Priya Gupta (BOMBAY TIMES; November 11, 2012)
Asin, 27, is culturally rooted in Kerala but is equally comfortable speaking Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil or English. Even though she was born in a conservative Roman Catholic Christian family, she grew up in a cosmopolitan Navy public school in Cochin, which she calls mini-India. Even though she scored over 90 per cent in her 10th board exams, she took up Humanities in the 11th, shocking her family who were confident she would take up science and get into the civil services. Being photogenic, she started modelling for ad campaigns and did her first Malayalam film at the age of 15. By the time she got to college, she had done five films in the South and had bagged her first Filmfare award.
In a conversation with Bombay Times, she opens up about her her similarities with Aamir Khan, why Akshay is her best co-star and why she would never date anyone from the industry. Excerpts:
How did you get to work in Ghajini?
In 2005, Ghajini was the most popular regional film down South. Aamir wanted to see it and so a special screening was organised for him in Bombay. I was at that time shooting in Chennai when I got a call from Aamir complimenting me for my performance. I thought it was a prank call from someone else till my producer told me that it must be Aamir only as he had just finished seeing the trial in Bombay. I was thrilled getting such a compliment from one of the biggest superstars in our country. Later, I was approached to act in the Hindi remake of the film with Aamir as my co-star. It was a dream Bollywood debut for me.
After Ghajini, while you may have been a part of a number of 100 crore films, you have not made an impact as an actor.
I agree with you. I was very choosy after Ghajini, which put off a lot of people. I waited too long for a good script which did not go down well. And then I thought I am new in this industry and should not refuse the masala massy films which is why I did films like Housefull-2 and Bol Bachchan. However, having done such films, I want to now do roles that will give me creative satisfaction, given that I have no financial pressures.
You have worked with three of the biggest stars — Aamir, Salman and Akshay Kumar. How are they as co-stars?
Aamir is curious and has childlike interest in his work. He likes to clarify and understand everything and is so focused inspite of his level of stardom. He is always trying to push the limits. He has patience and likes to take inputs from anybody and if it is a valid suggestion he will incorporate it. While he will let his director take the final call, he has an intelligent view and will always express it. I am quite like him and have his working style in me. People who work with me say that I am also curious and ask a lot of questions. Like Aamir, I want to be sure of what I want to say within a certain number of words and try and say it sharply. Like him, I am totally focused on my work.
Salman is a superstar and lives his life superstar size. He doesn’t care a damn about anybody and lives his life the way he wants to, without bothering about anyone else’s perception of him.
Akshay is sporty, sweet and encouraging and the best co-star I have worked with. Subconsciously, when you work with a superstar, a lot of things are in accordance with how he wants things done, but Akshay makes it more equal. He takes that effort to make you comfortable with him and as a co-actor takes your point of view and preference. He doesn’t impose his rights and wrongs on you.
You have only acted with actors who are 40 plus? Why have you not done films with actors your age?
I have had the advantage of starting my work with superstars in the industry as against working my way up with them and had successes with them. But I really look forward to working with male actors my age as the kind of stories and interaction with co-stars on the sets will be quite different than what I have done so far.
You are amongst the few actors who have been successful both in the South film industry and in Bollywood. How did you manage that?
It’s not easy to make a cultural shift from the South to the North. After Sridevi, nobody has been able to do the kind of films I have done. It’s a tight rope you walk catering to the interests of both. For instance, the South audiences are more conservative and they like to see their actresses in a certain way. In contrast an actress in the North with a certain boldness is considered to have an attitude which is seen as positive. I have managed to do so because I understand both cultures and the way I conduct my life both on and off screen.
Do you have friends in Bollywood?
I have friends, but not best friends. Friendships are for life but in our profession which is extremely competitive, we neither have the time nor are we able to invest in the emotion that friendship requires. Sonam, Jacqueline and I hang out together. They are my friends if I have to have a pizza in the middle of the night or need to confide in anyone.
Have you had any affairs in the industry?
No and I am clear that I woudn’t date anyone from the industry as I don’t see myself spending my entire life in it. So, once I am done with the industry, I will be done with it completely. I do not then want any reasons to connect me to the industry for the rest of my life.