So how was 2020 for you?
I was fine, seriously. It was a great year personally…we all wanted that pause in our lives to rethink and reload. But of course, work suffered. We were hardly working
And now you have The Girl On The Train?Emily Blunt was Oscar-worthy in it. You are very effective too.
You know, I wanted a challenge like this at this juncture of my career. I was looking to go anti-image. I wanted to do something that would shock surprise and challenge me. I wanted to escape the rom-com trap. I was actively looking for something like The Girl On A Train. Sir, you’ve been around long enough in this industry to know how they typecast an actor. After doing films like Shuddh Desi Romance, Golmaal and Hansi Toh Phansi I was seen as the rom-com cast-fit.
But Hansi Toh Phansi is not a rom-com. It has very serious undertones on a social misfit’s struggle to conform.
You know it. I know it. But how do we convince the industry?
It is very hard to convince them to cast you in something different when they feel you fit into the rom-com genre well. No matter how much you tell them that you are not just good for Golmaal they won’t believe you can do a The Girl On The Train because they haven’t seen you do it, so how will they know?
They will know, true talent can’t be slotted?
This is why I will have lifelong respect for (director) Ribhu Dasgupta. He saw me in this dark role. He showed faith. You know, when I heard about the role I went to them and said, “If you think I’m good for this role let me read the script and then you can decide if I’m right for it.’ And do you know what they said? They said, ‘What are you saying! We’ve been trying to contact you for the past few days because we wanted you for the role.’See, how destiny works. We were both looking for each other at the same time.
Did that reassure you?
It was very liberating for me. To have Ribhu think of me for the role challenged me as an actor. From Day 1 of the shooting, I knew I had made the right decision. I felt so much at home doing this film. I was able to finally do a genre that I was waiting for, and a film that offered me an opportunity to get away from my image.
Meera Kapoor in The Girl On The Train is unlike any heroine we’ve seen in Hindi cinema, unstable…
Unstable is right. She is ….something else.
Playing an alcoholic were you drunk during the making of the film? Emily Blunt drank her way through the role?
I was completely sober throughout. Not a single Tequila shot. If Emily Blunt drank her way through the alcoholic’s character that’s impressive. If I took even one tequila shot I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my work. I relied completely on my instincts.
So would you say this is the most challenging role of your career?
Understatement of the century, Sir. It is the most challenging immersive, most difficult role I’ve ever done. I used to pride myself on being a switch-on-switch-off actress. Colleagues used to tell me they have done an intense role and they need to take a holiday. I’d just do my work and go home. I’d laugh at them and ask them why they took their work so seriously. But that was my naivete. I hadn’t experienced a character before that would affect me so deeply.
The Girl On The Train has changed your attitude towards acting?
I wouldn’t say that. Let me correct you. This was something I always wanted to do. I’ve always been an academic type, the student-teacher dynamics impressed me. But I never got that opportunity on the sets until now.
It must have been frustrating having to wait for the opportunity?
I don’t want to come across as an actor complaining about the work that I’ve done. I love all my films. They’ve made me what I am. I am in a privileged position where the audience expects more from me. I am happy to give that in The Girl On The Train. I wanted to do more than just do my work and go home. This film took me back to my school and college days of doing my homework and not expecting anything but the best out of me. This is the kind of person I always was. Henceforth I know I will apply this yardstick of excellence to all the roles that I do.
What if something like The Girl On The Train doesn’t come your away in the near future?
No, that’s in my hands. I will choose what I want to, hopefully. To give you an example, my next release is a biopic on Saina Nehwal. The character may not be as intense as Meera Kapoor. But she is a genuine authentic real character and it’s my privilege to play her. You will see a completely different me. That’s what I want to do each time.
Finally, the question that I ask you in every interview. Are you still single?
As single as I was the last time we spoke. You will have to find someone for me.
Image source: SpotboyE archives, Instagram/parineetichopra
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