Asoka, for all the raves, couldn’t become the rage it was meant to be. Were you disappointed?
Not at all. I was proud to be a part of such a wonderful film. And it was just my fourth film. Let’s put aside the box office success. The letters and flowers I got for Asoka were unbelievable. Every heroine would have given her right arm to do Asoka. I consider myself lucky.
Earlier you used to be uncomfortable playing the glamour girl. Are you okay with that now?
I’ve realized I’m here to be at the top. And to get there you have to be sexy, glamorous and attractive. Everyone has been at the top – Rekha, Sridevi, Madhuri, Karisma – has taken the glamour route. Rekha is called a sex goddess. I was very flattered when a magazine called me one too. In any case, just by wearing a salwar-kameez I can’t prove that I’m a good actress. The clothes have to be in keeping with the character…like Pooh’s deadly outfits in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. I want to be the No.1 actress. So why pick on my clothes? I know of certain heroines who have suddenly starting showing their cleavage after a decade in the business. A bit late in the day, no? But I don’t think anyone wants to see you doing the oomphy act. That’s okay. I want to do a mixture of the realistic and the glamorous. From the deglamourised Refugee, I swung straight into the ultra-glam Mujhe Kuchh Kehna Hai. I don’t think any other heroine has had the opportunity to do as wide a variety of roles in one year as I have. No two films of mine have been the same. I believe you get then highest fee commanded by an actress right now. I suppose I do. I take that as a huge compliment. That shows that film-makers and audiences haven full faith in my abilities. Just by being part of successful films, you don’t become a success in your own right. See, Madhurti Dixit or Sridevi didn’t become didn’t become instant successes. Madhuri’s first few films were failures. Sure, Sridevi has Nagina, Chandni and Mr India…but after quite a few years in the industry. For that matter how many memorable blockbusters has Rekha starred in? And yet she’s a movie goddess. I’ve been lucky to have huge successes like Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham right at the start. The problem is, after Refugee everyone wants to see mem giving powerhouse performances in all my films. It’s hard to live up to such expectations.
That dream song with Akshay Kumar in Ajnabee was extremely embarrassing.
Oh, but that song was an integral part of the script. It wasn’t an afterthought or anything. I made an attempt to do a sexy number, I enjoyed it. And believe it or not, I shot for Neend mujhko aa rahi hai just after shooting for Panchhi nadiya in Refugee. The culture shock was too much. But Akshay took such care to make me comfortable. That’s why I like him so much.
What if Sanjay Leela Bhansali were to offer you a movie again?
Sanjay Bhansali has to make another Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam with me.I won’t leave him in peace till he does. I deserve it. And he knows it.
I believe you patched up with him recently.
Yes. I went to Sikander Kher’s birthday party. Kiron Kher who’s working in Sanjay’s Devdas said I must meet Sanjay. She dragged me to him. We hugged and became friends. I told him I was hurt because he screen-tested me for Devdas and then replaced me without my knowledge. But I’ve never ever said that he’s a bad director or that I’ll never work with him. The media just blew our differences out of proportion. You know I was like a child who wanted to be in his film. He was the first filmmaker I ever called. Anyway, Devdas is certainly not the last film he’ll make. He owes me a solo-heroine film.
You’re like a child picking up toys at a huge store. You want every major director to work with you.
(Giggles) Exactly. There’s hardly any director left for me to work with. But please, you can’t call either Karan Johar or Sooraj Barjatya a toy. If I start talking about Soorajji, this interview will become a Sooraj Barjatya special.
He’s magical. I’m so lucky to be working with him. Other heroines have no idea what they’re missing out on. About my character Sanjana in Main Prem Ki Deewani hoon, she’s exactly like me. If I was trapped in the same situations, I’d behave exactly like Sanjana. I’ve used my real life experiences in this film. Apart from K3G, here’s a role that’s closest to my heart. Main Prem Ki Deewani hoon will be released in 2003.
You were hardly pivotal to Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.
No, of course not. But it was a very, very special role. I was there just for four scenes and three songs. But my character…Pooh…was so cool and cute. I loved doing the hoity-toity act.
You glow in the film.
I no longer know what to say when I’m complimented about my looks. I appreciative constructive criticism more than empty praise.
Do you regret your fight with Bobby Deol?
I haven’t had a chance to meet him after Ajanabee. There was no fight between us, it was just a misunderstanding. To me, Bobby will always be my sister’s first co-star. He was also one of my first heroes after Abhishek. I was very excited about working with him in Ajnabee. I don’t know why things went wrong between us. You know, my sister has gone through the same thing. So many people have tried to create a rift between Lolo and Govinda and with Salman Khan. But they haven’t let the loose talk affect their friendship. I don’t deny a problem with Bobby’s wife. But I’m sure my problems with Bobby can be sorted out. There’s no negativity from my end.
Your take on Bipasha Basu, please.
She just doesn’t seem to have any confidence in her own talent. In a four-page interview, she spoke about me for three pages. Why not talk about your work? I think her only claim to fame is that she fought with me during Ajnabee over dress designer Vikram Phadnis. She’s given statements that I called hr uncharitable names. Now, that’s a figment of her imagination.
Why do you get into these hostile situations?
My mother has always taught us sisters to be honest. But my sister has learnt to be tactful, which I haven’t. Lolo keeps screaming at me for shooting my mouth off. But no two persons are the same. I’m very different from my sister. Even my mother has come to terms with our dissimilar temperaments. But I certainly don’t look out for hostile situations. On the contrary, it’s the others who get hostile. Maybe they feel jealous because success has come too easily to me, being a star-kid, a star-sister and all that. Still, I haven’t had it easy. Success may have come easily to me but to remain there is tough. It’s far more stressful for me than anyone can imagine.
Has all the stress taken its toll on you?
I think it did. That’s why I got typhoid. I just collapsed for 25 days.
Are you moody?
Yes. I can be just fine one minute…but the very next minute, something someone has said can upset me majorly. Otherwise, I can never be rude to anyone. My sister has warned me not to be over-friendly with people because I’ll get hurt. And that’s exactly what happens. I do have mood swings. No one is perfect, I’ve always been like this.
Do you really get time to go out with friends?
Not too much. But that’s okay. I’ve seen my sister slogging it out from the age of 16. I do go out but my social circle is restricted to four or five close friends like Karan Johar and Manish Malhotra. I’m very fond of Abhishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumar. I’m comfortable with them. And of course Esha Deol.
Yeah you can’t forget her or she’ll sue you.
(Chuckles) No she won’t. She’s one of my closest friends. I’m already six films old…or young, I treat her like a younger sister. I teach her the do’s and don’ts. She’s as excitable and temperamental as I am. We like and dislike the same things. We’re quite sure our friendship is envied by everyone.
What’s it about you that riles other actresses like Amisha Patel and Preity Zinta?
(Laughs) Do I need to answer that? They accuse me of saying things about them…when in fact I never mention them in my interviews. It’s they who keep talking about me all the time. In a magazine, Amisha Patel was quoted as saying that I’m insecure about her. Do you think I can be insecure about anyone? I’ve just worked with Kajol and Jayaji in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Why would I ever be insecure about any actress after working with these legends?
Haven’t you taken on more than you can handle?
Sometimes when I sit in my make-up van I wonder what the hell I’m doing. I do get tired at times.
Are you daunted by the expectations that you’ve built?
Actually, I’ve always been a very confident girl. I know I’ll never let anyone down. Even in a bad film like Yaadein, my fans weren’t disappointed. At the end of the day, I’m here to make my fans happy with my performances. The opinion within the industry is secondary. Because the heroine who’s given two of the biggest hits in recent times hasn’t got the popularity that I have…even though I’ve been a part of some big box office disasters.
How has one year in the film industry changed you?
As an actress, I’ve improved by leaps and bounds. You know I watched Asoka by myself with only my mom and Lolo for company. I cried at the end of the movie. I felt I don’t know where to go from here.
How’s it been on the personal front?
I’ve met people who’re so sweet to me on my face. The same people have tried to destroy my career. That shocked me.
Being linked to Hrithik Roshan…didn’t that scare you?
I was more bothered that his marriage would be affected. For me, it was a professional hazard. First it was Hrithik. Tomorrow it could be someone else. As long as I know the truth, I’m fine.
When love really happens will you be honest about it?
I’ll go ballistic. I won’t be able to talk about anything else. I’ll stand on the rooftops and shout that I’ve found the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. But where is he? I’m dying to meet him. I want to see who’s equal to the task of being my partner. My friends say I’ll never find anyone. They say I intimidate guys.
In what way?
They don’t have the guts to even come up to my level of honesty. A lot of guys try to mingle with me because of who I am. If in encounter a guy with a clean heart, I’ll go by my instincts. I guess my man won’t be from the film industry.
What if he wants you to give up your career?
I’ll kick him in his butt and tell him to get lost. The most shocking part about the articles linking me with Hrithik was the insinuation that I was willing to give up my career to run after him. Please! Not for a man, never!