Interview Hindi

Ileana D’Cruz: You will get overshadowed if you're not good 

The actress spoke to about why her Baadshaho character is her most important role since her first Hindi film, Barfi! (2012).

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Suparna Thombare

After making her Hindi film debut with Anurag Basu's Barfi! (2012) five years ago, Ileana D’Cruz has been slowly and steadily making a place for herself in the industry. Her last two films have done reasonably well at the box office too. While Rustom (2016) was a hit, Mubarakan (2017) has received lots of love from the audience. 

Her next film, Baadshaho sees her in a substantial lead role of Gitanjali, a queen in the 1970s era.  

In an interview to, D’Cruz talks about being a secure actress and why she will never forget the experience of working on her Baadshaho character.

After Rustom — a multi-starrer and Mubarakan — an ensemble film, you again have an ensemble film in Baadshaho. How comfortable are you in this space?

Incredibly. It comes with a sense of security. I am happy in the space I am. I won’t take on a role or a film if I am not completely okay with the character I am playing. It depends on what my role is. And I won’t sign on a film if I am not absolutely happy with. It depends on your own security. You can’t eventually do an ensemble film and be overshadowed by people. You will technically be overshadowed if you are not good enough at what you are doing. But you don’t necessarily need to be the main lead to stand out. You just need your moment on screen and you need to shine in that moment, that’s about it. 

Ileana D'Cruz in Mubarakan (2017)

You are known to take time before giving a nod to any project. Is it because you are trying to do a good variety of films... which has happened for you with the last few films.

It’s incredibly gratifying. I feel lucky and privileged (about getting a variety of roles and films). Everybody says that I take a lot of time and I’m very choosy, and that I should do a lot more films. But I believe it is not easy to get good films and my entire choice when I do a film is that the content has to be good. My role has to be a good role. I also want to do something different in every role. I believe I am doing something right. I have been very happy with my choices. It makes me feel better as an actor. 

What kind of films do you like watching and what kind of films do you like acting in?

I am two different sides of the spectrum there. I enjoy watching... don’t laugh... animation and comedy. So actually I just realised that there is a new channel that has come up called Toonami and they show all the cartoons from the 1990s. I love that! I watch Scooby Doo, Flintstones and the Jetsons. I enjoy it. It's like a stress-buster. 

When it comes to doing films, I love films that are gritty and intense. A film like Baadshaho, for example, left me feeling depleted emotionally, which is why I had such a huge breakdown on the last day.

Strangely, perversely I love that feeling because I actually feel like I have contributed and given something to the film. When you are playing such an intense, big role in a movie that has such a huge ensemble cast is a certain sort of responsibility you feel. I enjoy the uncertainty of a role. I love walking on to the set not knowing how I am going to do it, and coming out of it feeling great because the director has given me a huge hug saying that I was outstanding. That makes me feel great. 

How close do you get to a film and the character?

Ileana D'Cruz as Gitanjali in Baadshaho

It really depends. I really try not to take my work home with me. Yet, of course there are days when I go home and brood, and think did I do this alright. Sometimes I even think about films that have gone past, (and think) should I have done it differently? But I don’t think I have become attached and that involved with any of my characters than I have with Gitanjali (character’s name in Baadshaho). I cried like a baby on the last day to the point that Ajay (Devgn) and Milan (Luthria) were like ‘what the hell is wrong with her!’. But I genuinely did. Stupidly, childishly I didn’t want to let go. I felt like I want to shoot again. I didn’t want to stop being Gitanjali. It was a high playing her.

A lot of people think that it's an action film, it's a gritty film, it's kind of like a boys' film, but technically it's a drama. It is the story of Gitanjali. Women will genuinely enjoy the film. 

Are you so particular about the roles you pick because you think about how your work will stay for posterity?

Irrespective of what I do, my movies will last forever. So my biggest concern is that what if I do some really shitty job, people will see all my work when I am dead and gone. (laughs) That’s my biggest fear. I hope that never happens. 

Your styling for Baadshaho is very different from the way we have seen you before.

I took personal interest in the styling of this character. It's not something that I generally do. You get a little conflicted because you are playing a character from the 1970s — how authentic should you go? The other aspect is you are looking at someone on screen and irrespective of all that, when you are the main lead of the film, you have to look good. My team did such a good job.

Why did you like about your role in the film?

A poster of Baadshaho

I loved my role in it. I was like come what may I want to play this character. It's so amazing how powerful she is and how manipulative she can be if she wants to. The fact that she knows exactly what she wants and she knows how to get it. Even though she is thrown into jail, her spirit is amazing. It's a big deal for a woman like her to be thrown into jail... it's filthy.

Let me also tell you that it was an actual jail. It was stinking. I thought I was going to throw up the first time I walked in. The smell was unbearable. To some extent I could have thrown a fit and said I can’t shoot like this, I felt that somehow it added to the authenticity. I felt like I could make a big hoohaaa about it, say this is nonsense and that I don’t work like that. What do you think I am?

There is a scene in the film where I had to fall. I said I can fall like a heroine does (laughs), but I thought this has to be realistic. It is in the trailer. And if you see, I am just going splat. They were all like ‘are you okay?’ because I had gotten up and my face was full of sand. It was ridiculous, but I think it was required. The more real you come across on screen the better it is. 

A lot of emotional scenes (are there) where I cried. There were also scenes that were very intense. They were also a few scenes where she is vulnerable, and in those scenes it was almost heart-wrenching. I couldn’t help it and I actually did break down.

As much as you love getting involved in your characters, you also like to have your own space and stay away from the movies every once in a while. Is this important to you for keeping your...

(cuts me in) Sanity? I love my work. I am working non-stop sometimes. I am then just waiting for that moment to zip away and have some holiday time. And sometimes when I’m on a holiday, I can’t wait to get back to work and be on set. So there is a joy for my work, but there’s also that realisation, that acceptance that this is a very addictive kind of world.

It is very easy to get sucked into all the madness, all the glamour, all the beauty, and sparkle of it all. And you got to realise that at the end of the day it's a job. You won’t see a journalist or a banker say 'oh I love my job, I want to stay at my job forever'. You want to get back to your home, your life and you want your sanity at the end of the day. And I like that. I enjoy it, and I know that it's very temporary. I’m just loving it till it lasts. 

Ileana D'Cruz with Akshay Kumar in Rustom (2016)