Neha Dhupia tells Jyothi Venkatesh on the release of her latest film ‘Raat Gayi Baat Gayi’ that she has succeeded in overhauling her earlier sleazy image…
What is ‘Raat Gayi Baat Gayi’ all about?
It is a hilarious take off on the syndrome of one night stand and is about three guys, their wives, one missing mobile number and Sophia, a gorgeous woman, who seems to be rushing behind all the wrong things in her life.
No prize for guessing that you play the gorgeous woman. Tell me more about Sophia!
Sophia is a very good flirt, who does not mind smoking and drinking. In short she is the woman of today, who likes to make men run around her in circles.
To what extent could you relate to the role that you play?
I can say that I could easily relate to Sophia. Like Sophia, I too have no pretensions in life. I too am a modern day woman who does not mind an occasional drink.
How challenging was the role for you as an actress?
I would say that ‘Raat Gayi Baat Gayi’, which is a different comedy, is my best film till date as an actress. It was a great opportunity for me to let my work speak for itself. Though I know for a fact that I am under rated as an actress, I am happy because even if I give just an average performance, people are happy because they did not expect it from me.
How did you prepare for your part?
The brief given to me by Saurabh when he narrated the script and my role to me was that I should not study the character in detail because he was of the opinion that only then I could give an effortless performance. He did not want me to have a pre-conceived half baked notion about the character of Sophia.
How can you be so sure that every viewer will be able to relate to the characters in ‘Raat Gayi Baat Gayi’?
Because, whether they are ready to admit it or not, the fact is that all men have been drunk one night or the other and every woman has been in some relationship or the other at one time or the other in their lives.
Would you readily forgive your man if he has a one night stand?
All that I can say is that in spite of the fact that I have been saddled with a sleazy image thanks to some of the films which I had done early in my career, the fact is that I am a hard taskmaster, but not a very forgiving woman.
Have you succeeded in shaking off that image?
My journey as an actress made me get stuck in a certain image. I know that it is very hard to get rid of an image like that and hence I have been working hard to change that image of mine and I should say that I have succeeded to a large extent by being patient. In fact, I did not say yes to even a single film in 2004.
Wasn’t it risky for you as an actor to say no to the offers that you received?
I just did a cameo in ‘Garam masala’ in 2005 and a role in ‘Chup Chup Ke’ in which Priyadarshan had the courage of conviction to drape me in a salwar kameez from top to toe. The gamble paid off and slowly and steadily people started forgetting the image that they had of me thanks to films like ‘Julie’, ‘Qayamat’ and ‘Sheesha’.
You went in for a through overhaul of your image as an actress!
You can say that. I did films like ‘Mithya’, ‘Ek Chalis Ki Last Local’, ‘Dasvidaniya’, all of which saw me in a different genre as an actress in a deglamorised avatar. When I did films like ‘Singh Is Kinng’ and ‘De Dana Dan’, though I did not play the leading lady in them, the films fetched me International recognition in a big way.
Are you happy with the way your career has shaped in the last few years?
Life is about progressing. Priyadarshan told me that he could not see any other actress in the role in which he cast me in ‘De Dana Dan’. For me it was like winning an Oscar. Saurabh throws me in a sea of talent, with great actors like Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey. It is the faith that I have been able to, instill in my co-actors that gives me a high.
Does it mean that you will now not accept any glamorous role and stick to your deglamorised characters?
Though I should say that I have more or less covered most of the space as an actor but take it from me, I am not somebody who will continue to play the roles of girl-next-door just because I have the image. I am an actor and hence I want to break away from every image.
Which are the films which you have up your sleeves as of now?
Among the films which I have now on the floors are ‘I am 24’, a nice comedy in which I am opposite Ranvir Shorey, ‘Raftaar’, a thriller opposite Emraan Hashmi, ‘Pappu Can’t Dance Saala’, a light- hearted film, in which I am opposite Vinay Pathak, ‘Action Replay’, an out-and-out action film with Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai.
What is your criterion when you take up a role?
All that I can say is that I have been in the industry for the last six years. I do not want to work for the sake of work and films would never be a business for me, because it is only a project which will make me proud. The script, the set up and the co-actors, whether they will be able to pull off their characters are my criteria when I accept a film.
In what way have you evolved as an actress from ‘Qayamat’ till say ‘Raat Gayi Baat Gayi’?
‘Raat Gayi Baat Gayi’ is a stand alone film, which is different from ‘Bheja Fry’ and ‘Mithya’. ‘Mithya’ and ‘Bheja Fry’ earlier and ‘Raat Gayi Baat Gayi’ now have been landmarks in my career. I take up a role only if it is challenging. I’d say that as an actress I have miles to go.