How did you get BegumJaan?
I have been auditioning for films for a very long time now. During 2010, I was giving auditions but nothing got materialized and later I stopped trying for films but then I started doing television and whenever I got a call I used to go for auditions and look test without any hopes and did not seek for results. I kept doing my work and did not expect anything, what I realize is that one should work and forget which is not easy. An actor should do his job and forget because the rest depends is all destiny. Keeping the passion and the fire within, alive, is very important, as doing television and shooting daily becomes mechanical at times and the fire within you dies. It dies because once you start doing television you get everything very easily and so that passion within you dies gradually. An actor should always be hungry and greedy, I have always been passionate about work. I always used to seek advice from my co-actors and my seniors as to how one can get that inner turmoil out of oneself. I think patience is also very important because there are people who get work very easily and then there are people like me who have struggled so much, put in so much work and put all the efforts still the result you achieve is just a quarter of what you have put in. So I have always valued whatever came to my hand, I am very punctual and very disciplined about my work and craft when asked about how I got Begum Jaan I want you to know about the whole journey that how much I have put into to get this role. To tell you how I got Begum Jaan it’s very important to tell you how my journey had its path here and how I had everything in me and how it was difficult to sustain in between. I have always got things by putting a lot of efforts and it never was easy. There was a period where I had no work but during that time too I diverted that time to learn things and keep myself busy. It was that time I got a call from Mukesh Chhabra’s office, he has a very magical eye for new talents and with that, his casting turns out to be so good that you don’t have to change yourself physically. Of course, I understand that an actor should be fit and in shape because there are people who look up to you when I was called for the look test I was not in the best shape. I had few auditions but things did not work out but I never gave up and kept on trying. I was not even expecting a call and the call came as a surprise and was unbelievable.
This is your Bollywood debut and a unique one. How do you feel?
This is my Bollywood debut and it’s a unique one because of the set and the banner I have worked with and the people who cast me for the role. I am grateful and I would say that they are God sent. The alignment happened from Mukesh Chhabra to Vishesh film banner to Srijit Mukherjee, Vidya Balan, Ila Arun, Gauhar Khan, Chunkey Pandey, Ashish Vidyarthi, Vivek Mushran and I don’t know whom should I be thankful to. The strength of the film is this ensemble , the energy within us to wanting to do something in life, a mixture of the energy of all of us is going to light up the screen beyond people’s imagination. I can say that this film is going down in the history of Indian film industry and the reason behind my conviction is because my director Srijit has that conviction. We all had that conviction, Mahesh Bhatt, Mukesh Bhatt, Vivek Mushran had that conviction. This is a dream debut because I would have never thought about such powerful role even in the rarest of my dreams.
What are the details of your role and look in detail? Is it only sexy sarees?
I am playing a very crude, raw, straight forward, blatantly yet very sensitive and a fun element and very dependent on her counter twin Maina. We almost dress up the same and it’s not sexy sarees and it’s nothing like the regular bit. The department has worked a lot to elevate the project and everyone had that understanding of what it is and therby everyone was convinced by the director. Since the look is out, you can see that it is very rugged and not something shiny. It is during the Partition period so I have no makeup, mismatched clothes, no proper hair without makeup and I have not waxed, no eyebrows. This is something which is very unique because for a girl who has her first Bollywood ,it is but for natural for her to think that she has to look very good,and might not succeed in the absence of the so called galmour quotient but again here the conviction came from Srijit sir and Gopi the cinematographer. We had that trust in them that they would not make us look bad and we had the characters running in my vein, you won’t see Ridheema Tiwari. You see the character and the character is beautiful, so when you see Begum Jaan on the screen you would see it all colorful, the colorful characters splashed on the screen and it would be the characters that would look beautiful.
Explain your experience working in a film in detail!
The experience of working has been great, we were shooting at Jharkhand- West Bengal border at Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan, we were staying at a hotel and we used to travel 2 hours to the interiors and we used to get tired. We had workshops for 2 months and we had become friends and even when we worked we did not feel we were working. We were not even conscious as to when was the camera started rolling because everything in Begum Jaan house was real and natural. Real, because I played the character of Amba and if I had to say something to them it would have been in that accent and style of the character. We were not ourselves anymore and we were all tired the whole day, but the experience of the highs of Amba was totally different than what Ridheema Tiwari will see it as. The joy, the shudder, the passion that she felt was something else. That feeling of Amba inside me and it comes out even after a year we have done the shooting. Even today Amba peeks out me so you can imagine what our director has done and the degree of elevation of this entire sequence our shoot. The experience I would never be able to explain because the sinking has not yet started and seen the trailer I was like what did I do and it was like who is she? There is this outer body experience that Amba’s spirit had gone inside me and I could not understand and you would be stunned to work with the people you have been seeing since childhood though it did not intimidate me. We were one team, members of that family under that one roof and the experience will be unforgettable.
How was it working with the Vidya Balan? What did you learn from her?
Working with Vidya Balan was a dream. I have a vision board in my house where I put up pictures of my favorite which has Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Vidya Balan on it. I have this board in my bedroom and-and I see their pictures every day in the morning. Vidya Balan is a very disciplined, punctual and dedicated person. A person with patience, passion for her craft and I think I am on the right track. I believe people who have stopped learning would never be successful and in spite of that if they are doing good then their stars are doing great. Vidya Balan has faced so many failures in her life and she did not get what she wanted so easily, she never followed the trend and still follows the Indian culture. She symbolizes Indian culture. In a personal conversation with her I remember she advised me that I should not follow the trend and what you have is you and if you do not change anything about you, you are unique. I will never forget the words to be you and don’t copy others and do not change yourself because if you are imperfect then you would stand out from others because everyone wants to be perfect and here I am not talking about the inner you but the outer you. I believe you should be perfect from inside. We only try for the perfection of our outer self where we tend to lose our inner self. Vidya Balan is a true example when it comes to polishing craft, one on one conversations, listening to the director, being obedient, being friendly, down to earth, doing your homework, being sensitive towards people, caring about your co-actors and in the coming times I want to see her ruling this industry. Like ,in India ,we are under the false notion that after an actress gets married she loses that fame but one should watch her work in this film. its phenomenal. She kept the bar and did not let us down and held us and took us to the same level as hers.
Which films of her you have liked and why?
I have loved all of Vidya Balan films and I thinks she is fabulous in each and every film. Hence she is on my vision board.Even in Heyy Baby where she was profusely criticized for her clothes, I think I looked beyond it and I think every one should do the same.
What kind of films do you want to do now?
This is just the beginning and I cannot be vocal about what I want to do and what i don’t want to.I just want to do good scripts, I want to do more work. I want to try everything because films are so different, huge and larger than life and I haven’t done anything as yet.
Do you recall any interesting incident with costars on set?
There was a lot of antique stuff and everything she wore was Indian and antique, and I used to admire her a lot. There were a set of jhumkas I liked and I used to compliment her every day. She said I would give all my jewelry to you and on the last day I saw my seniors giving souveniers as a symbol of love so Vidya gave me a beautiful dupatta and the jhumkas and that I would cherish all my life. The weather was very unpredictable so we had to work very fast.During Begum Jaan’s trailer launch, Mahesh Bhatt came and hugged me warmly saying I am proud of you and you are my Amba and same was the opinion of Srijit sir.
Tell us about interesting compliments you have got for your role in Ghulam and Begum Jaan.
I think one compliment I got from a journalist was that nobody has portrayed a vamp so differently the way I had and my fans who keep saying that they hate me so much but can’t hate me so much. They keep writing to me that you are a Diva, Queen of hearts and I love it.
What differences do you find between TV and films?
TV and films are totally different. You keep on giving your best and work daily and I guess you become mechanical, sometimes disconnected. There is not that flow, what people have done a few years ago or decades ago won’t be in the minds of the new generation. Television does not challenge you and even if it does,it is a rare phenomenon. It becomes lethargic and boring after a while. The newer generation replaces the old and it doesn’t become immortal. In case of films, once you do it,you become immortal,it’s not going to be forgotten.. it’s going to be in the hearts of the people forever. Daily shows are very hectic and as actors, we do that. When you watch films in the theatre, the feeling is different. I feel television and films are two different experiences and cannot be defined.
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