From ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ to ‘Maharani’ to Mithya’, which on-screen character holds a special place in your life?
I feel lucky to be part of films and web series in which I got to play strong female characters. It is difficult to get well-written female parts. We as a society don’t like strong women. We like women who are not vocal about what they think and feel. That reflects in our films as well. But now times are changing and female-centric roles are more in demand. The one character which holds a special place will be Rani Bharti from ‘Maharani’, an uneducated woman who went on to become the chief minister of Bihar is an incredible achievement and inspiration for many women of India.
Name one actress from the industry or someone in your life who you really look up to.
I have always looked up to my mother, Ameena Qureshi. I have and will give credit to her for being a strong woman figure in my life, for encouraging me every step of the way. For me, she’s the epitome of who I am today.
You have been vocal about the representation of female actors in Bollywood. What are your thoughts on the gender pay gap?
Regarding pay parity, I would definitely say that if a woman is asking for what she deserves, I think it is because she deserves it. That is her market thing and she deserves what she is asking for. My point is that a man doesn’t have to prove himself by doing a male-centric film, but sometimes a female has to prove it by doing a female-centric film and say that this is the audience that she has pulled in.
What is that one wish you want to fulfill as a woman or a change you look forward to?
My one wish is that I want to change and bring a positive impact on body positivity. I want every girl in this world to love their body as it is. A woman is so much more beautiful and complex than just being judged by a number on a scale. That’s the message me and my co-star Sonakshi Sinha will be conveying in my next film ‘Double XL’.
How did it feel when you were approached for a special song in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film?
I have been lucky to be a small part of the SLB world and it feels so surreal that the song ‘Shikayat’ that I have been part of has been getting so much love and adulation. I think Sanjay sir approached me for the song when I had gone to meet him for something and suddenly he told me there is this qawwali in his next film. And I immediately said yes because it was my dream to work with Sanjay sir for the longest and here I am!
Even ‘Valimai’ is doing great at the box office. How was it working with Ajith?
I had great fun working with the entire team and especially working with Ajith sir as I am a huge fan. I am looking forward to acting in more films with him. Ajith sir is simple, humble, he does not take stardom seriously and after working with him in ‘Valimai’, the one thing I felt was he’s a very good actor. But as a human being, he is a very kind-hearted and disciplined man. God is kind. ‘Valimai’ is my second film in Tamil and the love and respect I have received from my audience show in the box office figures which makes me speechless with happiness.
And there’s your latest web series ‘Mithya’. How has the response been?
The response to ‘Mithya’ and my character of Juhi Adhikari has been overwhelming. I had a feeling when we started working on this project that we are onto something big, but looking at the love and the response has me smiling and feeling immense gratitude.