Illeana D’Cruz is a beauty with a difference. She’s highly adorable, had an unusual debut in Bollywood after being a Tollywood star, and is doing films that mark her as an ‘Actor’. She’s just a handful of films old but her beauty and talent has fans all over the country and abroad. She, who transforms from glam to de-glam roles with ease and looks perfect, after portraying a negative character pairs up with Ajay Devgn for a second film ‘RAID’ that based on a true incident. She plays an income tax officer’s wife who is the pillar of strength for Ajay’s character.
Cinespeaks sat down with the gorgeous Illeana to know more about it and much more, let’s see what she had to say:
Q. What made you say ‘Yes’ to doing this role?
Illeana D’Cruz: I like doing films which give me significance in the film. The role in ‘RAID’ is important but not Meaty. It’s an interesting character. I initially thought playing an 80s wife would be more of the ‘sanskari’ one who would just be a homemaker and I had no big hopes from it but then when I read every detail about the role, I felt she was quite spunky for the way she speaks to her husband and it’s amazing. They talk like equals and I really liked that.
Q. Tell us something about the film.
Illeana D’Cruz: The story is great. The role I’m playing is different too and in general, it’s a story that needs to be told because I think whenever you hear about a RAID, you only hear about the person who has been Raided. You don’t hear the back story or the point of view of the raid inspector. There are those straight forward inspectors. It’s unbelievable that the actual inspector has actually gone through so much. There’s no filmy drama that we’ve tried to put in. It’s all actually happened. That man is an absolute hero and the tagline has we’ve come up with is very apt. Heroes surely don’t always come in uniforms! I would love to shake his and his wife’s hands in respect. In 80s, those officers wouldn’t inform about such things to their families and even their wives. Your husband is leaving you and you don’t know if he’s going to come back. That feeling is scary.
Q. What kind of research did you do for your character?
Illeana D’Cruz: Normally, I don’t like doing a lot of research because the spontaneity is lost. I like playing such roles with the way I understand them. You try to follow what people have written about it. So I didn’t do much research.
Q. What was your look reference for this character?
Illeana D’Cruz: The stylist of the film wanted me to look like Rekha ji in the 80s. It’s a simple look with a quintessential Bollywood look with open hair, salwar suit and low key night suits.
Q. Any difficulties shooting for the film?
Illeana D’Cruz: The first schedule in Lucknow was extremely hot, that was the only difficulty.
Q. Was there any concern before signing up the film?
Illeana D’Cruz: I’ve had a good shift. A lot of Ajay Devgn fans were upset with me for turning against him in ‘Baadshaho’ so maybe this is a way to make up for it. The deglam look wasn’t a concern but the length of the role was concerning. That all changed when I heard the whole story. Being a part of a film that has great content is what matters now.
Q. Having worked with Ajay Devgn on two films, what have you learnt from him?
Illeana D’Cruz: He’s an easy going actor. He keeps saying he’s a very lazy actor but I don’t think that at all at least I think you cannot make out if he’s being lazy about it. He comes tot he set, does his lines smoothly and I just wonder how does it do it so well. I think it has a lot to do with experience as well. We’ve become friends from the first time we met. We respect each other.
Q. How do you create this unique chemistry with Ajay Devgn which has been garnering a lot of appreciation?
Illeana D’Cruz: I love ‘Saanu Ek Pal’, it’s one of my favorites. The filming part of these songs is really funny because Ajay and I are like buddies and doing these romantic scenes were comical to us. I used to burst out laughing saying do we really need to do this. It was fun shooting too though with essence of romance in the 80s. In general too romancing onscreen is very tricky. We were shooting ‘Nit Khair’ in front of so many people and huge crowds so it was funny romancing in front of them all. There was this one shot where I trip and he catches me, I didn’t know how to trip convincingly but overall we managed to do justice.
Q. After entering Bollywood, have you said a goodbye to films down South?
Illeana D’Cruz: After doing Barfi, the offers from South slowed down. I remember going to Hyderabad for an event and there I asked my colleagues as to what was going on and why wasn’t I being offered any film. I was told they thought now I wouldn’t want to do any Tollywood films. After that communication I got a lot of offers again but I haven’t liked anything that I was getting. I was looking forward to doing a film recently with an old co-star down South but I just didn’t like the story. I’ve had a big stand there and I think I just can’t do any film. The film should have to be good.
Q. Tollywood is known for its other side which casts women only for the face and there are no prominent roles for them, what do you have to say about that?
Illeana D’Cruz: This is a problem with every industry. Even in Hollywood, Jumanji was questioned by a director for having its female star cast wear mini shorts in a film based out in a jungle where the men were fully clothed. Objectification happens all over, it has to be your individual choice to decide if you want to be a part of it or not. I have done roles where I have been objectified, no doubt. My waistline used to be zoomed at and I never understood it. I was a gawky teenager back then and didn’t felt attractive. I could be referred to as the sidekick of a popular girl. So for me to be objectified was very odd.
Q. You may not be in the big league already. What do you think must be the difference?
Illeana D’Cruz: I don’t know how people look at me. I definitely know that I’m a different actor. I’ve been told this by most people I’ve worked with. Even Arjun (Kapoor) told an interviewer that I’m very committed on set but the minute I’m off set I’m off the grid and with my family at home and in my own world. Lot of actresses prefer to be in the Bollywood circle but I have my family all over the world so I keep traveling. I balance that out. Family will always be priority any maybe for other girls it’s their career.
Q. What is fashion and fitness to you?
Illeana D’Cruz: I do a lot of online shopping and wear a lot of layers when I have to hide the fat when I don’t eat well. I’m a big foodie and I love to cook and feed people. Sometime I look at the pictures of things I make and crave for them all over again. I’m not fit right now but I’ve decided to take it easy on myself. I was very conscious couple of years ago. I was very fit but I still use to feel giggly and poke my fat on my stomach or arms. Then I thought it’s fine I’m only a human and am letting myself be.
Q. What kind of roles would you like to do?
Illeana D’Cruz: I would now like to do a really glamorous role but I don’t think I’m too fit for it. I want to do a very heroine centric film. I have to blame it on Raj (Kumar Gupta – director) though because he used to tell me why don’t I do such films considering I’m such a good actor so it used to give me a boost. I have three such heroine centric offers and I am looking keenly at one.
Q. Which classic film’s remake would you like to star in?
Illeana D’Cruz: I would love to do the remake of Sridevi’s ‘Chaalbaaz’. I was in shock when I found out about her demise. My first reaction was that I was a really stupid joke. I couldn’t believe she could be no more. I was upset about the way it was splashed in the media. It was so insensitive. Last time I was at a funeral was of Priyanka’s (Chopra) father, I started crying because I couldn’t imagine what she must have been feeling. And I can’t imagine what Sridevi ji’s family must be going through. For us she was a huge star, but for them she was a mother and a wife. They just have to read about her everywhere they go and deal with it. They should be left in privacy out of respect. The show goes on but the family will remain affected.
Q. How has it been working with all the directors that you have?
Illeana D’Cruz: The most amount of growth I felt was with Anurag (Basu). When I was doing ‘Barfi’ I thought the experience of South would help but apart from technicality I had to go there with a clean slate. He would ask me to tone down my performances. We went to an extend where he would just leave me in a scene without proper direction and ask me to react as naturally as possible. I’m sure initially people on set would have felt I was doing nothing on the set but it was so subtle and it was a different experience. David ji’s (Dhawan) film was not over the top but Anees Bazme’s Mubarakan’s was definitely a different experience. I was hyper active mad person and that was physically exhausting. Working with Milan (Luthra) on the character was mentally draining because she’s such a calculating person and it was trippy. You can ask Ajay he’ll tell you how I was crying on the last day because I didn’t want to leave the character. It was a great experience. I have been lucky.
Q. What drives you to be on a movie set every single time?
Illeana D’Cruz: The fact that I get play so many roles I enjoyable. People say there are a lot of cons of this industry but there a pros too and I try to look at only those as much as possible. I like the thrill of not knowing and finding out what I’m going to do next on set.
Q. Given the acting performances from mainstreams actresses that we see today, do you think you have a lot of competition? Who is your favourite actress?
Illeana D’Cruz: I like the fact that there are other actresses better than me because if there was no one to compare yourself with then there is no limit to what you desire to achieve. Inspiration is a big deal. It’s not competition but inspiration. My all time favorite actress is Kajol. Majority of the Hindi films I’ve watched are of hers. Infact I only watch her scenes in a film. She’s super cool.
Q. What kind of films do you like watching?
Illeana D’Cruz: I like animated films. They’re so chilled out.
Q. Have you regretted rejecting a film?
Illeana D’Cruz: I don’t regret refusing a film. There was this film that I wanted to do but I was replaced and the film ranked and I thanked my stars. But the film was good.
Q. What kind of genres would you like to do next?
Illeana D’Cruz: I would love to do horror comedy. Bhool Bhulaiya kind of a film. I like watch films like Mubarakan. I don’t mind a dark film as well.