and the writer was still writing! All of us shot like that then but today’s it’s all very organised.
You’ve always been a top-rate actress. But when you face the camera today, do you feel you have evolved further or do you get the jitters?
Talent keeps on growing. The more you face the camera, the more comfortable you get. So today, when the camera rolls, I know exactly what I have to do. I think I have evolved as an actress. Earlier, actresses were not given very much importance but, today, their characters are as important as those of the actors. Earlier, side artistes used to play the same parts in every film… ek behan, ek maa, budha baap. But today even the sister, mother and father have important roles to play. They have to stand out. Acting is like old wine; it only gets better with time.
Speaking of change… technically too things have changed…
(Cuts in) Sync sound is a wonderful thing. Earlier, we used to do the whole movie once again while dubbing and the cameras always whirred while we shot. So we had to dub everything all over again, from the crying scenes to even a single burp. Now, it s so much easier.
(Laughs) Earlier, we had no idea when a film was to release. Today, films that are to release in 2015 have already been announced! Another big change is that shoots are completed in a maximum 90 days whereas, earlier, a film could take up to seven years!
Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam. The makers took dates from everyone and they exhausted those dates, some 100 days were exhausted. The film featured me, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan in the leading roles. Both the Khans had packed schedules so that became an issue. Thus it took seven years to shoot that film.
Marketing and promotions are of paramount importance for any film, and the makers spend almost as much on marketing a film as they spend making it. Are you enjoying the promotions?
The audience today is very well read and very tech savvy and they check what’s coming up on the Internet. So it is important to tell them what we have in our film. So, yes, promotions are important. It’s a little demanding but I am finding it fun since you meet your fans and you get to speak about your movie.
Many actors are venturing into production. Will we see you going down that same path?
We have launched our company RnM Moving Pictures and our online Dance Academy. We hope to bring forth a lot of talent through this. We are also planning to launch something in health care. This is what we are concentrating on right now. Movie production is not yet on our mind.
Since you have launched a dance website, is it correct to assume that talent management is the next step?
I don’t know but I know in India there are many good dancers and people want to learn dancing. Right now, it’s about discovery. When I judge a reality show, I am shocked to see so much talent, even the kids are brilliant. I think we need to give them the right platform.
A character is a director’s vision and Begum Para is very different from Chandramukhi. Dedh Ishiya has more fun elements in it apart from the love angle. I think it’s more rustic and there is a different kind of comedy which I am assuming the audience will like.
Dedh Ishqiya and then Gulaab Gang… In both films, the women characters are very strong and Gulaab Gang is all about women. Are you deliberating veering towards ‘women-centric’ films?
This is what I like about today’s films… they portray women in a different way. There was a time when women were victims, avengers or eye candy as I said earlier. Today, women are characters, they have their own personalities. She is ambitious, not because of the mentality that mere ghar pe chhota bhai hai issliye main kaam pe ja rahi hoon. There are no compromises, no reasons why her character is like that. Today, women are portrayed as real people.
About Dedh Ishqiya… I think it is equally about Khalujaan and Babban. But, yes, Gulaab Gang is about a women’s gang. And it’s not just my role but everything around the film, from the writer to producer to director that I like. Of course, my role has to stand out but it doesn’t have to be ‘the role’ in the movie. A film is not made because of one person; it’s a group work.
Last but not least, from the new bunch, do you have a wishlist of directors with whom you would like to work?
There are lot of directors whose names starts with ‘A’ and I want to work with all of them!
Anurag Kashyap, Anubhav Sinha, Abhinav Kashyap, Anurag Basu and Raj Kumar Hirani. I am so impressed with their vision and new way of functioning.