'When I contracted COVID and was extremely unwell, I almost thought I was not going to make it.'
'But this man (Karan Johar) was like family for us in Bombay. He would send doctors for me, made sure my medication was done correctly and made sure I came out of COVID.'
Charmme Kaur, known for her starring roles in several Tamil and Telugu blockbusters, quit acting and walked away from the limelight when she was still on top.
She ventured into production and collaborated with successful Telugu film-maker Puri Jagannadh to form Puri Connect.
Their first pan-India film Liger, starring Vijay Deverakonda and Ananya Panday, releases August 25.
"I have completely lost interest in acting. Even for my own films when they ask me to do one small cameo, I refuse. I don't want to see myself on screen anymore," Charmme tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.
How has been the transition from an actress to a producer?
It's the new Charmme Kaur version, the 2.0 version.
I think I enjoy this role as the producer the most.
I feel I was born to produce films and nothing else.
Do you miss being in front of the camera?
I don't want to act.
I have completely lost interest in acting.
Even for my own films when they ask me to do one small cameo, I refuse.
I don't want to see myself on screen anymore.
Why this sudden aversion to acting?
See, I have done 55 films in my career as an actor -- 5 years, as a main lead actress.
I was on the top of my game.
How much longer?
So many beautiful, talented, hard-working girls are there.
They are coming every day.
It's their time to shine now.
How long will I keep exploring and then keep on dragging it?
We will get wrinkles and get fat.
It's normal and that's the reason why I wanted to shift out of it while I was still at the peak of my career.
Why is it not the same for the men working in the industry for several years?
They are blessed.
But you know, the kind of role opportunities that men have.
Of course, now it has changed a lot.
Women are also getting strong roles. Their films are also opening big at the box office.
Look at Gangubai Kathiawadi! Alia Bhatt (made the film a success) on her own.
So there are exceptions.
But men are so blessed! Seriously.
I keep asking Vijay Deverakonda, 'Vijay, where do you see yourself after 20 years?' 'Doing the same shit,' he answers.
Do you think being a female producer in a male-dominated industry is challenging?
You know, in my case, my gender has worked to my benefit.
Most of the men who I work around with, say, 'You are such a strong woman. We want a daughter like you.'
At the same time, there have been some people saying, 'She is so strong. How? And how will we suppress her?'
So even that is there. It is how you take it.
What you run in your mind, how you fight it and go ahead.
The luckiest thing for me is that Mr Puri Jagannadh sir is my business partner.
That man is an extraordinary supporter of women.
He says, 'Women should work. They have the capability. And when a woman makes up her mind, you cannot shift her decision.'
He has been saying so even before I could understand my own capabilities, since Buddha Hoga Tera Baap when I was acting.
I would always involve myself in everything.
Like, if he was narrating something, I would give him advice on the script.
If something was going wrong in the production, I would bring it to his notice.
So through the years, he saw that I was good at administration and he said, 'You produce films. You can do it.'
It has been a journey from Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) to Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) now, you know, in the last seven years.
It's all because of this man who has supported me.
When you collaborate with a producer like Karan Johar, how does it affect your product?
In a very, very, good way because Karan Johar is the easiest person to work with.
He is always a call away.
More than a professional relationship with Karan, a lot of people don't know the other side of him, the personal side of him.
I have been in Bombay for the last three years.
We have a beautiful office space here.
All through the lockdown, I was here. When I contracted COVID and was extremely unwell, I almost thought I was not going to make it.
But this man (Karan Johar) was like family for us in Bombay. He would send doctors for me, made sure my medication was done correctly and made sure I came out of COVID.
He would keep checking up on me.
COVID lasted for almost a month for me. I had got the Delta strain.
I can call Karan any time and ask him anything and he will be there.
He has called me at 1 am also, saying, 'Darling, are you alright? I didn't get a call from you. Is everything okay?'
He has never asked me, 'How is the picture shaping up?'
People should know that side of him.
Did you pitch Liger to a Telugu producer?
Never. We, at Puri Connect, want to produce films ourselves.
Besides, having multiple offers for collaboration and tie-ups from the South, we choose to produce our films ourselves.
Why didn't you make it in only Telugu?
Because we thought that now that we are making a film on this huge scale, let's make it a pan-India film.
This film has that entertainment which we feel, even people in Patna, Ahmedabad or in the UP-Bihar sectors, will enjoy.
People down south will also enjoy it because this is first a Telugu film.
Did you take this decision before RRR and Pushpa: The Rise became a pan India hit?
Yes. We gave the first narration in August 2019 to Vijay Deverakonda.
By September, we had met Karan Johar.
So Liger was a pan-India film in September 2019.
I have my second pan-India picture coming next, called JGM (Jana Gana Mana).
We are making it as a pan-India film because again, we feel, it will cater to the masses.
Puri Jagannadh makes mass films.
We call him the original gangster of mass commercial films.
Look at Pokiri. What business it did! It was later remade in Hindi as Wanted.
Look at Simmba.
Look at all his films!
Today, the term 'pan-India' is making a lot of noise. What do you think has suddenly changed?
The term 'pan-India' has come newly.
You look at Mani Ratnam sir's films. They were always dubbed into multiple languages and released simultaneously those days.
Even Mr Ram Gopal Varma has done that.
Look at Kamal Haasan sir and Rajinikanth sir's films. They have always simultaneously released their films in multiple languages. They have done it in those days.
It was just that with Baahubali, Karan associating with it from Bollywood and the whole feel that from there, they have come here and from here, they are going there, the term 'pan-India' came out.
Otherwise, it was always there.
But yes, with Baahubali, it became bigger.
The opportunities look better and brighter.
And then, of course, Pushpa: The Rise came, KGF came.
Now you have collaborated with Anil Thadani, who is a distributor of Hindi films.
He saw the film and in the second half, he was only standing, clapping and whistling.
He said, 'No one will sit in their seats and view the movie.'
He has distributed KGF 2 and RRR and other films also.
So this gives us scope and an opportunity to believe in that 'pan-India' all over again.