'Item numbers are extremely beneficial'
From playing the perfect bahu in the television series Kasamh Se to doing an item number in I Me Aur Main, Prachi Desai has come a long way.
When she quit Kasamh Se in 2008-- when it was soaring in the popularity charts -- and joined the Hindi film industry, many people thought she had made a big mistake.
Her debut in Rock On!! looked she was yet another TV actor trying to make it big in Bollywood. But Prachi stood her ground and continued to be a part of hit films such as Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai and Bol Bachchan.
The actress now finds herself in the company of actors such as John Abraham and Chitrangda Singh in I Me Aur Main which releases this Friday.
In conversation with Sonil Dedhia, Prachi talks about her transition from television, which she says has become more regressive, and explains why she doesn't mind working in male dominated films.
Did the success of Bol Bachchan fetch you better offers?
Probably, yes. The film came to me at an interesting point in my career. Every actor needs a family film to be commercially noticed.
The amount of business that this film did shows that a huge number of people saw the film, which immediately ups your popularity.
I am lucky that the characters I did before that did get me some kind of appreciation, though the people who watched Rock On!! were very different from those who saw Bol Bachchan. It gave me a lot of credibility.
Image: Prachi Desai in I Me Aur Main
'I have never played safe in my life'
Rock On!!, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai and Bol Bachchan were all hero-oriented films. Will you continue to accept roles that don't offer you much scope?
It is quite a relief to do such films. It is all hassle free. You just go there, relax, sit and enjoy, say a few lines, do some dance numbers and look good. It is a fabulous thing to do.
At the same time, I am an actor so I am not satisfied doing only one kind of film and I try to balance it out. I don't care whether the film is big or small. After I Me Aur Main, I am doing Vikram Bhatt's sequel to 1920, which is a horror film.
It's not a typical horror film where I will be wearing white clothes and coloured lenses or scary make-up. I have not done something like this so I am really looking forward to it. I will have a wide range of looks in the film and I think I will be able to show my strength.
Horror films in Bollywood are at a very nascent stage. Aren't you taking a risk?
I have never played safe in my life. My debut film was not safe at all. I was surprised when my director Abhishek Kapoor called me for the film. We were all new, we took risks and it worked for us.
As long as it is a good film, and the role is good, I don't think anything will stop me. 1920 is a successful franchise in its own, so a little of that will rub off on us. People have not seen me in a horror film.
Image: Prachi Desai in I Me Aur Main
'I don't see much difference between a normal song and an item number'
What kind of response have you been getting for your item number in I Me Aur Main?
It's been great. People love the song. A lot of people told me to do something different. I always believed that I couldn't break out into a dance in the middle of a serious film, but this film gave me the opportunity.
Also, I feel item numbers are extremely beneficial in an actress's career. If you get a song that really cracks it for you, it is so good.
These days I don't see much difference between a normal song and an item number.
Image: Prachi Desai in I Me Aur Main
'Cinema is progressive while TV is regressive'
Do you think you have finally managed to achieve the popularity that you once had in television?
I still think television has a wider reach. Once I was in Dubai for an event in a mall, and these two girls called me Bani, the character that I played in the TV serial Kasamh Se.
They don't know me because of my films; they know me because of my TV work.
You have been trying hard to move away from your TV image. Do you at times feel torn when you receive unconditional love from your TV fans?
Probably, yes. I don't want to run away from things. I am happy that people remember me for what I did four-five years ago. It feels great when people still remember me as Bani.
In our country, cinema is progressive while TV is regressive. It takes a long time to change the image. For example, I did a song in I Me Aur Main called Naa Jaane Kaha Se Aayi Hai because it had the scope to do something different.
To come from a television background has its benefits and drawbacks. I had to start from scratch. But I was not like a newcomer who was coming from nowhere. I was coming from somewhere but I had to scrap all that completely.
I wish the character of Gauri from I Me Aur Main had come to me earlier. I wish after Rock On!!, this film had come my way because I wanted to play my age, play something that is closer to me.
Image: Prachi Desai and Ram Kapoor in Kasamh Se
'It was very difficult to get a break in films'
So you are saying that your TV image was a hurdle for you to get roles your age in films?
When I entered films, no one took TV actors seriously. It was very difficult to get a break in films. Now, times are different. TV actors like Sushant Singh Rajput and others are getting good roles.
It was a huge drawback to come from TV then. The only advantage was my age. I could have taken the risk of jumping into a completely different image from what I had on TV. But that would have taken a lot of time.
I did Rock On!! when I was 19 and a lot of people felt that I was a one-film wonder. It was difficult and unfair. Back then I felt that I should have got more opportunities and should have got roles that I am doing now.
I did one film a year. I did only those films that I felt would make a difference or benefit my career.
You express regret over getting older roles but it was you who was selecting them.
After Rock On!!, I was getting offers to play the wife. After Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, I got several gangster films. If I took up those films, I would have done 12-14 such films by now.
People just want to keep cashing in on what's already worked or successful. Nobody wants to offer something different, which is unfortunate.
I was okay doing one film a year because it is better to do one film a year, which is different. So I did Rock On!!, Bol Bachchan, I Me Aur Main where I did not repeat myself.
Image: Prachi Desai in Rock On!!
'I would never enter the Bigg Boss house'
You have already been a contestant on Jalak Dikhla Jaa. Would you like to participate in another reality show?
I would love to take up reality shows. I have been part of a dance based show so I would want to do something really different on TV. I wouldn't mind judging a dance reality show.
What about Bigg Boss?
No way. As an actor, you feel constant pressure because you are watched continuously like you have to be presentable and good in every area.
Somewhere I would feel I was not being myself. I would be so concisions about everything. I would have to do things in certain ways. There are so many restrictions. Imagine, the camera sees you all the time! I wouldn't go into that house.
Image: Prachi Desai and Abhishek Bachchan in Bol Bachchan
'Emraan Hashmi is the best co-star I have worked with'
You are doing Policegiri opposite Sanjay Dutt...
Policegiri is a complete mass entertainer. It is another cop film. I play a software engineer.
The role is not character driven, and it's very lighthearted. The film is interesting, I have seen the original film (Sammy) and it is extremely gripping. I am happy I am not playing the regular, shy, demure girl.
What's your rapport with all the co-stars you have worked with?
Both Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham are fun to work with. Both are pranksters. John is charming and smart.
Abhishek is energetic and witty.Emraan Hashmi is the best co-star I have worked with so far.
Image: Prachi Desai in Once Upon A Time in Mumbai