Nargis Fakhri, who made her debut opposite Ranbir Kapoor in the recently released Rockstar, has come in for a lot of flak from critics, with one of them even dismissing her as a “porn star”.
Speculation is rife that director Imtiaz Ali, who had earlier toyed with casting Kareena Kapoor in the role before realising that she couldn’t romance her first cousin, was pressurised into going with the Kingfisher calendar model. He laughs off the rumours, saying, “I’m as happy with Nargis as I am with Ranbir. Recall the scene in the balcony when she tells Jordan that she is dying. I can’t see any other actor doing it so well. Then there’s the one where they hug and she tells him to hold her properly. She’s awesome. There were never any second thoughts about her.”
Why then the unflattering reviews, you wonder, and Imtiaz reasons that given that Nargis comes from a different culture and country (she was born in Queens, New York, to a Pakistani father and Czech mother, and was a contestant in America’s Next Top Model in 2004) it would take a while for the
audience to warm up to her.
“Also, she’s not your conventional Hindi film heroine. And as we have observed in the past with Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha and Shah Rukh Khan, actors who don’t ‘look’ like a hero or heroine get the thumbs down initially, before going on to become iconic stars,” he points out. “Even Waheeda Rehman, who today is considered the goddess of beauty, was dismissed as a Goan maid after Pyaasa (1957).”
The filmmaker insists that criticism within the limits of decency is always welcome. “Since we are in public domain and enjoying the fruits of success, we should be prepared for the barbs too. They are essential to the growth of any creative artiste,” he reasons.
Does this mean that he will make another film with Nargis soon? “I’d love to. In fact, I’d want to work with all my stars, from Abhay (Deol), Shahid (Kapoor), Saif (Ali Khan) and Ranbir to Kareena (Kapoor), Deepika (Padukone) and Nargis. But there’s a slight problem,” Imtiaz smiles. “At the moment, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing next. There’s no story in my head and till one comes along, how am I going to know whom to cast?”