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Time For Change

Hindi cinema is going through a wonderful phase. The icing on the cake – women are finally coming of age in our films

I’m not really worried about the commercial viability of films that excite me... not because I don’t believe in box office success but because I believe, and have reason to believe, that a good film always works. So then the only focus is on trying to make a good film.

In the past few years, I have been proved beyond doubt that there is no one type of film that works or is a sure-shot hit anymore. Today more than ever before, there is no formula. The only formula if at all there is one is conviction. So whether its Ek Tha Tiger or Kahaani, they work only because they have  been  made with complete conviction. This means that a wider variety of subjects are being explored and new styles of storytelling are emerging,

Being different as a formula doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. So it might not be wrong (though corny) to say that it is not just content but also intent that determines the connect with the audience and consequently determines how well a film fares. What this also means is a wider variety of roles for actresses today and that’s because we are being humanised, being seen as people, as individuals. An actress may play a mother but she need not be the stereotypical mother of yore.

Leading ladies can now play a mother’s role but also have desires for themselves… In this context too, there are temptations to do a hatke role only because it’s hatke. Therefore, as an actor, when I read a script, I like to ask myself a few things. Is it a story I would want to watch? Is it a story I would want to myself tell? And, most importantly, do I see myself transforming into the character I am being asked to play?

More than transforming, sometimes when someone is narrating a script to you or describing a character, you instinctively start imagining yourself playing that role. If that happens, it obviously means you have connected with the story and the role. Then, you check to see if you are seeing the film in the way that director is seeing it. If not, is he/she able to make you see it in their way? This is very important because film is a director’s medium.

This has not happened overnight. Through the course of my career, I have been learning and growing. By the grace of God, I have had the opportunity to work with the best in the industry, people who have brought out the best in me, and have strengthened my self- confidence. The success of my films is also very crucial because that has validated my faith in my own decisions. It has given me the courage to take some other decisions... and importantly it has helped me remain true to myself.

When I came here, I wanted to be an actor; I wanted to be able to live many other people’s lives through my roles. There was a time when I began to feel that, maybe, I needed to play a certain kind of role to gain acceptability. I soon realised that was not true.

I don’t want to repeat myself in film after film. I don’t want to play Vidya Balan. I want to live the lives of different people. So, sometimes, it’s Manjulika (Bhool Bhulaiyaa), sometimes it’s Vidya Bagchi (Kahaani), sometimes it’s Silk (The Dirty Picture) and sometimes Sabrina (No One Killed Jessica). That’s the joy of being an actor. There is no greater joy than being able to transform and transport myself into someone else’s reality.

I am humbled to know there are writers who are penning stories with me in mind. Lots of people tell me that they are reviving old scripts with women as central protagonists. Stories that they thought would never get told. Stories of real women. Women who are neither black nor white but grey. Women with individual personalities. Women who are unapologetic about who they are and how they are... just like the real women we see all around us today.

Cinema mirrors reality, so more power to the changing reality of us women and more power to our cinema.

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