From being the Madhuri Dixit of her school to being Mr. Bachchan on the ‘Dilwale’ sets, Kriti Sanon’s versatility ia as much fun as she is… writes Shubarna Mukerji Shu!

She’s no pretty little girl… she is a pretty, tall girl, with a good head on her shoulders. Someone who knows what she wants and gets it! “For those who know me well, they would probably tell you I have an argumentative nature. If I believe in something, I will try my level best to convince the other person, till the person is convinced,” she grinned sheepishly. She may not have been from the industry, but she sure knows how to charm and grin infectiously. For one so young, trying to get a footing in the industry might not have been an easy matter…

Having learnt on the job, what do you think differentiates the Bollywood actress from other actresses in the world?

It is a fact that a Bollywood actress cannot only be a good actor. She has to be the whole package – she has to look a certain way, dance well and the works. Today if an actor is not as good a dancer, or doesn’t look good, they might not get written off but their opportunities get restricted. When I came into this industry, launched opposite a star kid, it was important for me to show my talent in every field, I could. I needed to prove how comfortable I was with the camera. I have workedin everything from a salwar kameez to a lehenga, to crop tops, minis, jeans… Our director would jokingly say, ‘I want the people to know that humari heroine harkapdonmeinachchidikhtihai’!

It is true that how an actress is projected, what she is doing, is of utmost importance for an Indian actress, because there are pockets in India that even today would not be comfortable seeing their heroine smoke onscreen. I have done only two films down South, and for one my character was that of a tom boy. She was someone who would be bunking college and sneaking off, she was someone who would also smoke a cigarette, since her character was such. I thought it was completely acceptable for her to be smoking. Personally though, I am very anti-smoking, and even for the scene I was only mouth-fagging, but I have so many people come up to me and say, ‘We didn’t like the fact that you had to smoke in that scene’. It was something they didn’t approve of – I believe that does have to change.

…There has been a change already, hasn’t it?

Of course, look at a film like ‘Mary Kom’! She was facing all the brickbats of society but, at the end of the day, she stood by what she believed and then people did accept her. I think gradually cinema is coming closer to reality. I really liked QUEEN and PIKU, the way the family reacted to a broken marriage in the former and in the latter, how they kept being concerned about Piku; these are endearing things that families are really made of…

But do you realise the ablaa-naari is no longer existent?

No one wants to be an ablaa-naari, but then again being subservient doesn’t mean you are lacking strength. For instance, my character in ‘Heropanti’ was someone who was brought up with very traditional Haryanvi values, she couldn’t for the life of her stand up against her father’s wishes, but when this boy comes into her life, she can’t be a bystander. She speaks to her dad – there is no disrespect in her words, but she is plain-speaking and expressing herself nevertheless – that’s a show of strength in its own way, isn’t it?

Agreed. However when you started admitting to yourself that you wanted to be an actress, who was the one person who played your idol?

It took me a while to admit it to myself; I was an Engineering student, for God’s sake! But then, it is not easy to admit it either. However, even before I thought of acting, I was always in love with Madhuri Dixit, she is someone I have loved since I was in school. I remember when I was around seven, we used to go to parties and there you are always made to dance to that one song which you know really well. ‘Ankhiya milau kabhi aankhiya churau…’ was my song. Even for my school for an annual day function, I was dancing to ‘Vande Mataram’, and giving full-on expressions, but that’s something that I have learnt observing Madhuri, she is someone who can change expressions like five times in one sentence. So I knew that dancing was not just about knowing your steps; it is about emoting. So I was giving my best on stage and later my mother said that the Principal was heard saying that I had danced like Madhuri Dixit. That was one of the best compliments I got!

Later of course, when I was finally coming to terms with the fact that I wanted to act, I saw ‘Jab We Met’. It is a film I saw three times in the theatre at that, simply because I totally loved Geet’s character. Happy people do that, don’t they? When you are around them, they make you happy – watching Geet I wanted to be like that. Someday I would want to have it in me to be a girl who can turn around and say ‘Main apni favourite hoon!’ – that’s emancipation!

Emancipation but only onscreen – there are still women in society who have a long way to go!

The one thing that really pricks me is when people treat sons and daughters differently. For me, I have a sister so I haven’t really experienced that, but it happens. The way my mother has brought me up, I think that’s what has made me the kind of person I am. I cannot tolerate these differentiations! I think the best way to go about it is to take small steps, figure why are thingsare done the way they are, question them… For instance, it is always said that girls are not supposed to touch the feet of their elders, boys do that… but then pau chuunaa is a mark of respect, right? Then when the girl gets married she is supposed to touch her in-laws’ feet. Does that mean she is only supposed to respect her in-laws and not her own parents? Once we start questioning these things, mentalities will change, and gradually the society will…