MUMBAI (Reuters) – One of Bollywood’s most glamorous heroines, model-turned-actress Bipasha Basu made her debut in films with “Ajnabee” in 2001.
Since then, she has played myriad roles in Hindi films, establishing herself as one of the industry’s most bankable actresses.
In between consoling her year-old niece and shooing away her dog, Basu spoke to Reuters about turning 30, her affinity for thrillers and how the recession has affected her.
Q: What is it about thrillers that make you click? There was “Race”, “Dhoom” and now “Aa Dekhen Zara”.
A: “I don’t know about that (laughs). All I know is that thriller is a genre that everybody likes to watch. When you start watching, you have to follow it. There is an instant connect. Of course it has to be very smart, very modern, very edge-of-the-seat and very slickly shot. I guess the entire packaging has to be crisp and I would easily blend into a set-up like that.
“I started off with a thriller – “Ajnabee”.”Raaz” was a thriller. I did “Jism” which was a romantic thriller, so I have pretty much been there for thrillers. But not that I don’t enjoy comedy — I have done “No Entry”, I have done “Bachna Ae Haseeno” which is a romantic comedy, so I enjoy everything depending on the part, but I guess I get attracted to thrillers, because I like watching them.”
Q: Speaking of “Bachna Ae Haseeno”, you got praise for your role, but you were nominated for a Supporting Actress Role in spite of the fact a lot of people felt you had a more substantial role. Did that disappoint you?
A: “No, not really. I feel that at the end of the day if the film does well and the character is liked and people — all kinds of people, from critics to people on the road — liked the way I looked and acted, then I have got what I wanted. So after that if you put me in the supporting category, you give me the award or don’t give me the award, doesn’t matter. If you get it, I will be happy, but there is no agenda to any award, ever. I don’t really think of all these things deeply.”
Q: Coming back to “Aa Dekhen Zara”, your pairing with Neil Nitin Mukesh is one that not many people would have thought of. How does it work on screen?
A: “Yeah, even I wouldn’t have thought of it (laughs). I have seen the film, and we look good together. It’s very effortless – I am looking like Simi, he is looking like Ray and we are looking like the perfect couple. You know sometimes, you cringe at a pairing, it’s not like that. For me it’s very important that when I sign the film, I have to be first convinced that I will look right with the hero, look right for the part.
“I think I am in a very lucky position in today’s time that I get to work with forty-plus heroes, thirty-plus heroes and twenty-plus heroes. I am being cast opposite all of them, and depending on the role there is a charm of working with each one of them separately. Also, I think there is apprehension because Neil is a newcomer and it’s only his second film.
“But when you see the film, you will see that there is no cause for concern at all. We look good together; it is a very fresh pairing, though even our proportions are different. Like Ranbir is a tall boy and we looked right on screen together. Neil is a little shorter, but that hasn’t come in the way of characterisation.”
Q: You’ve always been nonchalant about the fact you want to be seen as a glamorous person in an industry where no one wants to stick to one stereotype. Why is that?
A: “When I started off, being sexy was taboo, playing a negative role was a taboo, but I was appreciated for doing those very things. And at that point of time there was a stereotypical image of a Bollywood heroine which was very girl-next-door. But I have seen the change such that all the so called top ranking actresses today are very sexy, very glamorous. And in today’s time being glamorous, being stylish, being sexy has become the pre-requisite.
“The change has taken place to such an extent that when you do have a girl next door and she cannot pull off a glamorous role, they are panned. And it’s sad but that’s the way things have changed. And it’s the same for men. No matter what, you have to look hot, look good. You can’t make a wrong move. I don’t give it much of a thought because I have played what I wanted to play. I have done a “Apaharan”, I have done a “Corporate”, I have done an “Omkara”, I have done a “Dhoom 2” and at times I have done it in the same year. Now I am doing “Lamha” where I play a Kashmiri girl.”
“I have worked with Sanjay Dutt to Ajay Devgan, to Abhishek Bachchan, to John Abraham, almost everybody. I don’t really put too much thought to what is happening. Whatever appearance I am required to keep, I am comfortable with that. If a director asks me not to wear make-up, I will do that. If he says wear this, I will wear it. It has to match my intelligence also.”
“Image is not my concern, but I always maintain that you have to satisfy two criteria. One is your USP as an actor, what was the first impression that you gave people and why you were liked — you have to retain that. And at the same time you have to satisfy yourself as an actor within the limitations of a Bollywood heroine. So I keep an intelligent outlook towards that and I do what I need to do.”
Q: You just mentioned “Lamha”, could you speak about that film?
A: “Yes, I am tremendously excited about this film because in the same year I have got to do different things. “Lamha” is a story about modern-day Kashmir and I am playing a modern Kashmiri girl and it speaks about what the locals feel. It is their emotion, their language that we speak. It’s a hard-hitting film and I really enjoyed working with Rahul (Dholakia) in the film.
“I have seen a ten-minute cut and I feel really proud to have been a part of this because the visuals of Kashmir are breathtaking. When I was offered the film I was totally excited because it is only once in a lifetime that you get to do something like this. Yes, we had some teething problems but ultimately what we have shot is amazing.”
Q: There was talk that you might leave the film halfway because of problems while shooting in Kashmir?
A: This is all rubbish. Just when you decide to stay quiet, people have to make up some news. I am attached to the film and even if I had a problem with the shooting I didn’t want to talk about it much because I wanted us to complete it. But just because I was quiet, people made many many stories. But now I am speaking because we are done with it. But I had the most… oh, amazing time in Kashmir.”
Q: Bipasha, you just turned 30 in January. Does it get tougher for a heroine at this age in Bollywood?
A: (Laughs) “I really think that the media will be making it tougher on me. I just feel we shouldn’t make so much of an issue of a girl turning 30. I feel it’s the prime of a woman, and if people start talking about your age at this time, I don’t know what they will do what they will say when you turn 50. By that time you will be ancient, prehistoric, and as good as dead.”
“But it is funny, in today’s modern times, if you are going to put age on their head, it’s really silly.”
Q: Do you have to encounter such attitudes from the industry?
A: “No, I don’t have to encounter it from the industry, but from the media. The question that I have turned 30 is asked in such a way that I feel like I have turned 60. And you are working with a 27-year-old boy.
I don’t understand what the big deal is, he is only three years younger than me. My mentality is as much as that boy, so I actually gel more with Ranbir than a Sanjay Dutt, who is much more senior. If someone doesn’t ask me how it was to work with Sanjay Dutt, I feel it’s ridiculous to ask me this.”
Q: Do you feel in your prime at 30?
A: I feel I am 14. I was just thinking back to the time when, years back I thought 30 was really old. But today, I don’t feel anything. It’s just another year.”
Q: Are you looking at exploring other avenues besides acting? Business maybe?
A: No, I don’t have the time. I don’t think this is the right time anyway, unless you have loads of money to waste, which I don’t have. It’s really fashionable to be in business, but not really intelligent.”
Q: Have you felt the effects of recession?
A: “Everyone has. Who-ever has invested in the stock market and has an investment portfolio, has taken a hit. So have I, so I am no exception to the rule. Recession has hit everybody.”