She has that husky voice of a latter-day Marlene Dietrich. And she can be glacially cool.. as well as the ghagra-twirling Goregaon ki gori in the movies.
Yesterday's Miss Universe once linked with industrialist scion Ness Wadia.. and now very much in love with model-turned-actor Kelly Dorjee - has been out of the news for a while.
But now she's back all over town on the billboards of the just released Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Cut to Lara Dutta in conversation with Nilufer Qureshi
What's the immediate reaction you have received for Jhoom Barabar Jhoom?
Honestly, it's the first I've liked myself on the screen, I haven't ever looked better. I was a bit nervous of the character I was playing and my new look. At times, when you try out something which is very radically different, it can backfire on you.
I worked pretty hard on the look and left it to Aditya (Chopra) and Aki (Narula) to put it together. In fact, Adi was the one who told me to try the short hair look. So far, I've only received compliments.
You didn't mind the fact that you weren't the first or second choice for the film?
No hesitations at all. When Jhoom Barabar Jhoom came to me, I was in Bangalore with my dad who was in hospital. I wasn't in a position to accept it immediately. And I thought, "I've waited for this film. Now that it's there, I can't even answer the phone." When I returned to Mumbai, Shaad (Ali) narrated the script and I was on.
<b1>Haven't you often felt that actresses, who started out with you some five years ago, have raced ahead?
You always look at the graph of your contemporaries. Very often when I see an actress in a film, I say, "Oh, I wish I could have done that role." That's human and natural.
It's a tried and tested formula.. if you want to make it really big, you have to catch the right banners and the right heroes. I haven't been able to follow that modus operandi, my focus is on what I can bring to a film.
I truly believe that my time has come.. my run in the film industry has started now. I've figured out the people I want to work with and the kind of films I want to do. The initial years were just about getting to know myself and the industr0y.
Don't all actresses have a limited career span?
I definitely think so. It's unfortunate that when you get married or cross the age of 31-32, you're told to start packing your bags. But that's changing slowly.
Shouldn't you be doing more films if an actress has a limited career span?
For sure, but I don't want to be just a pretty prop. I believe the film industry perceives you the way you perceive yourself. If you think you can only be glamorous, you will be offered only such roles.
Isn't the hero still all-important?
Yes, of course.. that's the way it is. Right from the producer and the distributor to even the heroine wants to know who the hero is.
Is that why you refused Anil Kapoor's home production -- because Arshad Warsi is the hero?
I really don't know where that came from. Anil is very well aware of the reason why I didn't do the film. Things get misconstrued in this industry.
What's the best compliment you have received?
It came from Aditya Chopra within my first year in the industry. It helped me to start taking my work seriously. He told me he had seen Andaaz and was really impressed. Then he also said that I'd messed up things completely. It was a compliment-cum-a-piece-of-advice which will always stay with me.
Do you still get a kick out of the fact that you're a former Ms Universe?
When I am 60 and everything is going downwards, I will still have a certain responsibility.. that I'm a former Ms Universe. So, I will have to take care of myself and maintain myself to look as if I'm the Ms Universe of the millennium.
Do your heroes ever hit on you?
Hit on me? Not really.. some harmless flirting is okay. But if that gets a bit excessive then it's psychotic. Then you very clearly have to tell them to back off.
How do you handle men propositioning you?
(Laughs) Not many men have had the courage to proposition me.
What is the worst line a man has used on you?
Something as cheessy as, "Has anyone told you that you are the woman of my dreams?" I'm sure even he doesn't know what the woman of his dreams is like.
If you're attracted to a man would you let him know?
Yes. Now women are more progressive. If I think a man is good looking and has a terrific personality, I'll make a point to tell him that.
What does love mean to you now?
I loved the second half of my 20s. That's when love took on a whole new meaning. Love no longer means just butterflies in your stomach or that initial euphoria. Actually, it doesn't come easy.. love means a lot of hard work. But it brings a sense of being complete and at peace with yourself.
Would you sacrifice love for your career?
I've never felt the need to do that and don't think I'll ever have to.
What would life have been like if you hadn't met Kelly Dorjee?
I wouldn't have grown as a person as much as I have. Kelly is a much better human being than I am.. at times, he seems flawless. And that irritates me because I can't be as good as him.
Any marriage plans?
(Laughs) I'm quite happy with the way our love is.