Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

She might have faced a lot of criticism as she admits, but Zareen Khan has come a long way – considering she’s used that criticism as her strength and maintained her own individuality. The actress only feels happy about that. Her latest release ‘Aksar 2’, sees her in a sultry, grey avatar. She speaks about the film, her journey so farand dismisses the size zero trendin this candid chat.

What drew you towards ‘Aksar 2’?
The story of the film; it is very gripping. It’s a thriller and I think it’s going to keep the audiences on their toes till the end. It’s an interesting story which helped me make a decision to come on board.

The character here seems slightly grey, isn’t it?
I really enjoy playing challenging roles, which helps me push myself and explore new sides of me, which maybe even I didn’t know about. As far as negative and grey is concerned, in ‘Aksar 2’, at every point you will feel that some or the other character is grey. The audience is going to be guessing till the end that who is the grey character here. So, that’s going to be fun.

Now do you believe you’ve been accepted by the audience, for your own individuality?
I’m very happy because that was my whole struggle from the time I started doing films. When I became a part of the film industry, my whole individuality was taken away by comparing me to someone else and I had to live under someone else’s shadow for the longest time. This was my whole struggle that I’m an individual and I’m here to make my own mark. I need people to give me that opportunity and chance and need people to see me for the individual that I am. I’m so happy to hear this now. I feel happy that after seven years, I have been able to make a mark and people have accepted me for who I am.

How have things been in these seven years and how do you think you’ve come about?
I had a dream debut, which most people can only dream about. I was someone who doesn’t belong to a film background and who had no dreams and ambitions of becoming a part of the film industry ever. But I still got a dream debut with Salman Khan. My struggle started after my debut because I got a lot of criticism for everything – for my looks, my weight, everything. And being a newcomer in this industry, I couldn’t really understand as to why this happened to me. I was asked by the seniors and people associated with this film to look a certain way for the movie. I was playing an 18th century princess and I was told that women of that era were a little on the plump side. They were voluptuous women. That’s the reason I was asked to put on weight. But it all backfired and the film didn’t do as well we expected it to do. The whole blame of failure came on me because I was the new one in the film. I couldn’t understand all that because a few months down the line, an established actress did this one role for which she had put on weight and everyone started praising her. I was criticised to a point where I thought this is it. I’m not getting any more work after this. Luckily I didn’t take all that too seriously or just sit in one corner. I thought let me take this in my stride and work on myself. I had no game plan or no idea how this industry works. I’m not saying after 7 years I’ve completely learnt how it works. I’m still learning everyday. But now finally I feel people have accepted me, they love me. This is what I wanted. I never had dreams that I want to be a top most actress one day, because becoming an actress itself was never my game plan. But I’m here now and people have started accepting me and loving me so I’m grateful for it.

“When I became a part of the film industry, my whole individuality was taken away by comparing me to someone else and I had to live under someone else’s shadow for the longest time”

Like you said, you were criticised for your weight but you’ve taken that in your stride and made it work for you?
That’s how Indian women should be. You go back in time and if you see the sculptures in the Khajuraho temple or pictures in the Kamasutra, you see well-embodied women. And I think that’s how men like it. These teenagers and these young girls, they are all trying to follow Bollywood actresses, trying to be size zero and they want to become so thin but what’s the joy in becoming thin when you are looking like a teenage boy. There’s no difference between a teenage boy and you. What’s the point when you are not looking like a girl? I’m happy that my curves are finally accepted.

And as an actor, how have you grown?
When you start out with established actors, you obviously learn a lot. You start learning things here as you do more and more work and I think confidence is something which you need to have in yourself. Once you have that, then nothing is difficult. Till the time you don’t have faith and confidence in yourself then no matter how many movies you do, no matter what you do, it’s not going to help. Till the time you don’t have faith in yourself, irrespective of what people are saying, irrespective of people just trying to put you down, if you have confidence in yourself then every battle can be won.

What’s next for you?
In January I will have ‘1921’ coming, which is a horror film directed by Vikram sir. And, that’s another film I’m looking forward to, because horror films are something which I don’t watch in reality. I’m very scared of the genre but I took it up as a challenge and it was a real great experience doing it.As I said, since I never wanted to become an actress, I don’t really have a plan here. But I want to do quality work, I want to explore roles and characters in which I can push my limit. So I hope I get that opportunity. And I just want to do some great work.

How do you feel about being a part of these franchise films – ‘Hate Story’, ‘Aksar’ and now ‘1921’?
I feel very lucky to be a part of these films. These are very successful franchises and if I can be a part of these, I’d find myself lucky because the makers must have seen some potential in me that they thought I can carry forward their successful franchises. I just feel happy about that.

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