Was it difficult for you to play the role of Begum Hazrat? Did you relate to the character in any way?
Begum Hazrat is a mysterious character and very unlike me. I can’t hide my feelings and that is my biggest drawback. I can’t hide anything and that is my drawback and advantage too. It’s not that I tell the truth every time but I can’t lie easily. I see to it that I don’t fall into such situations. I excuse myself in some way or the other.
You’ve been working in this industry for a long time, do you think there is reason you’ve survived here for such a long time?
I was never undisciplined. Since I did not belong to the industry I had to be extra careful. I learnt to manage myself and shaped my own career. All I knew was that I had to work hard and lead a life of dignity. There was no one to advice me, I took up roles on my gut feeling. I didn’t have a great social life but spent time with a few friends whom I was comfortable with and who stood by me. I know whatever happens in my life these people are there to support me. I only attended parties for professional reasons.
What was the best part about playing the role of Begum Hazrat?
Working as Begum Hazrat revived childhood memories of my home town Hyderabad. We lived in a haveli called Noor Mahal which was handled by a trust and we were allowed to run a school there. My maternal grandparents were educationists. My grandfather was a mathematician and grandmother ran a kindergarten. My mother was a teacher. My grandfather hated films and would call it an escape from life. We were simple middle class people who had an educational background. Unfortunately I never took my education seriously. I think I am a fool. I realise now that education makes a lot of difference to your life. I educated myself with films and roles. I continued to shine in movies.
Do you visit your hometown often?
I rarely go there and visit the town when I go for shoots. I was fifteen years old when I came here to Mumbai. I miss the summer holidays, the rains, the smell of the earth. We would often come to Mumbai for holidays.
We’ve only seen you in serious roles off late, do you think you want to try out different kinds of roles?
I’m looking forward to doing some hardcore action now. I have done action in films films like Jaal and Maa Tujhe Salaam. People have forgotten that I have done comedy too. It’s just that I don’t approach people for work. I always feel that they will approach me if they wish to. I am sure they have my number.
I am getting good roles and I am enjoying the phase I am in. I did good films like Chandni Bar, Haider and I knew that I would be able to bring the characters alive on screen. Yes I did certain films which were not worthy but I signed them on my whims. When I question my mother about why she didn’t stop me from doing them she would say “Did you ever ask me. You always did what you wanted.” I am getting interesting offers now. I feel my journey in the industry has just begun.