Ileana: When I first started acting, I HATED it
Telugu actress Ileana D'Cruz won hearts -- and 'a lot of respect' -- in Bollywood, when she starred in the well-received, big hit Barfi!.
She will now be seen in this week's release Phata Poster Nikhla Hero, opposite Shahid Kapoor.
In a candid interview with Patcy N, Ileana makes several surprising statements that she hated acting at first, that she's never comfortable in front of the camera and how Barfi! made her take herself seriously.
After an offbeat movie like Barfi! did you deliberately choose to do a masala movie like Phata Poster Nikhla Hero?
Yes. I deliberately chose to do something commercial, but I did not expect anything as mad as Phata Poster Nikhla Hero.
Barfi! was a beautiful film. I’m proud to be associated with it. But I still wanted to do something different.
When I went for the detailed narration of the film, Shahid was there as well. We were told that Rajji’s (director Raj Kumar Santoshi) narration goes on for four hours! I was sure I would be bored. But Rajji was so unbelievably entertaining.
He enacted the whole script -- he even did my part! He is unbelievably amazing. We were falling off our sofas laughing. It seemed like the perfect film to do after Barfi!.
Image: Ileana D'Cruz in Phata Poster Nikhla Hero
'After Barfi! was declared a hit and people appreciated my work, I took myself seriously'
Post Barfi! how have things changed for you?
Before Barfi! released Anurag (Basu, director) told me to calm down and wait for the film to release and then see the offers I get. I didn’t expect Barfi! to work. Ranbir and I made a pact: he said if it crosses Rs 75 crore, he will quit smoking.
Anurag told me that his only worry was that people will think I am only a serious film actor because they don’t know about the commercial films I did down South.
Rameshji (producer Ramesh Kumar Taurani) said after the release, ‘She looks nice but she can act also.’
What I cherished the most after Barfi! was that I got tremendous respect from the industry.
You said you did not want to do another serious film so are you planning your career?
I have worked in quite a number of films in the South for six years. I didn’t have any plan then. They have really good films there but I wasn’t necessarily part of their extremely good stories. I was mainly doing commercial films.
I don’t think you can plan your career too much as this is such an unpredictable profession. I am not from a film family. I don’t know much but I definitely knew that if I want to be a good enough actor, I should be able to do any sort of role
While doing a film like Barfi!, I didn’t have faith in myself. My biggest fear was that it was such a beautiful script, Ranbir and Priyanka are brilliant actors, and if I drop it then the film goes down.
After Barfi! was declared a hit and people appreciated my work, I took myself seriously. I thought I should do a film completely out of character, and Kajal in Phata Poster is just like that.
I had to play a bubbly, jumpy, yelling-in-the-middle-of-the-crowd character that is definitely not me.
So, the only strategy I have is to get out of my comfort zone and do something that I normally wouldn't do.
Image: Ranbir Kapoor and Ileana D'Cruz in Barfi!
'Acting is always going to be a little out of my comfort zone'
What are you comfortable with?
I am never comfortable. I never wanted to be an actor. I love music, I love to sing, but I am terrified of singing in public. I will only sing if I train myself. My dream was to be a singer.
I have been singing since the time I was two. My mom says I would sing Gujarati songs with my grandmother when I was a kid.
When you are shooting, there are so many people looking at you. That terrifies me. So acting is always going to be a little out of my comfort zone. I always have a certain disconnect when I am in front of the camera.
Although Shahid jokes that I am a veteran, if you know the real me it is completely the opposite. I am a very normal girl, walking on the streets in Bandra, arguing with my bhajiwala... no one knows the real me.
Films made in the South are over-the-top. How does that compare with Bollywood?
I don’t agree that all films made in the South are over-the-top. We have amazing films that may be I haven’t been part of. For me, there were cultural differences as I am from Goa. Even working in Bollywood films is a little loud for me.
The culture of the South is different. It took a while to get it. Every film industry is a reflection of its culture whether it is Bengali or Punjabi. And Telugu films are very different from Tamil films.
Image: Shahid Kapoor and Ileana D'Cruz in Phata Poster Nikhla Hero
'If I had a problem with Nargis, I wouldn't be working with her in my next film'
The item song Dhating Naach has been picturised on Nargis. Didn’t you want to be part of a song like this?
As far as the story goes, it will look odd if all of a sudden I break into a dance because it is not a dream song, it is a situational song.
Personally, I like the song and may be I would have loved to be part of it. It is a mad song. Shahid has given some insane expressions. It seemed like lots of fun.
As a heroine, are you okay with Nargis Fakhri sharing your space?
Absolutely. I am working with Nargis in my next film. If I had a problem with her, I wouldn’t be working with her.
You are working with Saif Ali Khan in Happy Ending and in Main Tera Hero with Varun Dhawan. Has your career in South films taken a back seat?
There hasn’t been a strategy so to speak. Whichever film comes my way, if it feels good and seems right and it feels like it will work for me, then I will do it.
Right now, I am focusing on Bollywood because when you are establishing your career you have to give lot of attention to it. May be when I am a little more established here, I will do a South film.
Image: Nargis Fakhri and Shahid Kapoor in Phata Poster Nikhla Hero
'Saif and I haven't shot any romantic scenes yet, but let's see'
Tell us about your experience working with Saif Ali Khan.
Saif is such an easygoing person. We will sit and yak -- he is easy to talk to. Kareena was there when we were shooting so we would hang out for dinners. We had tons of fun. We just got along. There wasn’t a feeling that this is Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan. We would be like a bunch of friends hanging out.
Saif is a nice person. It’s his own production house. When I am working there it feels like I am on holiday. He is so easygoing that at 5:30 pm, he would say ‘we have shot enough, done a lot of work today, let’s go home.'
Tell us about your chemistry with Saif Ali Khan in Happy Ending and what the film is about.
The chemistry with Saif will be really interesting because he is a very charismatic person. He is much more suave and appealing at this age than he was when he first started his career.
The comedy that he plays, the little faces that he makes on screen is very much like he is off screen. It is very easy to warm up to him. We haven’t shot any romantic scenes yet, but let’s see.
I have a wonderful character in the film. I can’t reveal much but I can just say my character is sassy; it is different from what I have ever played. Today’s girls can relate to it.
Image: ileana D'Cruz in Phata Poster Nikhla Hero
'Shahid is a brat; he is a nut'
Are you satisfied with your career?
When I first started acting, I hated it. I didn’t pay any attention till my first and second films became hits. That’s when I realised it is not that bad, I am getting more money, I am becoming famous and this is very good.
I was just 18 and making good money and I was famous too. It was great for me. But after about two years I thought of taking my job more seriously. That was a turning point for me.
It was with a Telugu film called Jalsa. I played a geek in the film, with glasses. I could relate to the character. It felt so nice to be involved in your work. I genuinely started to enjoy acting then. Now I really get a kick out of doing it.
How do you compare Ranbir and Shahid and their working styles?
Shahid is a brat; he is a nut, and this character that he plays, Vishwas Rao, has got the madness out of him even more. He was always cracking jokes, talking so much and was mischievous.
Ranbir is pretty much the opposite. He is very quiet; he didn’t talk a lot because he thought I was a serious person. He only had soft conversations with me. I didn’t get to experience Ranbir’s mad side. But he was a great co-star to work with.
Image: Shahid Kapoor and Ileana D'Cruz
'After Barfi! Mr Bachchan sent me a lovely bouquet of flowers and a lovely note saying he liked my performance'
After a big hit like Barfi! is there pressure on you?
Yes, the pressure is mounting. After Barfi! Mr Bachchan sent me a lovely bouquet of flowers and a lovely note saying he liked my performance. When we met, he again said that.
It is so overwhelming. I hope I push the envelope with the next film. I hope I get a film that challenges me more than Barfi!
Tell us about Main Tera Hero?
It is a typical David Dhawan fun film. I am cast opposite Varun Dhawan. It looks like a typical boy meets girl film, but there’s an unbelievable twist in the film. It is funny. My character transforms in the second half.
Image: Shahid Kapoor, Ileana D'Cruz and Amitabh Bachchan on the sets of KBC