'When it has to be a simple girl's role, somehow people feel I cannot do it.'
Zareen Khan is very proud of her latest film Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele, opposite Anshuman Jha, currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
The film seems to have hit the right notes, thanks to its unique approach towards the LGBTQ community.
Zareen tells Rediff.com Contributor Prateek Sur "No disrespect to all the roles that I've done in the past, but somehow they've not been the roles that would impact society or the world in any manner."
What does it mean to you to have a film released in these unprecedented times?
I understand that right now, everyone is going through a really tough time.
I lost my grandfather, and it's not even been a month yet.
My mother was admitted to the ICU and I got her home just yesterday.
It's been tough for everybody.
But amidst that, if we can get a film that puts a smile on people's faces, that's what we are trying to achieve.
Our film is a really positive film. It's got a soothing and calming vibe to it.
I hope our film can be a little bit of a distraction to take people away from this ongoing situation.
A film about two gay characters striking up a friendship on a road trip seems refreshing. As an actor, what made you sign up for the project?
The first time I heard the narration of the script, I had tears in my eyes.
It's an emotional journey of these two completely different individuals, who, on the journey, become friends.
It's a story of love, friendship and of self-discovery.
In spite of it being such a sensitive and strong subject, it has been treated in a light-hearted manner. It is not dark and preachy.
I got a lot of satisfaction playing Mansi.
No disrespect to all the roles that I've done in the past, but somehow they've not been the roles that would impact society or the world in any manner.
But with this character, I really hope that it impacts at least a few people.
Is Mansi like you in any way?
Mansi is completely like me, apart from the obvious sexual orientation.
That is probably why I was so eager and kicked about playing this character.
She is this happy-go-lucky person.
She is a carefree person who has no filter.
Even when she is feeling low, she wants to make sure that people around her are feeling happy.
She always has a happy face.
So yes, Mansi is very much like me in person.
Did Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele make you more sensitive to the struggles of the LGBTQ community?
One of the reasons why I wanted to be a part of this film is that I understand, to quite an extent, the struggles of the LGBTQ community.
I have friends who are gay.
I've seen them lead a dual life, like living a totally different life when they are in front of their family and something totally else when they're with us.
The families still don't know that they are gay and they're looking for girls for them to get married.
This is so unfair and you are not letting the person be who they are.
It is so difficult and disturbing to live the life of somebody else.
That's one of the reasons for picking this film.
That's the basic idea behind the film.
Even though we have the freedom given by the government, we still don't have the freedom to go to our families and openly tell them about our sexual orientation.
The film won awards at various international film fests. Do you think a film with a plot around the LGBTQ will ever win awards in India?
Well, I really hope so.
We are being progressive in every other manner.
The audience is evolving and they're more accepting of things.
So I hope that the film gets accepted, and to an extent, it already has, thanks to the positive feedback that we're getting.
As far as the Hindi film industry goes, a lot of films have been made on this in the past but they never completely dealt with the dilemma that the LGBTQ community had to face.
It's always been in a comedy film or maybe in a touch-and-go.
I think it's high time that this film gets picked up and gets nominated in their awards like any other film would, as people are evolving now.
Do you think people in India are less receptive towards LGBTQ?
We were slightly sceptical about the older generation being open to this kind of a subject as many of them have a bit of a set mindset.
What's amazing is that even they have been very open to the film.
Were you apprehensive about having to kiss or do an intimate scene with another woman?
Not at all!
We are actors and at the end of the day, we are portraying characters.
So when the cameras are on I'm no longer Zareen Khan. I am Mansi. I have no apprehensions like that.
If my role demands something, and if it means I have to push the envelope, I have no problems with it.
Do you think you have been typecast into a certain kind of character and with your recent choices of films, you are trying to break that mould?
I have been typecast into this glamorous diva-ish sort of role, I don't know how.
When it has to be a simple girl's role or something which needs simplicity, somehow people feel that I cannot do it and I am not considered for it.
So yes, I am trying to make a conscious effort to breakthrough from that and do roles that would change people's perception of me.
I hope they see me in a different light and understand that I can be much more than just a glamorous or a pretty face.
What do we see you in next?
After this, I am shooting Paatal Pani, which is again a Web film. It's a horror-comedy.
Then there is a Punjabi film.
After that, there is an out-and-out horror film in Hindi.
Then there's a Web series to be shot entirely in London.
Once things get back to normalcy, I will know when we can start shooting these projects.