More confident than ever before, Prachi Desai demands more challenging roles! In conversation with Viraj Sawant she talks about AZHAR and giving life to a lesser known character.
Naureen, your character in the film, is a lesser known chapter of Azhar’s life. How did you prepare yourself for this role?
Naureen, Azhar’s first wife, is a beautiful mystery. Though she wasn’t in the public eye, she is the most important part of Azhar’s life since they were married for nine years…The golden phase of his life which nobody knew about. Everybody knew about the player on field, the captain who led our Indian squad and also the style icon that he was, but not much is known about Naureen as a character in his real life. She saw him through all his upheavals, all the highs and lows and she was always his biggest support system. It was the most natural part of his life and it was something that we can relate to the most but unfortunately not much was known about this part of his life.
Since the character is a real life person,there had to be limitations. There was nothing that we could experiment with much. We couldn’t take much liberty in altering the character or facts. The look is developed around a few pictures we got of her. Just when I got this role, I tried to do a little research on it but couldn’t find anything.
How did you manage to play her onscreen?
I had to rely on facts given to me by my director (Tony D’souza). People use adjectives to describe each other. About Naureen, they said, she is soft spoken and shy but that’s not really enough and you can’t guess how a person is by these words. I was trying to figure her out with these little things that were told to me, at the same time I had to absolutely stick to the script. In front of the camera, I couldn’t give out reactions coming from my imagination or how Prachi would react to those situations. I had to be Naureen. I was perplexed. Then after I met her, I tried to decode her as a person, her grace, her eye contact, her body language. From the songs you can guess that she converses with her eyes. All that happened only because I could meet her. You tend to form an image of someone with words like ‘conservative Muslim girl in the ’90s’ and ‘hailing from Hyderabad’. All those assumptions were cleared after I met her. They were so much more innocent back them.
Were you attracted towards Sangeeta Bijlani’s role in the film?
I think am a very versatile actor and I could have done any part given to me. I could have played the lawyer or Sangeeta Bijlani’s role and Naureen ofcourse. Having said that, I feel I hit the jackpot by bagging Naureen’s role, who is the soul of the film. It’s the longest role in the film and an insight into Azhar’s life which nobody has ever seen. This is the most beautiful phase of his life. It starts off as a 16-year-old stranger getting married to a cricketing star and then it’s their life from there on. I would do justice to any role but this is the best role.
Do you feel you are stereotyped as an actor who plays simple, non-glamorous roles?
People need to be offering me some exciting stuff. I get the most ridiculous reactions from people when I meet them. They tell me that I am not even close to what they see me doing on screen. I think that’s the problem – I am stuck in a rut. Something that worked for me ina certain film, people constantly keep exploiting that. They keep offering me the same type of roles over and over again. They need to see the real person that I am. Maybe give me more youth centric roles and give me more actors my age. I know I do this well and hence I get more offers of this sort. Whenever they need a good actor they always call me. It’s a compliment but I want to have fun as well doing other type of roles.
Since Nargis adds oomph to the film, did you feel insecure at some point?
An actor’s job is to act and if you act well, I don’t think anybody can steal your thunder. Looking glamorous appeals to certain people and acting appeals to certain people. You have to do what you do best. I act for myself and I can be glamorous as well. So I have an upper hand here. Everybody cannot act. Everybody has their USP and in a film, the director makes sure he usesall these USPs and the result is a fabulous film.
Earlier you and Emraan Hashmi played a naughty young couple in ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI 2, this time your pairing looks more matured in a way.
In Once upon a time in MUMBAAI 2, they were a little naughty and here they seem to be matured but they aren’t because they are very young. It’s an arranged marriage for them and there is a silent love story going on as they don’t talk so much. In ONCE UPON A TIME… the love story had a background of the Mumbai underworld. In AZHAR they are more of strangers. I was resisting and he was always pursuing in our last film. Here they are discovering themselves. I think with these two actors and the chemistry between them, you end up drawing parallels between the two roles.
After six years, you and Emraan have come back as a pair. What’s the best thing about him?
Emraan has a nasty sense of humour. It’s only become better now since ONCE UPON A TIME… Earlier he would smirk after cracking a joke but now he gives you a straight face. While giving a shot, he says something and then you have to hold your laughter and not smile or laugh because he still has his straight face!