For the last six-eight months, you’ve virtually been living on different movie sets. Does it feel any different from the world of television?
It’s pretty much the same for me. Even before signing up for Gold, I spent long hours on set with two seasons of Naagin and a season of Jhalak Dikkhlaa Jaa. My well-wishers are happy about my transition and my relationship with work is still 100 per cent pure. The only difference is the medium where my work is displayed. While the journey of every actor is different, for me, TV is home. I loved it with all my heart. Each one of those shows helped me get where I am today.
Often, the transition for television actors to cinema is not very smooth and simple. In your case, you had RAW and Brahmastra in your kitty before Gold released. The rise has been quick, which has been lauded and also been a subject of much discussion.
Don’t most people often do that? There are people who pull others down and say these unpleasant things about them. What they fail to see is that I have worked for a decade, spending 15-19 hours on a set, without allowing myself to have a personal life, or even have the time to recuperate from that fatigue. I had auditioned for Brahmastra and was finalised only after the look tests. This is because of TV, which prepares you like nothing else. Today, there is nothing on a film set that I can’t deal with — be it production issues or a script change. We’ve seen such hard deadlines that we’re prepared for almost everything. Yes, the distinguishing factor is that with every film, it’s a new role, whereas with TV, we’re doing the same character for months or even years. I’ve understood one thing: if you love your work, it loves you back. It doesn’t ever cheat on you, unless you cheat on it.
Are you now able to manage some me-time for yourself?
Yes, and it’s wonderful! I have been reading, spending time with friends, taking short trips between schedules, planning little breaks to be with family, and working on myself to become a better actor. I’ve always valued me-time, and now that I have it, I use it well. As actors, we sometimes get restless, feel insecure and look for escape routes. Today, I know how to get rid of my insecurities. There’s no point devoting time to anyone other than yourself, and to a handful of people who add value to your life.
While most debutants take a while to sign up their second film, you dived into RAW even before the release of Gold. Don’t you sometimes feel that it all happened too soon?
No, I don’t think so. It’s working on its own pace. The good part is that even while working on Gold, no one treated me like a novice. I was petrified, because I was working with so many big names in a huge set-up, but they were so respectful towards my experience. We all had a great time working together. Sometimes, you don’t get the time to soak in the success of a show or a film. For instance, we knew Naagin was delivering numbers, but we realised how popular it had become when it won accolades and awards. It’s the same case with Gold. I feel I got lucky and benefitted a lot from it. There is a certain taboo as not many TV actors are able to make a smooth transition. In that sense, Gold did a lot for me to make in-roads in this business.
Let’s talk about RAW. What was the high-point of shooting an espionage drama, which has John Abraham playing a spy?
I had a lot to express, but very little to talk and that’s a challenge for any actor. There are a few scenes that look very simple, but they’re quite emotionally challenging to pull off. I am not a girl of a few words, I like to elaborate on things. I go quiet or speak less only when I am angry. Here, I was playing a woman who says a lot with her eyes. She’s someone I have had no reference for and that made it all the more exciting.
The sentiment of the nation when you started the film last year was different from today. Does that bother you?
Yes, the sentiment was different then. What happened in Pulwama is unfortunate, but there’s no connection between RAW and the recent string of events. Our film was always meant to release in this window. It’s just that a lot of untoward things happened around the time when we brought out our trailer. At an individual level, I feel terrorism should not be tolerated by any country and no nation should encourage it on their soil either. There are lives at stake all over. War may not be a solution to a problem, but breeding terror is also not the way out, right? Although our film would have been relevant anyway, I now want people to see RAW and feel what we have felt for thousands of brave-hearts, who’ve done a lot for the nation, but have no place in history.