How do you look at your journey in Bollywood so far?
It’s pretty good. I worked with a very professional team and a great banner; I have a lot of good memories.
Do you think that you lose out on opportunities because you are not based in Mumbai?
Not really, I am an international artiste. I am mostly in Dubai, most of my family is in London and my parents are in Pakistan. I have done Iranian cinema but I can’t obviously live there, can I? Artistes speak with their talent, if I am talented I will definitely get opportunities.
When did you go to India first?
I went three years ago when Eros cinemas released Bol. I wasn’t sure if people in India would identify with the film but at the Delhi airport, the customs girl said, ‘Arre yeh to Zainab (my character in Bol) hai. It felt fabulous that people there knew about the film and my role. Now, after Raja Natwarlal, they see me in a different light. In Bol, I was playing a conservative girl with a dupatta on my head while in Raja Natwarlal I was very glamorous. So my journey in Bollywood has been from Bol to Bol-d (laughs).
Was it difficult to add ‘d’ to Bol?
It was challenging. See, I started my career at 14 as a model. I have endorsed some of the best brands like Lux, Sunsilk and Pepsi. I have never felt limited because I am a Pakistani girl but I feel we are judged more than men. For instance, there are so many actors who have done kissing scenes but if a girl does, they are shocked. Audiences have no problem watching Katrina, Deepika and others do such scenes but they criticise me.
How do you handle criticism? The critics weren’t too kind to Raja Natwarlal.
They have right to air their opinion. Criticism is fine but don’t judge us! Personally, I felt Raja Natwarlal was a good film but sometimes you get unlucky. I have seen bad films being praised so I don’t take it seriously. I work for the aawam, for the janata. If critics love me (as they did in Bol), it’s great. But even otherwise, it’s fine.
Can you tell us more about your personal life?
My childhood was very different. Education was given a lot of importance in my family so I did my BBA. I am a self-made, strong woman. I don’t need a man for support. I belong to a huge family and I really want to do things for my parents and sibling. I am one-woman army! But I don’t want to study anymore. Kitaben kya padhoge, insaan padhni chahiye. My industry experience has taught me more than anything else.
But success in Bollywood isn’t just about acting. How confident are you about dancing?
I have realised that even if you are crying in Bollywood, you need to look good. You need to dance wearing small cholis. My first item number and sensuous scenes were difficult initially but everyone made me feel comfortable. I enjoy dancing and looking good but what’s the point if you end up looking like a trophy without any shine to it?
Are you single and looking for Mr Right?
Yes, I am single. I am quite busy in life, relationships carry too much baggage. There is no Mr Right, there is only a right time for Mr Right and now is not the time. Women these days are so strong, it takes a while to find someone who matches your level.
What’s next on your plate?
I have signed a three film deal with Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Incidentally, he was the first one to sign me