I honestly believe that I am a product of the films that I have done. Right from my first film, I have been extremely fortunate to find roles like Jaya from Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Indumati Tomar from Sonchirya. I have always maintained that whatever path my career has taken has been because I took my first step with Dum Laga Ke Haisha, where I played an overweight Sandhya, as my debut film. I am not an insider from the film industry so I just took the first opportunity that came my way. As an actor, because I took a risk with my first film, filmmakers took notice of the fact that I am ready to go that extra mile. And I truly am.
I am constantly looking for parts where I can push the boundaries and challenge myself. I am extremely happy with where I am today because the satisfaction I get when I am done with a character and finish a film, is immense. There is a lot of thought and work that I put into every character. My films require me to go that extra mile. Transformations that I go through are also emotional, with every character. In the end, I come out enriched as a human being. There are such fantastic stories being written and such amazing content oriented cinema is happening right now. I am very happy that I have entered the cinema at a time when the female leading actor has evolved so much and is not just the glamour quotient of a film.
I am nothing like the characters that I play. The lives they lead have nothing to do with me. I often get asked if I don’t want to play urbane characters. But I like to take up the challenge of doing something that I am not familiar with. The process, honestly, is very hectic. All my films require a certain dialect or diction. Each character that I have played has displayed courage and personality, so I start off by un-learning a lot of things. I have grown up in Mumbai, have studied here and always vacationed overseas and have rarely been to rural India, or even have worn Indian clothes. For my roles, I have to de-urbanise myself which is as difficult as it gets. In Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Jaya is an educated and opinionated woman, but her world is a lot smaller than mine. It starts off as living as my character and then making small changes in my life when I am shooting.
I haven’t cracked it yet. Now I am shooting for Saandh Ki Aankh, for which both Taapsee (Pannu) and I have to wake up and sit for 3 hours in makeup. It’s a brutal process, so tough on your skin and so tough to physically transform and look so old. It hits you on set while looking for a film. Sometimes, when your body doesn’t react necessarily to how you want to do it, it gets difficult. We sell our faces, so seeing yourself transforming, changing onscreen feels odd and but when you see the material, read the script and get on set, it all feels right.
It definitely does. It's definitely an industry where vanity is given a lot of importance. That's why my peers and I, we try very hard to look good, stay fit and that’s something we can’t ignore. But personally, I find people have been rather kind. It stems from the kind of roles that I have done so far. For instance, for Shubh Mangal Savdhan, I played a character that of a young girl who is kind of lazy and comes from a family where she didn’t need to do much. So I had put on some weight for it. When the film was about to release, I had lost weight again. I wondered if I had taken this too far, given that it’s not exactly a character-driven role and is primarily a romantic comedy. But when it finally hit theatres, I saw myself and didn't worry anymore for the extra weight fit into the character. And the beauty of it is that not one person questioned it or criticised me. If a role needs me to get six packs, I will go ahead and do it. So far, I have not had people pick on me for my weight gain or the way I look. We also live in times of social media. People see you on film and then see you when your life you are living. A constant visual of the real person is there all the time, so that kind of helps.
Each role is fantastic but I haven’t shot for three yet. I must say that Saand Ki Aankh is different. Taapsee and I are playing women that are thrice our age! It a wholly different experience. It’s gruelling and we shoot for about 12 hours. It’s very tough but it’s a very beautiful, light-hearted story full of hope and spirit. I really enjoyed Dolly Kitty Aur Who Chamakte Sitare because she’s just a 21 year old with dreams and ambition. So both these films are very fresh and special to me.
A lot of my personal life has not been discussed. I am okay about it and quite disconnected with people have to say. It upsets me when people come up with bizarre things, but then you get over it as it’s part and parcel of being an actor. A lot of times, what we do are misread and put out of context. But I am getting used to it.