leana D'Cruz: It might sound cowardly, but I do agree that if one speaks out about the casting couch, it will end their career
Ileana D’Cruz entered Bollywood with a critically-acclaimed film like 'Barfi!'(2012) and since then, has entertained audiences with out-and-out commercial films like 'Phata Poster Nikhla Hero', 'Main Tera Hero', 'Rustom', 'Mubarakan' and 'Baadshaho'. BT caught up with the actress while she was promoting her upcoming film 'Raid', and in a freewheeling chat, she told us how she wants to now do a woman-centric film, how nothing or no one can prepare you for a career in showbiz and why talking about the casting couch can potentially risk one’s career in the industry. Excerpts...
You don’t have as much screen time in Raid. Were you apprehensive while giving your nod to the film?
I had finished 'Baadshaho' with Ajay Devgn and we were in the middle of promoting it when he told me about 'Raid'. He said, ‘Please don’t say no, just listen to it. It’s not a huge role, but it's a good one’. I don’t have a massive role in 'Raid', but I don’t think that an actor needs 200 minutes of screen time to grab attention. Even two minutes are enough to make a mark. I don’t just play a wife in Raid, she is Amay Patnaik’s (Ajay’s character) pillar of strength as well. Our image of a woman of the 80s is of someone who is naive, but in this case, she is spunky. It was a good role and I also wanted to work with Raj Kumar Gupta (director). I have done significant roles in the past and I have also been central to the film’s narrative. As an actor, doing a role which has less screen time will not affect my standing. I have often been offered the role of the ‘cute bubbly girl’, but when people come up to me and tell me, ‘You were so cute’, all I can do is cringe because I am so not cute. Three-year-old girls in pigtails are cute. It’s fun playing the bubbly girl once in a while, though.
There are reports that you have been offered the Uzma Ahmed biopic, an Indian national who fell in love with a Pakistani man and then was forced to marry him at gunpoint. What are the kind of roles that you are looking to play now?
While chatting with my director (Raj Kumar Gupta) towards the end of this film, he told me that I should be doing a woman-centric film. It’s a huge risk to do a film like that. While we go on about how the industry is male-dominated, one has to take into consideration what sells here. Such films have come my way, including the biopic that you just mentioned. Having said that, if I have to take that risk, it has to be a good script with a good director helming it.
You had a good launch in Hindi cinema with Barfi!. But do you think that you have capitalised on it enough?
There is no point in thinking ‘what if…’ Every actor has his or her own journey. Also, I don’t like being predictable and I have never really followed the norm. If I have to do it all over again, I will probably do it the same way. I have always gone with the flow and I have never modelled myself on anyone. Perhaps, I turned down a film, which another actress did and it took her to a different level in her career, but such things don’t bother me.
Do you think young actors should openly speak up about the sexual harassment that they have faced at their workplace? Many believe that if they do so, that’s the end of their careers....
It might sound cowardly, but I do agree that if you speak out about the casting couch, it will end your career. Years ago, a junior artiste down South, who was being propositioned by a big producer, sought my advice on how to deal with it.I told her that it’s something that I couldn't decide for her. It is her decision and that nobody could force it on her. Many people have done it and it’s up to her whether she wants to go ahead and do it or not. As far as exploitation and harassment is concerned, I wouldn't stand for it. The fact of the matter is that if an A-list star is accused of something like this, you will require a large number of people to come forward, including A-list actresses and actors, to make a difference. Actors in this country are worshiped. So it will take many voices for people to acknowledge that huge stars could have such an ugly side. I can’t watch Kevin Spacey’s show anymore, though I have loved it earlier because he has been accused of harassment. It disgusts me as a person.
You are open about your personal life on social media platforms. So, are you married to Andrew Kneebone?
When Andrew came down for the first time, people saw us at award shows and asked if we were together. I said that I am happy being with him. Then he had to go back for work and there were stories with headlines like, ‘Is there trouble in paradise?’ Frankly, why should anybody be bothered whether there is or isn't trouble in paradise. I don't want to talk about my personal life. I do use social media as a gateway into my personal life, but only to a certain extent. When I don't want to, I pull the blinds down.