How much has life changed since the announcement of the National Award?
Back home in Manali, there’s little reaction. It’s a different world out there, inhibited by simple, ordinary people for whom winning an award is no big thrill.
But in Mumbai, congratulations have been pouring in. I’m suddenly made to feel very special, even though I’ve been winning awards almost every year since I made my debut in Gangster. I’ve picked up several trophies for Fashion too. But a National Award at the age of 22 is special and may be a little premature. Even I’m shocked! Colleagues like Priyanka (Chopra) have been working for at least 10 years. While, I’ve been around for only three.
Didn’t supermodel Shonali Gujral’s descent into self-destruction in Fashion mirror your own darkness?
What I went through was not even five per cent of what you saw on screen. Fashion was about morality, right and wrong. But my troubles were born out of confusion over who I was.
I came to the city when I was just 17 and was like this child in a candy shop. Studies no longer interested me. Young, beautiful people who were doing drugs surrounded me. I stopped talking to my parents, taking their advice. I was wild and edgy. Life was rapidly spiralling out of control...
There were times when I felt like God, other times when I felt like a gandi naali ka keeda (a worm in a drain). I could have died… I could have killed myself like Shonali but I didn’t.
What saved you?
Yoga and mediation calmed me down. Spirituality put me in touch with my inner self. I went through a lot of phases that were a part of the learning process. For six months, I didn’t wear any colours except white, ate only boiled food, learnt about chakras, read books on philosophy and dreams, even took a vow of silence for a week.
There was a fire inside me that could have destroyed me. But finally, I got the energies under my control. And today, I feel good about myself. I’ve survived the odds, with dignity and pride, and respect myself for that. I may be 22 but I feel 44. (Smiles) It’s better that you feel older than your years than want to kill yourself when life is just beginning.
You must have been shattered when your beautiful relationship with Adhyayan Suman ended rather abruptly with the two of you going your separate ways? Did the failure of your relationships contribute to the feeling of doom?
Who said anything about the relationship being beautiful, it was just okay. And I wasn’t shattered by the break-up. I don’t need anyone anymore. I can go through life alone. But I’m not alone. I have my sister Rangoli with me.
Yeah, you’ve been a pillar of strength for Rangoli since the acid attack on her by a jilted suitor. She’s been my support, not the other way round. She’s older than me, a beautiful girl, both outside and inside.
She prays for an hour, gives out positive vibes and makes me smile all the time. It’s great to have someone like her around. She’s busy with her studies but still cooks for me and cares for me. I love her so much.
But is sisterly love enough, wouldn’t you want to share you life with another man some day?
I’ve been in love with some wonderful people, no regrets on that score. But today, I’m looking for something deeper than a random romance.
It does not necessarily have to be a commitment or even a relationship. It can be a moment’s admiration that I see in someone’s eyes that makes me feel like a beautiful woman.
There was a story about Dino Morea and you in the papers the other day, with pictures of the two of you exchanging a hot kiss?
It was not a hot kiss as reported but a simple goodbye kiss. Three repetitions with white bands inserted across the pictures, purposely done to mislead readers about what was just a simple social gesture.
We happened to come down together after a party and were waiting for our respective cars. There were others around us. As I was leaving, Dino gave me a quick peck on the cheek. That was it!
You came into the industry as an outsider, with no connections and few recommendations. Today, you have a shelfful of awards, a wardrobe of designer dresses and drive around in a BMW. When you look back, you must feel a sense of achievement?
What I feel is guilt for buying a Rs 12 lakh dress and driving around in a BMW when so many young kids are starving. You don’t have to go hungry to feel the pain of hunger.
I know what the gnawing ache in an empty stomach is like. I have often wondered why God makes us suffer pain like this. Is this what you call life? Today, I carry plenty of food in my car to give away.
Money doesn’t bring any elation. But yes, the kind of success I’ve seen seems almost like an impossible dream. When I came to this city I was 17, and knew zilch about acting. I’d meet 60-plus filmmakers who were talking movies and contracts with me and think, “How much they know!” I’d see pretty girls in mini skirts smoking and drinking around and think, “Wow, they are so cool!” Sometimes, I wonder why I was singled out for all this attention, guess it was destiny!
‘It’s too early to stereotype me as an intense actress’
I’ve had only six releases so far. My first film, Gangster, was just four years ago. It’s too early to stereotype me as an intense actress when other actors have been playing the same roles for 25 years.
Okay, may be Gangster, Woh Lamhe, Life... In a Metro, Raaz and Fashion were all serious roles. But in Gangster I was a don’s lover, in Woh Lamhe a schizophrenic actress, in Metro a working girl in love with a married man, in Raaz a model haunted by strange visions and in Fashion a supermodel whose drug addiction spells her doom. They were all different roles that demanded intense performances.
Even if there were similarities, when you are an outsider, you choose from what you get. I don’t have a father who can buy remake rights and make films for me.
But I’m doing six films now — Tanu Weds Manu, Kites, No Problem, Knock Out, Crooked and Once Upon A Time In Mumbai — that should help me break out of the ‘intense’ mould. I’ve already established myself as an actress, now I’ll prove myself as a light-hearted entertainer too.
When you are an outsider, you choose from what you get. I don’t have a father who can buy remake rights and make films for me. But the six films that I’m doing now should help break out of the mould.
‘Kites is Hrithik and Barbara’s film’
Kites is not my film, I’ve always maintained that it is Hrithik (Roshan) and Barbara’s (Mori) movie, even though I play an important part in taking the story forward. I did the film knowing this because Anurag (director Anurag Basu) refused to take a “no” from me.
There are a few people who one can’t refuse, and Anurag was one of them. I owed him something for having launched me.
There’s been some talk about differences between Anurag and the Roshans.
I know nothing about all this. On the sets, Anurag was confused most of the time and Rakeshji loved me like his daughter. Hrithik is a good friend. For his sake, actually for all our sakes, I hope the film works.
Anurag’s next film is with Abhishek (Bachchan). No, I’m not in it. I’m already committed to 10 films. I don’t have time for one more. Besides, it’s time Anurag and I took a break from each other and worked with different people.