I have played two real-life characters on screen – Sabrina Lal in No One Killed Jessica and Silk Smitha in The Dirty Picture. But I really can’t say whether it’s more difficult playing a real-life character or a fictional one. Every character is as difficult or as easy as the others.
During Jessica, my director Rajkumar clearly advised me not to meet Sabrina Lal as the Sabrina of today was not the Sabrina I was playing. Our story goes back to when the incident took place, and Sabrina was a different person 11 years ago. So we developed the character on our own.
Yes, Silk Smitha is a biopic but I played the character from what I gleaned from the script. We have based the script on the research done by the writer and director, and there will always be a certain amount of fictionalisation of a story to add drama. But we went with what we perceived Silk Smitha to be. I didn’t meet a single person who was connected to Silk. The only thing I watched of hers was the ‘Yeh babua’ song from Sadma, and some South songs that my choreographer wanted me to watch. So for me, it is attitude that matters.
I had to put on weight for the film. And since the film goes through the passage of time, I have to be on the heavier side for some portions and less heavy for others. Initially, I didn’t want to put on weight but, at some point, I decided I should to do justice to Silk’s role. I actually got a kick out of doing something for my role, bringing the character alive.
For me, being in the character is the only way of acting I know. So, one-schedule films work for me. I try to get away from the city. When you are in the city, you have too many distractions. In fact, when I’m shooting, I completely cut myself off from the social world. When I move out of the city, I become the character; I start living in the mind of the character I am playing.
I guess that’s why I feel a pang of separation every time a film I am doing comes to an end. I am a very emotional person. On the sets of Paa, I actually told myself I would not be Auro’s mom again as much as I won’t be Silk again.
Just a few days ago, someone told me that he had seen music videos I did ages ago. There’s so much work that has been done in between that, when I look back, it makes me fall in love with my work even more!
There are some people I would like to play on screen – Draupadi, and female politicians like India Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. Draupadi is a very interesting character. Somewhere, I feel Silk of Silk Smitha is a Draupadi as she had relationships with different men in her life. It amazes me that Draupadi was married to five men. What kind of equation did she have with them? How did she egg them on to wage a war? Her vastraharan and also her relationship with Krishna?