Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

She’s crystal clear about what she wants as an actor, and convincingly articulate as well! Free-spirited and candid, Ileana D’cruz is dressed in a suit as she settles down with us, to chat about her upcoming film ‘‘Baadshaho’’. Excerpts:

You seem really comfortable in your space, when it comes to doing a film with an ensemble cast? Be it ‘Mubarakan’ or ‘Baadshaho’.
Incredibly. Doing an ensemble film comes with a sense of security and I’m completely happy in the space that I am in. I won’t take on a role or film if I’m not completely okay with the character that I am playing. It really depends on what my role is. And I won’t sign on to a film if it’s not something I’m absolutely happy with. It does depend on your on security. You can’t eventually do an ensemble film and be like, oh I’ll get overshadowed by that person. You’ll naturally get overshadowed if you’re not good at what you’re doing. You don’t necessarily have to be the main lead to shine out, you just need your own little moments on-screen.

Talking about ‘Baadshaho’, how was it playing this character, and also having this sort of look…
With ‘Baadshaho’, it was a very selfish decision on my part because I loved my role in it. I said, come what may, I want to play this character. It’s so amazing how powerful she is, how manipulative she can be if she wants to, even if she is thrown into jail. It’s a big deal for a queen to be thrown into a jail, and I was taken to an actual jail but I thought it added to the authenticity. Which girl doesn’t like playing a queen, and that too a powerful one? She was such an intelligent person. So, it was just a joy playing her. As far as the look was concerned, I was slightly conflicted initially as to how do we go about it, because you’re playing a character from the 70s and need to be authentic. But then the other aspect is that you’re the main lead of the film, you’ve got to look good. So, I had to pay keen attention to the dressing. I actually sat on a lot of things. I never get so finicky otherwise. But in this case, I have sat down to discuss the materials, the jewellery, the shoes, the style, the hair and make-up. We actually had so many look tests and my team did such a wonderful job.

‘Rustom’, ‘Mubarakan’ and now ‘Badshasho’ – are you happy with this sort of variety?
It’s gratifying. I feel kind of lucky and privileged. Everyone says I’m very choosy and I should do a lot more films but I believe that it’s not easy to get a good film. My entire criterion when I do a film is that the content needs to be good – I need to have a good role in a good film. Every film that I’ve taken on, I believe I’ve had a good role in it. I’ve always wanted to do something different in every role, so I’m very picky, I’m very choosy so I believe that the fact that I’m being choosy means that I’m kind of doing something right. So, I’ve been very happy with my choices, it makes me feel better as an actor.

Does the appreciation further add to being choosy?
Absolutely. I might say that I’m super confident in my choices and I love the role that I’m doing. But there’s a thought that, will people like it, appreciate it, or will they say that I’ve totally understood the character she was playing. I don’t have the leeway of doing a film and having a subtitle saying, ‘I’m trying to play this, in case you don’t get it.’ So,you have to be convincing enough. Appreciation is really nice. Especially for a film like ‘Mubarakan’. Sometimes I feel it is easier to do intense films than comedy. So for me, when people notice me in a film which has Anil Kapoor and say something about me, I find that very sweet.

And what are the kind of films which you enjoy watching?
I actually enjoy watching animation and comedy. I just realized that there is a new channel called Toonami, which shows all the cartoons which they had in the 90s. So, I love watching ‘The Flintstones’ and so many more cartoons and I enjoy it. I usually love animated films, it’s like a stress-buster in a way. I don’t watch a lot of Hindi films. But obviously when it comes to doing films, I enjoy films that are gritty, intense – a film like ‘Baadshaho’ left me feeling depleted emotionally, which is why I probably had such a huge breakdown on the last day. Strangely, I love that feeling because I feel like I’ve actually contributed and have given something to the film. Again when you have such an intense, big role in a movie that has such a huge ensemble cast, there’s a certain sense of responsibility that you feel and I also really enjoy the uncertainty of a role, that’s really perverse though. I like the feeling of going to the set, not knowing how I’m going to tackle the day, not knowing how I’m going to do it, and coming out of it feeling great, because the director has given me a hug saying that was outstanding. Those are things which I love.

“There’s joy from my work but also that acceptance that this is an addictive kind of world and it is very easy to get sucked into all the madness and glamour”

You were working on ‘Mubaran’ and ‘Baadshaho’, simultaneously…so how was it working with two directors with different sensibilities and approach all together?
Their approach was completely different because the two genres that I did with them were completely different. Aneesji is a very capable director in his own right because it’s not easy to do an ensemble cast film when you have that many actors dealing with the characters, their egos and so many issues. Aneesji was super easy to work with and in that sense, it was the same with Milan. They are both very easy to work with, as directors. They were sure of what they wanted. But the joy which I got from working in a film like ‘Baadshaho’ was that the entire genre for me was different. The character for me was different. I feel that with commercial films like ‘Mubarakan’, the main leads are good guys, there’s no negativity in them. You have your villains for that. But when you play a character like this in ‘Baadshaho’, there’s a massive grey side to her. You know every character have something which they are up to. And there’s this weird power play which they have and there’s this balance which you have to bring in, as a director. You can’t afford to go overboard. So, Milan has managed that really well.

What’s your biggest fear as an actor?
My biggest concern is what if I do some bad work which people will see and remember even if I’m dead and gone, since films last forever. That’s my biggest concern.

You mentioned you don’t really watch a lot of Hindi films…
For me, films are a way to sort of unwind. I like watching films like that, it’s very rare that I’ll watch an intense film. I have so much stress when it comes to work, that I like to unwind when I’m watching TV. So, like I said I like watching animation, cartoons, or films that I’m aware of – like ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Satte Pe Satta’, ‘Hum Hai Rahi Pyaar Ke’, so many films like that. I love even ‘Raja Hindustani’, but that I only watch before the intense part starts. In a way, a film like ‘Mubarakan’ reflects the kind of films I like watching as an audience. I assumed that just because I liked listening to the script, people will like watching the film. I mean, it is subjective and not a very good way to choose films but so far it’s been good.

‘Barfi!’ is set to complete five years now in September. What are the memories that you have of the film when you look back?
The similarity between ‘Barfi!’ and ‘‘Baadshaho’’ is that they are two films where I cried on the last day. I didn’t want to let go off ‘Barfi’ as well. I didn’t realise ‘Barfi!’ was so special until I started filming for it. It was a film that I loved as a story. I remember the first time I saw it, I cried so much. And I was like, PC and Ranbir are so awesome, nobody is going to look at me. And secondly, I cried because it was such a beautiful story. There was a beauty about being selfless in that film. I cried in every emotional scene of that film. With ‘Baadshaho’ most scenes are intense, but there were very few scenes where Geetanjali was vulnerable. So, I actually broke down in those scenes. They’re both films incredibly close to me, and films that will always stay with me.

Somehow you love to have a life beyond movies as well, don’t you?
I love my work! But when I’m working round-the-clock, I’m waiting for that moment when I can slip away and sometimes when I’m on a holiday, I can’t wait to be back on set. So, there’s a joy from my work but also that acceptance that this is an addictive kind of world and it is very easy to get sucked into all the madness and glamour. You got to realize that at the end of the day, this is a job. You should always want to get back to your life beyond your job.

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