Bipasha Basu wants to hit Dhoni
As Srinagar grabs the headlines for all the wrong reasons yet again, and the J&K authorities refuse permission for Lamhaa’s premiere in the embattled capital of Kashmir, Bipasha Basu has a sense of deja vu. Not a happy one, though.“Just landing and
driving from the airport to the hotel seems out of a film script when you see it for the first time, if you haven’t seen Srinagar this way earlier. The number of armed men on the roads, the number of checkpoints, vantage posts – the very atmosphere can be unnerving,” she recollects. We heard a lot about her having a tough time, leaving the city midway through shooting. How much of that is true?
“Oh, some days were tough, very scary, oppressively so. I remember the first day vividly. We were to shoot in a CRPF camp, where families of the jawans and officers lived, so it was supposed to be a very secure place. I put on my burqa, and covered my face with the veil, and was with 50 other girls similarly dressed. Just as we were about to start shooting, a man came and stood in front of the camera, and began to raise religious slogans. We all just stood looking at him, not knowing what to do. We asked the CRPF men to ask him to move, and let the shooting commence, but they said, no, you ask him. Within moments there were 50 or so men who’d gathered, and they began raising slogans. It was the name of God, a thought that should bring peace, but they went about saying it in such an aggressive, threatening manner… it was scary! Then they asked, actors kaun hain, unko bulaao, director ko bulaao. Rahul and I were quietly whisked away, and of course, no shooting happened. Similar episodes happened on other days.”
‘I thought I’d die’
Which was the worst? “In Anantnag, I remember that I was as worried about the jawans’ over-enthusiasm as I was about the crowd that was increasingly getting restless and hostile. There was this narrow stretch and I remember thinking, God, I must be the only woman amidst a thousand or more men here, and I definitely don’t think we have enough security. The atmosphere was heating up, and then suddenly stones began flying. I didn’t wait for anyone, I just RAN to the car with the spotboy and make-up artiste, and locked it from inside, and asked the driver to take us back to the hotel rightaway. But getting out was not easy – there were stones being hurled, people hurling themselves onto the car, jostling and pushing. I honestly thought I’d die there itself, something would happen for sure. Thankfully, we got back in one piece.”
“It was after six such days of endless stress and no shooting that I decided enough was enough. I said, please see how we can get this going, get Sanju here, get the security in place, and then I’ll come. When it was all in place, after the elections, I went back for shooting, and it was much more peaceful as compared to the first time round. Today, when I see what’s happening in Srinagar on TV, read about the clashes, the violence, the curfew, I also agree that this is not the time to have a movie premiere. It is on the edge, we can’t expect normalcy for our activity.”
‘I’ve developed a crowd phobia’
Bipasha seems to have had more than her fair share of episodes of mobbing, even outside Kashmir. True or false? “Oh, yes! I have developed a crowd phobia now. Something or the other seems to be happening. Sometimes it gets scary, or difficult. It is different for the heroes; if people are falling all over John, that’s a different thing, but it’s not an enjoyable thing for me. I have developed a plastic smile for these occasions, I think, since I’m petrified of the jostling but I can’t let it show on my face.
I recall an event at Ansal Plaza in Delhi where I couldn’t think of a way out, and finally had to give a little speech and then walk with folded hands requesting people to make way for me to get through the crowd. The people with me were laughing at me acquiring the mannerisms of a politician just to escape the maddening rush. But there was no choice!”
Random question: In a chat with Mahesh Bhatt recently, he spoke about how there would be the movies that would be written about in the first paragraph of his obituary – Arth, Saaransh, etc – and how then it’d be said that he also made other movies, which earned him money. Does Bipasha look at any specific roles that’d define her legacy, especially the intense, non-masala ones such as this one? She surprises with her disarmingly honest response. “I love Mahesh Bhatt, but you know, I couldn’t care what anyone thought about my legacy once I am through with the industry. I work for today, I enjoy what I am doing, but I am so not concerned with things like what will be my place in the industry X years from now. When someone says you will be remembered as the sex symbol of the industry in this era, I shrug it off and move on. Does it matter? It’s not as if I don’t care about what I am doing – but I will not think about it when I am not doing films. That’s just the way I am.”
‘I hated modelling’
Is this detached mode a legacy of the modelling life – step off the ramp, forget the show? “No, I was hardly detached then – I hated modelling! I completely hated it. I got into it very early, so at 17 or so I enjoyed the visibility, the money, the travelling – the one redeeming feature – and I also got to meet some good people. But by 19, I was like, God, what am I doing here? So I think I was lucky that I got the chance to enter movies at that time when I was offered Ajnabee, and within a year or so, I realized that here was a profession that I enjoyed, that I liked, and I would like to do more of this. And, well, I’ve been here since!”
Katrina in a demure saree-clad avatar in Rajneeti; Sameera Reddy in a completely deglam role for Red Alert; Bipasha in an unfamiliar zero-glam role in Lamhaa (presented by GS Entertainment and PVR Pictures); so many actresses who would add the glamour to scripts now anchoring movies with political undertones, playing very unglamorous characters. Good for countering the stereotyping counter?
“It is true that this is bit of a coincidence – but when all of us began shooting for our respective movies, none would have thought they’d release in close proximity,” she explains. It’s not just political storylines, there is more cinema happening apart from the potboilers – so we have the options to do different things. And of course one looks forward to the so-called de-glam roles, since once you have acquired a certain profile, or should I say specialization, you tend to be offered the same sort of roles.”
‘Films will be filmi’
The fifty costumes and six songs sort of roles? “You know, if you notice carefully, you’d realize that before No Entry, I did not take up any films which required me to dance. I am not someone trained in the sort of dance that Bollywood requires, and I would always wonder what sort of people are expected to dance on the hills, on the roads, anywhere at the drop of a hat! But in movies, I sort of had to do it once I signed on, and then with it I shed all my inhibitions – and I also came to realize that you cannot be in films and turn your nose up at things and say they are too ‘filmi’. Of course they will be filmi, films are supposed to be filmi!”
And that’s stock work, then? She disagrees. “I have probably worked as hard – if not more – for the typical masala potboiler roles than I have for the more ‘realistic’ ones – for who can ‘naturally’ portray the characters of the potboilers? What is ‘natural’ in breaking into song and dance in the middle of a marketplace? We are very regular, normal people… To behave like that in front of the camera is anything but natural.”
Talking of glam vs de-glam roles, Rituparno Ghosh, believed to be making a film on Draupadi’s character, is often said to be ‘all set to cast Bipasha for the role’. To quote him: “I wanted my Draupadi to be dark and attractive. Not a sex symbol, but she had to possess the oomph factor. I saw all these qualities in Bipasha.” Her take?
“Yes, he wants me to play Draupadi, and I also want to play Draupadi – but I don’t know when. He’s been casting me as Draupadi for about six years now! Actually, I was very impressed by Rupa Ganguly’s portrayal of Draupadi on television all those years back, and have always wanted to play her since. Draupadi is woman with many layers – an engaging, fascinating character…”
‘Heroes don’t recommend me’
So she won’t push and jostle Rituparno to get the project off the ground? “No”, she affirms, “I never push anyone. If it has to work out, it will.” And then adds, only half in jest, “Nobody else pushes me either, actually. I wish some heroes recommend me for their movies – but none of them do! Perhaps it is because I don’t have too many friends, I don’t have lobbies, I am not part of any camp. Perhaps it is because I have had one boyfriend associated with me for a long time.” Is that a conservative or a radical situation where B-town is concerned? We aren’t sure. “Talking of boyfriends, when I entered the industry I heard so many things about how you had to behave, what you had to wear, what you couldn’t do in public if you were a Hindi film heroine – and I recall thinking, yeh industry hai ya jail? But fortunately, I’ve not had to follow too many of those rules, I have mostly lived on my terms, and also there is a more open, accepting atmosphere as well.”
Track her recent endorsements and they have a very clear track to them – sportswear, fitness clothes, fitness DVD, sugar free juices, sugar substitutes, honey – is this a thought out positioning activity or a personal passion?
“I won’t deny either, since it is both. I am very fitness conscious and I want to spread that through what I promote.” Promote for money, right? “It is not just about money – I have turned down very, very lucrative deals to do surrogate promotion campaigns for liquor brands, so if I was just looking at the money I would have taken those on, too,” she counters.
While the popular impression remains of top actresses being the party-all-night types, Bipasha, Shilpa, Kareena, Deepika all swear by yoga and are fitness freaks. Coincidence or necessity? “We may not have the mystique of some of the older heroines – when the media was not so all-pervasive – but perhaps we are more disciplined, and of course the implications of us not being so are higher since there is so much more money riding on individual movies today. As professionals, we have to respect time, take care of our fitness, look at the sustainability of our careers. I’ve been around, like nine years, and while I couldn’t care less about the hierarchy of competition, to be counted as among the top 4-5 for that long a period is a good feeling.” True. Now, for the clichéd question. Bips, hold on a moment, how can we wrap up without asking about… Dhoni?
‘ Dhoni… no!’
“GOD, NO, I can’t answer any more questions about Dhoni and his wedding!” comes the exasperated plea. “I’m going to hit him when I meet him next, for getting married, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing since then. No, I didn’t act as matchmaker, and no, I wasn’t hosting anything for them on the 7th. I was just having a football party at my place on the 7th – though, in retrospect, I felt I shouldn’t have denied it. I would have had lines of OB vans outside my house to cover me watching the world cup on TV!”
Score one for Bips here!