In one of the longest interviews she has ever given, Jiah Khan talks to our columnist DEVANSH PATEL about her next release Ghajini, why she thinks this Aamir Khan starrer will be her first big commercial success and, of course, her thoughts after viewing Aamir's fit physique...all in this Observer exclusive
SLIM, sexy and slick is what she was known for worldwide for her portrayal in her debut film Nishabd. So if you've got your heart set on seeing Jiah Khan - the most desirable single woman in Bollywood - with minimal outfits again in Ghajini, you might be shocked after you read this interview.
The new 'wow' babe of Bollywood is on cloud nine at the moment after having worked with Amitabh Bachchan in her first film and with the perfectionist Aamir Khan in her second. But what makes her special is the fact that she's also the smartest actress and comes across as plucky, with a dry wit to match.
We talked about the release of Ghajini, how she landed up in the film and her tough times shooting the movie. But first, there was something more serious I had to ask her:
Q I can't help but start this interview by asking you, how do you express your anger or emotion towards the Mumbai terror attack last month?
A It is so depressing. I feel sad that we call ourselves civilians and yet we can't be civil to each other. Religion is turning out to be a huge hurdle now and what is considered to be so personal and sacred is being used to destroy humanity in the name of religion. All this is really disturbing and I hope it comes to an end someday.
Q Ever since we first heard about Ghajini, the promos and the songs, the only thing we haven't heard about is Jiah Khan. What do you say?
A I'd like to say that Jiah Khan does exist in Ghajini (laughs). It's up to Aamir Khan and the producers and the way they want to publicise the film.
What they've done with my role and my image is going to be a big surprise. But why they've kept me out of the promos is something you'll have to ask the producers.
Q Comparisons are bound to happen when you work with two perfectionist actors like the Big B and Aamir. Any interesting observations?
A They both are very experienced as we all know and when you work with such an experienced bunch of actors you tend to perform much better and get your work finished much faster. As individuals they're extremely different. The way they communicate with their co-actors is also very different. I got to learn a lot from both of them and it feels as if I am ten films old now.
Q All actors say that they've learnt a lot from their coactors. We want to know what exactly have you learnt?
A My scenes in Ghajini are like on the edge and are dramatic scenes. As far as acting goes, it was far simpler to do Nishabd than to be doing Ghajini. To be working with Aamir Khan and then shouting at him is pretty hard, which Aamir helped me with. For Aamir to hold my hand in each scene and then take me through the rehearsals only to see which scene fits perfect was a learning experience. Right now I'm learning how to deal with different characters and different emotions.
Q A director will only go to an actor when he knows that he is talented and experienced and can give box office success. With no experience behind you, why did the producers and directors come knocking on your door for Ghajini?
A I'd like to think it's because of my talent. You missed that out! If you see, both Nishabd and my role in Ghajini aren't glamorous.
Both are performance-based roles. When you're a part of the film industry, luck has a role to play. It's good to be doing a performance-oriented role where you concentrate less on what lipstick shades you're wearing. When the switch is on and you're at the right place, it means your time is right. I guess, the producers and the directors came at the right time.
Q So how did the bell ring on your door?
A I was approached by the producer and he handed me a copy of the original South Indian film. Then I had to audition for my role which took a very long time. Mentally it was quite draining to figure out whether I was in or out. For me being in the film was like a major turning point in my career. Within two weeks of the audition, they decided to cast me for the role. I was over the moon.
Q I have to ask you the clichéd, 'What role do you play in the film?' question.
A (Laughs) I play Sunita in the film who is a medical student with brain study as her special subject. She case studies Aamir Khan's character and how she gets to know about his personal vendetta and becomes involved in it is what my role is about.
Q Is your voice dubbed in Ghajini?
A No it's not dubbed. It's my original voice. Everything is sync sound. Aamir Khan, being a perfectionist, wouldn't OK my sound being dubbed.
Q Your skimpy outfits made you look super sexy in your debut film. What kind of outfits are we going to see you in in Ghajini?
A (Laughs) A complete opposite. I am covered up from head to toe.
So even if I wanted to show a little bit of skin, Aamir and Murgados would cover me up.
Q The news circulating right now in the media is that Aamir Khan is not really happy with the way Ghajini has shaped up. Have you heard the same?
A I have no idea what you're talking about and thus cannot comment on your question.
Q With Nishabd not working so well for you, are you looking forward to your first commercial success with Ghajini?
A I'd like to believe that, definitely. Ghajini is a commercial film unlike Nishabd but at the same time it is a thriller too. My portions in the film are very dramatic. I hope Ghajini turns out to be a success.
Q A very important question coming your way. What say you about Aamir's never-before-seen sexy physique?
A You know what, I was on the set passing him while he was in his boxer shorts shooting a scene. I actually stopped and couldn't breathe!
He looked amazing. I don't know how he came up with such a physique but it is going to melt many a heart!
Q What went into the research of your character? And any really memorable scenes?
A Being a medical student, there were a lot of technical terms I had to be familiar with. Also the pronunciations had to be perfect. The research is one of the hardest things I've done in my entire life. There was one sequence where I had to run with Aamir Khan on a busy Mumbai road with thousands of onlookers and mad traffic. Of course, with Aamir being there such a scene had to happen but I was shocked to see the stampede. I thought the crowd would all pounce on us but luckily I am alive (laughs).
Q From Ramu to Murgados, both have made films in the South. How was it working with Murgados?
A I am the biggest fan of Murgados. He is definitely one of my favourite directors, though I've only worked with Ram Gopal Varma before. He is adorable and one of the funniest people on and off the sets. He is very light hearted and a true perfectionist. So if my performances get appreciated in Ghajini, credit has to go to Murgados.
Q Was filming for Ghajini an uphill climb?
A There was a lot of pressure because when you are performing with Aamir Khan or Amitabh Bachchan, you cannot give many retakes. But to your surprise and mine, the crew started calling me a 'one-take actress'. There were some extremely intense scenes where it was so draining and that's when Aamir lent me a helping hand.
Q Do you think after what's happened on November 26, Ghajini will attract the crowds?
A The whole idea of me joining the Bollywood industry was that films have always been an outlet for me and the people. We go and see a film to get away from the harsh realities of life. I hope Ghajini continues to do exactly that and entertain the audiences. Go and see it because it's a fabulous film with me and Aamir and Asin.
Q Amitabh and Aamir are two of the best in the business. Where do you move forward?
A I think I'm very lucky. But eventually all is in God's hands and I hope it keeps on going this way.