|It gives you a lot of credibility. I am lucky that the characters I did before that did get me some kind of appreciation but the people who watched Rock On!! are very different from those who saw Bol Bachchan. It is important for every actor to do a film like this.
What kind of response have you been getting for your item number in I Me Aur Main?
It's been great. People love the song. A lot of people told me to do something different. I always believed that I couldn't break out into a dance in the middle of a serious film, but this film gave me the opportunity. Also, I feel item numbers are extremely beneficial in an actress's career. If you get a song that really cracks it for you, it is so good. These days I don't see much difference between a normal song and an item number.
Do you think you have finally managed to achieve the popularity that you once had in TV?
Television has wide range. Once I was in Dubai for an event in a mall, there were two girls who called me as Bani; it was the character that I played in TV serial Kasam Se. They don’t know me because of my films; they know me because of my TV work. It is very different in case of films.
You have been trying really hard to move away from your TV image. Do you at times feel torn when you receive unconditional love from your TV fans?
Probably yes. I don’t want to run away from things. I am happy that people remember me for what I did four-five years ago in my life. It feels great when people still remember me as Bani. Since I come from Television background there is a certain benefit we well as certain drawback to it. Although I had to start from scratch, it wasn’t like I was a newcomer coming from nowhere. I was coming from an established platform but I had to scrap that all away completely. So I chose to do different roles.
As far as films are concerned, in our country cinema is progressive while TV is regressive. It takes long while to change the image. For example, I did a song in I, Me Aur Main called Naa Jaane Kaha Se Aaya Hai because it had the scope to do something different. I wish the character of Gauri from I, Me Aur Main had come to me earlier. I wish after Rock On this film would have come my way because I wanted to play my age, play something that is closer to me.
So you are saying that your TV image was a hurdle for you to get roles your age in films?
When I entered films, no one took TV actors seriously. It was very difficult to get a break in films. Now, times are different. TV actors like Sushant Singh Rajput and others are getting good roles. It was a huge drawback to come from TV then. The only advantage was my age. I could have taken the risk of jumping into a completely different image from what I had on TV. But that would have taken a lot of time. I did Rock On!! when I was 19 and a lot of people felt that I was a one-film wonder. It was difficult and unfair. Back then I felt that I should have got more opportunities and should have got roles that I am doing now. I did one film a year. I did only those films that I felt would make a difference or benefit my career.
You express the regret over getting older roles but it was you who was selecting them too
After Rock On!!, I was getting offers to play the wife. After Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, I got several gangster films. If I took up those films, I would have done 12-14 such films by now. People just want to keep cashing in on what's already worked or successful. Nobody wants to offer something different, which is unfortunate. I was okay doing one film a year because it is better to do one film a year, which is different. So I did Rock On!!, Bol Bachchan, I Me Aur Main where I did not repeat myself.
You have already been a contestant on Jalak Dikhla Jaa. Would you like to participate in another reality show?
I would love to take up reality shows. I have been part of a dance based show so I would want to do something really different on TV. I wouldn't mind judging a dance reality show.
What about Bigg Boss?
No way. As an actor, you feel constant pressure because you are watched continuously like you have to be presentable and good in every area. Somewhere I would feel I was not being myself. I would be so concisions about everything. I would have to do things in certain ways. There are so many restrictions. Imagine, the camera sees you all the time! I wouldn't go into that house.
Films like Rock On and Once Upon A Time In Mumbai were hero-oriented. Will you continue to accept films or roles that don’t offer much scope for heroines to perform?
It is quite a relief to do such films. It is all hassle free. You just go there, relax, sit and enjoy, say a few lines, do some dance numbers and look good. It is a fabulous thing to do. At the same time, I am an actor so I am not satisfied doing only one kind of film and I try to balance it out. I don't care whether the film is big or small. After I Me Aur Main, I am doing Vikram Bhatt's sequel to 1920, which is a horror film. It's not a typical horror film where I will be wearing white clothes and coloured lenses or scary make-up. I have not done something like this so I am really looking forward to it. I will have a wide range of looks in the film and I think I will be able to show my strength.
But as of now Horror films in Bollywood are at a very nascent stage don’t you think it is a risk for you?
I have never played safe in my life. My debut film was not safe at all. I was surprised when my director Abhishek Kapoor called me for the film. We were all new, we took risks and it worked for us. As long as it is a good film, and the role is good, I don't think anything will stop me. 1920 is a successful franchise in its own, so a little of that will rub off on us. People have not seen me in a horror film.
You are also doing Policegiri opposite Sanjay Dutt.
Policegiri is a complete mass entertainer. It is another cop film. I play a software engineer. The role is not character driven, and it's very lighthearted. The film is interesting, I have seen the original film (Sammy) and it is extremely gripping. I am happy I am not playing the regular, shy, demure girl.
You are working with actors who are literally twice your age. Does that ever make you feel awkward?
When you are on sets you have to remember you are an actor, and leave aside the personal life. That is the only way you can maintain your sanctity. As an actor you get used to a lot of things whether it is emotional or any other scene, you don’t become wary of who is around you. Actors today are mature like Salman (Khan), Akshay (Kumar) and Sanjay (Dutt). They are of certain age, we respect them for what they are and they know what kind of cinema audience they are catering to today. Also they keep in mind the family audience which is why they do certain things only. They don’t go beyond limits. They are mass entertainers. They know what is going to look good on them. They know certain things and maintain that.
How has been your rapport with all the co-stars that you have worked with?
Both Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham are fun to work with. Both are pranksters. John is charming and smart. Abhishek is energetic and witty. Emraan Hashmi is the best co-star I have worked with so far.
By Swati Rohatgi