Whether she likes it or not, she’s always in the news. The petite actress who made waves in the 1990s in Mumbai moviedom, subsequently flew off to become Heroine No. 1 in Tamil and Telugu cinema, returned to her Bandra home..and then became the rani of Bhojpuri movies.
In her private life, she has been restless..a state aggravated by stories of her liaisons, reports of her blood ties to a business family.. and of late, she has been receiving threatening phone calls.
Back South..there were rumours about a relationship with the already-married actor-MP Sharath Kumar. That didn’t culminate in a happy ending. She was back in Mumbai..her sister Jyothika stepped into her high heels in the south movies, Nagma joined politics, she was back on the hoardings of the booming Bhojpuri movies (which suffered a crash eventually), opened a boutique..and now aims to make a comeback in the city’s glitzy fantasy factory, fingers and toes crossed.
Her life could make quite a novel or even a soap opera.. for starters, I ask:
What is the police doing about those phone threats you kept receiving recently?
The police have been extremely helpful, they’re leaving no stones unturned to solve the case..they have provided me with protection.
It must be tough for a single woman..but are you single or not?
I’m very much single. I’ve always been single..I’ve never married despite a thousand proposals. Anyway, let me tell you it’s not tough at all to be a single woman in this city. It’s all about how to conduct yourself..don’t hang out, don’t convey the wrong impression about yourself..and you’ll be allright.
<b1>Have you recovered from your breakup with Ravi Kishen?
(Agitated) I’ve said this a hundred times, and I’ll repeat this again. No, I’m not seeing Ravi. Can you imagine what his and my family must have gone through because of those stories of our affair.
But you two did seem very close.
All heroes and heroines are, especially if they do more than a dozen films together. You journalists are impossible..can’t you let a dead story remain dead?
Would you deny that your relationship with Sourav Ganguly was quite serious.. it nearly even led to marriage.
That relationship..as you call it..is of no relevance today.
Are you in touch with him?
No, I’m not.
Any message for him for the World Cup?
Well, he’s one of the best captains we have ever had. I wish him best of luck.
Recently there have been reports that you are textile magnate Arvind Morarji’s daughter. True?
So what? It’s a personal matter.. and I won’t deny those reports.
Are you in touch with the Morarji family?
Of course I am. It’s my family after all.
What is the status on the inheritance of your late father’s property and assets?
That’s strictly a personal matter.. he was my father and that’s that.
You were once alleged to have underworld links. Do you still have to deal with that question now?
Well, that was never proved..was it? The police never called me for questioning. I was dragged into maybe because I have a Muslim sounding name, maybe because I had this mysterious image and no one knew much about me. I was an easy target. But I knew I’m innocent which is why this controversy is a thing of the past.
<b3>You have been controversy’s favourite child.
Yeah, it’s kind of strange. You need guts to deal with controversies. Of course, whether it’s for negative or positive reasons, I’ve always been in the news..I’ve been constantly discussed inside and outside the film industry. That means I matter, doesn’t it?
Where do you see yourself in Bhojpuri cinema today.
I have six Bhojpuri films lined up for release. I’m extremely busy. But there will be some relief for me..I’m not signing on any new films. I’ve had enough of Bhojpuri cinema actually.
Are you saying you’re quitting Bhojpuri films completely?
Look, I will never ever deny that they gave me a fresh lease of life. I could reach out to the masses through films which do outstanding business, especially in the small towns. I also got strong roles and I was on the top..but then every good thing must come to an end. I’m one of the few actresses who has done over 100 films in multiple languages.
The perception of Bhojpuri films is that they can be quite crude in technique and at times, vulgar in dialogue.
I never looked at them as crude or vulgar. And I don’t agree with the belief that the Bhojpuri film market is over..I really don’t think it can ever reach a saturation point. If you drive down to Juhu, you can see the posters of Nishabd next to those of Tu Hamar Hau..that proves that Bhojpuri films have come of age. In Bhojpuri, I’ve done films for Dilip Kumar saab, Saroj Khan..I’ve acted with Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan)..
For that matter, in Bombay, I worked with everyone.. from Shah Rukh to Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt. Which other heroine can brag of having such a track record? The fact is that I did go through very rough times..but I never saw the dark side of things..I hung on..I’m a survivor..I will always survive.
Wasn’t Salman Khan promoting you at one point..like getting you a role in David Dhawan’s Chal Mere Bhai?
I wouldn’t say “promoting” but Salman has been a true friend. He has always been helpful and caring. Why only Salman? Even my King Uncle hero, Shah Rukh, is so affectionate when I meet him. Hrithik, who worked as an assistant on the same film, talks to me with tremendous respect whenever we meet each other at a function.
Do you ever regret losing out on the lead role opposite Aamir Khan in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar?
Not at all. Mansoor (Khan) did offer me the film, I liked the role immensely. But I had to choose between Jo Jeeta…and Baaghi. I chose Baaghi and don’t regret the decision at all.
Why did you join politics..by campaigning for the Congress?
I wanted to serve the people. In fact I want to pursue politics more actively. I campaigned in Mumbai, Delhi, Jharkand..I found instant support from the people.
While canvassing in Jharkand and Uttar Pradesh, does it help being a Bhojpuri star?
Absolutely. In fact one of the reasons why I started taking Bhojpuri cinema more seriously was because I knew it would help me in wooing the people in UP, Jharkand and Bihar. (Laughs) Being an actress can serve a dual purpose, you know..
Why don’t you contest an election if you want to serve the nation?
I don’t want to be shackled to one particular constituency. If you represent a constituency, you get stuck with issue-based politics.. like say, solving problems of electricity and water. Those issues are of vital importance but there are larger ones which need immediate attention. That’s why I want to focus on national politics. I was offered a ticket to contest the elections twice, but I wasn’t keen then.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Oh well, politics will continue and so will my acting. Mind you, I’m an actress first. I want to act till my dying day.