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Leading The Way

When you stand apart, you stand alone. But taking risks is all about being a trend-setter

Time and again, my friends advise me to shout about my achievements and contribution to Indian cinema. I’m sure I have contributed and have brought a freshness to this industry in a very short period of time. So, I thought I would share my thoughts on the changes I have brought about, in this column.

Before I made my debut in the industry, how many big actresses were playing hard-hitting, woman-oriented roles? How many top actresses were prepared to play a traumatised woman?

I started my career playing a loner in Gangster, a frustrated woman who craves for love in Woh Lamhe and a woman who is physically used by her boss in Life In A… Metro. I was told by friends and well-wishers that I had chosen the wrong roles and this would limit my growth. They were worried that I would become a prisoner of my own image. They said actors usually wrap their careers with these types of movies, which are a little art house and non-commercial. But I stuck to my convictions. Even when I chose roles like the one I did in Fashion, some of the top stars started doing tragic roles. Before this, people had forgotten about these roles.

If there was one thing I knew, it was that I had to be different. I didn’t hail from a filmy family and I didn’t have a ‘godfather’ in Bollywood. If I had simply followed what other actresses were doing, I wouldn’t have been where I am today. I have survived only because I was different. I moved on and accepted different types of projects and I noticed that other actresses had begun to accept roles of the kind that I had played in the initial phase of my career. That’s when I realised that I had started a trend.

With Tanu Weds Manu, I proved, yet again, that a strong leading role can spell success. Before this film, filmmakers were making light-hearted, commercial films with big actresses but they invariably cast a big actor opposite her. But with Tanu Weds Manu, the perception changed. And it was not only the audience who trusted me, but corporate houses too. I was pleasantly surprised when the producers of Tanu Weds Manu told me that if I accept that project, it would be easy for them to raise the money for it. I appreciated their honesty and it also made me realise that I had achieved a lot in my career and so soon. It was a revelation and a trend I had introduced.

During my early days, there were many actresses who commented on how skinny I was. Again, I wasn’t discouraged as I didn’t care about these opinions. All I cared about was the audience and they were happy to get another talented actor on screen. The other actresses were a little plump because Indian cinema likes its heroines to look ‘healthy’. However, things changed and, suddenly, all the actresses started following the ‘size-zero’ trend. The same goes for the way they dressed. Whereas other actresses used to walk into award functions wearing saris or lehangas, I was a trend-setter with gowns!

Most of my co-actors tell me that I should keep track of my films’ business to gauge how much I have progressed with each release. I do keep track of numbers, not to know how much money my films are making but to gauge footfalls for my films. I am always keen to know how many people watch me on the big screen, and it is a measure of my personal growth rather than
anything else.

I don’t track films like Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai because I am not sure of what went into the success of the film apart from my presence in them. But when I do a film like Woh Lamhe, Gangster, Tanu Weds Manu or Fashion, I definitely watch the numbers.

Speaking of bucking the tried and tested, for Krrish 3, I am working with Rakesh-ji and Hrithik Roshan. This is going to be amazingly important film in my career. Remember how people loved Anne Hathway’s character in The Dark Knight Rises? They think she’s cool. Watch out for my character in Krrish 3. No actress has played a role like the one I play in this film. Infact yeh role Lara Croft:Tomb Raider and films of that genre ko bhi peechhe chhod dega.

Finally, people in the industry are talking about my decision to turn writer and my plans to direct. I want to explore the artiste in me. It also makes me the only Indian actress who is planning to take up direction at a time when her career graph is rising. But then, I have always been ahead of my time. I will be satisfied as an artiste only if I keep thinking out-of-the-box. And this is only
the beginning.


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