We caught up with the glamorous star, whose most recent movie was released on Friday 12th February, to talk Bollywood, co-stars and all things Fitoor…

We have missed you. We didn’t get to see much of you in 2015. The only movie that released of yours was Phantom. Is 2016 going to be different?

Yes, indeed! I have three releases this year… kick starting with Fitoor in February and then both ‘Jagaa Jasoos’ and ‘Baar Dekho’ later in 2016 itself. So yes, you will definitely be seeing a lot more of me this year!

Fitoor, is one of our top 5 films to watch in 2016 and so we have Great Expectations (pun intended!) Do you ever feel the pressure from fans/audience on the outcome of a film, ahead of its release?

There is always pressure but I think that’s a good thing. Every artist must always be driven to do better and give more to their fans and well-wishers. To use your pun, we must repeatedly meet all their Great Expectations! All I’m hoping with Fitoor is that the audiences recognise the love and passion that has gone into making the film. 

Let’s talk about your look in Fitoor. We’re loving the red hair and the intensity
you’re bringing to the character. Is it true that your Director made you and Tabu colour your hair red as a tribute to the chinars of Kashmir?

Yes, that’s correct – it was Abhishek’s vision from day one. The red hair in the film depicts the changing seasons of the beautiful chinar trees of Kashmir, and also the connection between Tabu’s Begum character and my character, Firdaus. 

You have had a series of successful films at the box office, but some have criticised you for your acting ability, saying that you often do repetitive roles and are featured in mainly male dominated films, what’s your response to such comments?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I don’t think it is my right or place to judge someone for their comments. When selecting a film, a number of factors become the deciding factor for me to choose a project, and nine out of ten times, this is focused on the role. Having looked at the characters I have portrayed I have to say in the last five years, I do feel they have been quite distinct, irrespective of the genre / theme of the film. Also, one of our industry greats taught me a mantra which I strongly believe in. ‘Do not do something different just for the sake of doing something different. There is a reason the audiences love you so please don’t ever shock them with something because of what a dozen people may say.’

You have often said, you have to work twice as hard compared to other actors due to not being fluent in Hindi, do you think your performance therefore, if Fitoor, was made as an English adaptation of Great Expectations would be even better, as perhaps the emotional connect might be better?

I’d like to think that my Hindi is pretty good now! Great Expectations has already been made in English (several times over, in fact) and I doubt they would approach me even if there is another one in the making! Having said all of that and jokes apart, I do work very hard to get my accent right (it’s not the fluency really) and will continue to do so.

Director Abhishek Kapoor, has praised Tabu for her performance in the film, is there ever any concern that she may steal the limelight for the film?

Not at all! Tabu is a phenomenal actress and her role in Fitoor is equally phenomenal. She deserves every word of praise for her sheer body of work and not just for Fitoor. It took a considerable amount of effort to not get lost in her performance and to remember to give all my cues at the right times. I think we have just been very fortunate to have her on board for the film. In fact, if there was any concern at all, it was because I had to pretend that Tabu was my mother! I mean she does not look like my mother from any angle!AS Feb'16 IS1 PG 23

What matters to you more box office success or critical acclaim?

I think that is impossible to answer. Critical acclaim does not always translate to box office success and vice versa. I think there has to be a balance between the two. I mean, what is the point of awards and accolades if the project has not been commercially viable for the producers?

What are the key factors you look at before agreeing to be part of a film? 

I really need to connect with the role as, if I do, then I will connect with the audience. I also look for that one thing that sets it apart from everything I have done until then. For instance, on Dhoom 3, I knew that it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with acrobats from all over the world, to push my body to achieve something unique. In Fitoor, I mean who would pass up on playing one of classic literature’s most romantic heroines? But seldom is a film ‘all about me’. The script has to be cohesive, the project has to be commercially viable, on paper at least. Selfish films rarely work. The audiences are our Gods and I try to put myself in their shows when I listen to the script. 

Salman Khan was praising you on the sets of Big Boss recently. The superstar said that you were the most hardworking actress there can ever be, and also talented. He also said: “When one keeps working hard, the talent keeps increasing. The whole country is crazy about you, including me! So, obviously you are talented,” How do you feel when senior and popular actors compliment you in this way?

Deeply honoured and humbled!! I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity of working with some of our Indian film Industry’s greatest. I will strive to work even harder so that I can continue to validate all the positivity. 

People are loving the song ‘Tere Liye’ the look and the soulful lyrics are being loved by many. And, we’re loving the intense chemistry between you and Aditya in the song and we feel both of you have an amazing sensuous onscreen presence. Do you think such scenes are easier only if your co-actor is comfortable to work with, or are you the type, that can just throw yourself into a scene and not worry about who the scene is with?

Having a comfort level with your colleague is always helpful as, when you’re on set, the ice is already broken and you’re ready to be immersed in your characters. The chemistry is considerably easier to achieve but it is a fine line – with Aditya, who I have known for years, I had to remind myself (and him and vice versa) that we were not friends who have know each other for years in this film but a very troubled couple deeply in love. I do think comfort is a very important factor but especially for intense romantic scenes, it takes me some time to get there.

For you what or who is the scene stealer in Fitoor?

Everyone and everything! Kashmir itself where the film is set is almost like a
character in the film. She is breathtakingly beautiful. The children who play Aditya and myself in our childhood phase are outstanding besides being brilliantly cast. Tabu is a God send. Aditya is phenomenal. We also have the benefit of an amazing supporting cast who all add to the impact. The technical crew is beyond comparison. However, I think the true scene stealer is our director, Abhishek Kapoor, whose single-minded vision is responsible for Fitoor being the sweeping romantic marvel that it is…