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Taking The Lead

Her journey in the industry has been like the phoenix… rising from the ashes. From playing a middle aged spinster in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6, to supporting roles in Yeh Saali Zindagi and Rockstar, and now leading lady in Goldie Behl and Shristi Arya’s London Paris New York. Aditi Rao Hydari has come a long way. In conversation with Jigar Shah

You seem to be living the life of Benjamin Button, in reverse, from playing character roles to now playing the main lead.

Although I had no intention of becoming Benjamin Button, I must say that seems to be true and I’m really enjoying it! When I signed Delhi 6, I was new to the industry and I had no idea about image et al. I was told the film was going to have an all-new cast and I was called for Bittu’s role. I was competing for the role with a Pakistani actress and I was told I stood a good chance. Then the casting changed and finally the role was played by Sonam Kapoor.

Later I was called again to play another female character. But I was told that they wanted a more mature face. So I completely forgot about the film and moved on. A month later, they called me again and said that although the role was of a mature woman, something on the lines of Jaya Bhaduri in Sholay, they wanted me on board. The role did not turn out the way I had expected it to but I have no regrets. If you take that character, you can actually make a full film on it. She is a very simple girl who is expected to behave more mature than her age and is the one who always gets left behind.

Coming to London Paris New York… are you playing your age?

I play this girl called Lalitha and, yes, I play my age. The film is like a journey that takes place across a few years at three different places. We undergo various journeys in our life, mainly one where we grow internally, and another where we grow with a particular person. The film covers both of them. So as an actor, you get to play both parts. On one hand, showing how the connection between two people happens and, on the other, how the girl evolves as a person despite staying true to her core characteristics be it honesty or innocence.

Going by the promos, it seems like you have also experimented with your voice modulation in the film.

Yeah, like in the film, when I’m 19-20, my voice is thinner and when I’m 26-27, there is a change in my voice. Actually, Ali and I both tried to play with our voices. It’s also about attitude. Like, when you’re 19, there is a certain chirpiness and excitement in you and when you turn 26-27, you are calmer, like, been there, done that.

What is your take on the box office opening of the film, considering that Ali and you are both relatively fresh in the industry?

Yes, we are both new actors. Ali has done just two films, first as the protagonist but not a romantic role, and other as second lead. But I’m sure people will notice us and say, “Hey, that looks like a nice film, let’s go and watch it.” Which is why one must promote one’s film as much as possible, especially when one has newcomers in it. I feel quite good about the film. All my fingers and toes are crossed! But I’m sure we will get a reasonable opening. The film will grow through word of mouth publicity.

What is the one thing that you love about Ali and the one thing you hate about him?

One thing I love about him is, he is a complete artist. He has the soul of an artist. He wants to learn and his ego doesn’t get in the way. One thing that infuriates me about Ali is, he can be a control freak at times, a bully too. He would say, “Chalo, lines pat pat karke boldo, don’t think and say lines.” And I would be, like, “Lekin mujhe soch soch ke bolna hai.”

I remember a scene where Ali has to say, “Lalitha, tumhare liye French breakfast laya hoon,” and I have to say, “Nikhil, mere kapde kahan  hain?” He says, “You have to interrupt me before I complete the word ‘breakfast’.” I was so nervous during the rehearsals that I ended up saying, “Nikhil, mera breakfast kahan hai?” (Laughs)

How is Ali as a music director?

He is a Hitler in the studio (Laughs). He is generally very chilled out but once he enters the studio, he turns serious. While I was singing, he would have one hand on the table and other on his head. After I was done, he would say, without even looking at me and with no emotion in his voice, “Good, Aditi, good!” He is really cute!

My mom says I began singing even before I began talking. But at the age of six, I told her I wanted to be a dancer. Now that I have sung for the film, mom says, “Beta, ab to gana seekhlo.”

Is kissing an issue for you? You kissed in Yeh Saali Zindagi, Rockstar and also in London Paris New York.

Kissing on screen is something that I am obviously not comfortable with. It is something you have to prepare yourself for. The thing is, when you like your director, the thought that you might be embarrassed doesn’t cross your mind. I adore Sudhir Mishra’s work. So I personally had to tell myself that I am an actor and I should be thinking like this, especially for a director like Sudhir Mishra.

Then suddenly I started reading reports that I had replaced Mallika Sherawat, serial kisser, 10-12 kisses. But when the film released, no one said anything as it was so natural and seamless. Even in London Paris New York, I wouldn’t call it a kiss. There is a natural intimacy and that is required to show the love between two people.

Which is your favourite city among London, Paris and New York?

I love London. It is a nice mix of old-world charm with keeping today’s times in mind. It is very much like what I am.

What’s next for you?

I really want to do a full-on chamiya dance, like Kajara re. I have been dancing since the age of five and I have learnt Bharatnatyam as well.

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