We just heard you telling someone that you wish you could spend more time in Calcutta. What is it about the city that you like?
I have come here a lot for film promotions and stuff… but they have all been short visits. During my first few years as a model and then an actress, I remember my trips used to be longer. But you know, there’s something about Calcutta that I really like… maybe it’s the vibe, maybe it’s the people. I won’t go all cliched and talk about the food and the culture (laughs), but ya, I like the city (smiles). It’s a pity I have never got enough time to spend here. I am always in and out.
You have a packed schedule round the year. How do you keep yourself going?
I always have to pay special attention to what I am eating because there are a lot of times when I am on the go and I am low on energy. Sometimes, I go through days of not having slept properly. I am very big on eating right and exercising well. On my low-energy days, I make sure I don’t reach out for quick fixes like bad sugar foods. I love a good pizza once in a while and I just can’t stay away from chocolates, but I have learnt to resist most of the time.
But are there days when you feel you may have taken on too much?
Oh yes! There are many, many days when I am like: ‘Oh no, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!’ (Laughs) But then, I immediately remember the time when I asked god for it: ‘Please, please, please make me more busy… I don’t want to be sitting at home’. I longed for a time when I would be working everyday and today, I am working everyday and whenever I feel a sense of complaining coming in, I tell myself that I need to deal with it. Then, it gets a lot better (smiles).
Does this rush to do so many things stem from the fact that a Bolly leading lady has a limited shelf life?
Yes, that’s a huge reason why we keep pushing ourselves to do as much as we can while we can (smiles). You have to keep grabbing opportunities and as you go along, you have to think ahead and branch out, like Priyanka (Chopra) has done with her singing and now her production house. Of course, there are exceptions like a Dimple Kapadia who is still working, but actresses need to face up to reality… we just have that many years as a heroine. You may get work later on, but the nature and volume of the roles will change. It is a reality that we can’t do anything about. This is not Hollywood and we in Bollywood have been programmed to accept it (shrugs and smiles).
It must be exciting shooting for your Hollywood debut (Definition of Fear). How is working with an international cast and crew different from working in a Bollywood film?
For me, this experience has all been about growing as an actor. It’s true that working on an international film has exposed me to a different style of working, but at the same time, I also observed a lot of similarities. I found the same level of passion and enthusiasm that we find in Bollywood, but it’s a wonder how precise and professional an international crew can be with time and detail. In Bombay, things are much more laid-back and also quite lenient with the actors (laughs). But in Definition of Fear, we had to be on our toes all the time… that is a good thing (smiles). Also, I am happy that my first international project is a psychological thriller because I am a huge fan of that genre.
Has your Hollywood film made you learn or unlearn anything as an actor?
I think the biggest thing I have had to work on is my accent. When I came in, I had a very pronounced American accent and I had to change it quite a bit to be able to work in Bollywood (laughs). But when I started work on this film, I was asked to get it back because I play an American girl. And I was like: ‘Oh my god, I can’t do this!’ For years, I had struggled not to sound American while speaking Hindi and now I had to sound American all over again… it was a nightmare! (Laughs)
Signing a Holly film traditionally gives Bollywood the impression that you aren’t interested in a career here. Has that happened with you?
I signed this film before Kick and my next film after this is Roy (co-starring Arjun Rampal and Ranbir Kapoor) and then I am about to start working on Brothers (with Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra) in a few days. So all I am actually doing are Bollywood films (smiles). I had a time of three months in hand and Definition of Fear came right at that time… it couldn’t have been timed better. But no, I am definitely not neglecting or leaving Bollywood… I love it! (Smiles)
You made a mark with Murder 2 and Race 2, but Kick catapulted you into the big league. Would you call it your biggest turning point?
Kick just turned everything around for me. It felt like a relaunch. I know Murder 2 was a huge turning point, but Kick felt like I had started out all over again. During the promotions, I was presented in a way that I had never been presented before and when the film released and did so massively well, it not only opened many more doors for me, but also motivated me and made me realise why I had wanted to be an actor in the first place. To work with a superstar like Salman (Khan) just makes things so much more special. Also, having a Rs 200 crore film (the Sajid Nadiadwala film earned Rs 242 crore) to my name has worked wonders for my saleability as an actor.