From glam to gharelu.. from love to laughs.. from going steady to staying single.. Lara Dutta on changing equations.. in conversation with Roshmila Bhattacharya.
What’s been the response to your dehati look in Billu Barber?
Surprisingly encouraging. (Laughs) And there I was fighting with Priyan sir (director Priyadarshan) for a clean sari that hadn’t been rubbed in mud.
It takes a lot more effort to look glam. You’re constantly thinking of your hair, make-up and clothes.. that can be distracting. But when shooting for Billu.. I’d just wash my face, add a touch of kajal and drape a sari . The focus was on the performance rather than on appearance.
But is there scope for a performance given that even Amisha Patel nixed the role because she didn’t have much screen time?
I can’t speak for others but both Shah Rukh and Priyan sir realised later that if they wanted a commercial actress they’d have to give her meat. I haven’t seen the Malayalam original, Kadha Parayumbo, but I’m told that the actress in it didn’t have much to do. I don’t feel short changed.
Billu Barber is Billu’s story and as his wife, I’m a part of his life. It revolves around us.. our two children, goats and chickens.
You’re playing a mother?
I played a single mother in Partner too, even though that role was more flippant. But I can understand your surprise. Even Shah Rukh was sceptical about whether I’d agree to play mamma. My kids loved me. I kept them entertained for hours.
How was life in Polachi?
(Smiles) Backbreaking. I’ve never worked so hard.. I was chopping firewood, cooking on the chulha, drawing water from the well and chasing chicken. For 19 days, I walked barefoot on kaccha roads. If I wanted a ride, I got on a tractor. The Bentley that Shah Rukh uses was so out-of-place there.
Your choice.. Irrfan Khan or Shah Rukh Khan?
They are absolute opposites.. one charming and energetic, the other intense and brooding. I reacted to each differently. Of course, Shah Rukh will be Shah Rukh. He recommended me for the Rab ne Bana de Jodi song saying it was his gift to me after making me the ‘maid of honour’ in Billu Barber.
So why have you been kept out of the promos? The focus is on the item girls, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone.
May be I’m the surprise package. At least I’m with Shah Rukh and Irrfan in the posters. Whatever the strategy, I know it’ll work because SRK is a master of the game.
Rajnikanth’s Kuselan based on the same Malayalam film tanked.. any apprehensions?
None. Shah Rukh’s involvement in Billu Barber is much more, so his fans won’t feel cheated. It’s not an expensive, commercial film like Om Shanti Om that we have to worry about returns.
Also, it’s relevant in an opportunistic world where even friendship is evaluated in terms of gains. (Laughs) I should know.
After winning the Rajiv Gandhi Award for contribution to Indian cinema, you have drastically cut down on your work. Why?
I haven’t, I was shooting all of last year. This year you’ll see a lot of me in Billu Barber, Blue, Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai and Do Knot Disturb.
But meanwhile Priyanka Chopra who debuted with your Andaaz, has streaked ahead in the race.
Priyanka, Kareena (Kapoor), Katrina (Kaif), Bipasha (Basu) and me.. we all have our own strengths. I’ve always got the big commercial films — I’ve just signed Sajid Khan’s Housefull — and I’m considered a good comic actress. After Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and Partner, comedy is my ace.
Will you be in the Partner sequel, Tom & Jerry?
I’d love to. But at the moment it’s still speculation. David (Dhawan) no longer makes films in quick succession, he’s just wrapped up Do Knot Disturb. Dates are an issue too. I’d been offered Main aur Mrs Khanna last year but Blue took up almost five months.. we were shooting in the Bahamas and Thailand. I just managed to squeeze in Billu Barber.
Blue is still far from complete with Sanjay Dutt and Akshay Kumar reportedly demanding more footage and Katrina Kaif being brought in. Will there be any takers for this Rs 100 crore plus film?
I’m surprised the boys want to shoot more given how gruelling the schedules were. I’m fine with what I’ve done. Blue should release by summer end. It will be value for money because it’s unlike any Indian film you’ve seen before.. we shot with Hollywood technicians.
Banda.. has also been delayed by Govinda’s erratic ways?
Govinda didn’t give any heartache, Ravi Chopra’s film is complete. But few filmmakers want to risk coming during the IPL season.
Will you be rooting for SRK’s Knight Riders, Priety Zinta’s Punjab XI or Vijay Mallya’s Royal Challengers during the IPL Season Two?
They are all my friends and I’d love to participate in the spirit of the game. But it’s too early to say in what capacity.
What happened to Amarjeet?
We needed a top actor opposite me. Unfortunately today, most are insecure about playing a secondary role to a woman. Sad when you think that Ashok Kumar did Bandini, Sunil Dutt did Sujata and Rajesh Khanna did Amar Prem even though they were woman-centric subjects. A Dor or Chak De! India has been few and far between.
You were supposed to be working on a script?
I have been writing and rewriting. I’m a perfectionist. It took Zoya Akhtar seven years to complete Luck By Chance. Hopefully, it won’t take me that long.
Dino Morea’s producing a film.. will you be in it?
I have no clue what’s happening.
Aren’t you and Dino good friends who are always seen together? There’s even talk of a wedding.
I’ve known Dino all my life.. since he was eight and I was five. We grew up in Bangalore and moved to Bombay around the same time. The comfort level is high, so he’s a guy I like to hang out with.
But don’t read more into our friendship. When I get engaged or married, I’ll be happy to announce it. I’ve just come out of a long relationship, it’s not been easy. I’m not yet ready for another commitment. Right now, my focus is my work.
Are you still in touch with your ex-boyfriend Kelly Dorje?
The break-up wasn’t ugly or bitter. We are mature adults who spent a significant part of our lives together. Kelly will always be a part of my life.