What is Gunday all about?
The film is based between 1971 to 1980, the time of Bangladesh war when India got divided. Bikram and Bala are refugees who are a victim of this partition. Striving to survive in poor conditions, they indulge in stealing coal which was prominent in Calcutta then. This makes them the biggest gunday of the city, which is when Nandita enters their lives. She is a cabaret dancer but her nature is more of a girl next door who doesn't believe in anything bad. She is against their gundagardi and when the two fall for her, the conflict arises. The best part of the film is where the audience is unable to decide if they should side the gunday for the kind of life they are leading or whether they should be against it – it's completely based on the audience perception.
How does Nandita add twist to the tale of Bikram and Bala?
Nothing would have happened if Nandita didn't come into their life. My character is very pivotal to what happens in the story and why it happens. I think Vishwamitra ke zindagi mein Menaka aati hain… waisa! Nandita is a character who is against the edgy way Bikram and Bala lead their life and wants them to quit the kind of gangster life they lead.
How was it working with bromance icons Ranveer and Arjun along with Irrfan, while it was also your first outing with Ali Abbas Zafar?
I have done a lot of two hero films and am familiar with bromance. It's great to see people getting along so well. Since we are all of the same age group, we share the same mentality and mindset. So, we all ended up becoming really good friends and when you make films with friends its fun. Ali is a phenomenal director and I am very proud of him. He is two films old and to be able to pull off a film like Gunday is amazing. It's a difficult film and the authenticity with which he has made it – the screenplay, the direction! I would say it is hugely credited to him. There are very few filmmakers in this business who have a vision like Ali.
How much can you relate to the girl next door like Nandita?
I don't have to relate to any of my characters. I play them because I am an actor. When I played Jhilmil in Barfi! I couldn't relate to her, when I did 7 Khoon Maaf, I couldn't relate to Susanna. As an actor, you just create characters. A film character comes out of someone's vision and Nandita was Ali's vision. I was just a tool with which he executed it. It's a creative process. I am extremely detached from the characters I play.
Last year ended with a bang with Krrish 3 doing really great, and even my single 'Exotic' touching new highs. It was also a difficult year because I lost my father. I don't think it's a year I will ever forget. But, this year started off on a good note and I am very excited about Gunday. I think it will be a film people will really enjoy. This is not a film where you can leave your brains at home. It has credibility, story, and authenticity! If you want to see a real movie with complete entertainment, then Gunday is the movie and you have to experience it in a theatre.
No actress has been able to achieve the kind of feat that you have achieved globally as a pop singer. How difficult is it for one of the top actresses in Bollywood to balance yet another career as a singer?
I love entertainment, pop culture, movies, music, dancing and it's endless. For me, entertainment is being more than just an actor. I want to push myself as an achiever to do as much as I can. Sky is the limit for me. We are expanding globally, so I don't think we should limit ourselves. Instead, we should find different avenues especially if you are creative. Life is short; this is the time to do it – when you are young. It's like now or never.
How pressurizing is it for Bollywood actresses to maintain their position in the list of top actresses, considering the increasing craze for the 100 and 200 crore films?
I think every film has its own kismat. For me, it's more important to be a part of good films. Like Deepika in the year 2013, was a part of some amazing films. It was definitely her year and she did some phenomenal performances. I believe, being a part of good films is what makes you successful. Like even with me, I am very grateful that for the last two years that I have had such amazing films which have so much variety like Don, Agneepath, Barfi!, Krrish 3 – all of them are 100, 200 crore films. They are all commercially successful and now the number game has gone up so much because of the multiplication of multiplexes. I am someone who thinks that box-office is the king and I don't believe in making films that I would want to sit in my drawing room and watch. I want the world to see my film. For me it's about doing different parts and being a part of incredible cinema and not Oh my God… main number 1 hoon ya nahi. I believe that, in every era there are at least four top male and female actors. There can never be a number one. If you see in current times, there will be these actors who will always be moving back and forth with the most successful films of that time. The number game is very fickle and I think the media has created that because I think it is something that logically cannot exist as we make so many films in a year.
I don't want to say anything about it right now. I just want it to be made and I hope that we make it well. It's very difficult to make a film on the life of a living person who is still a sports champion. I hope we make an inspirational story. I also think that the success of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag will prove beneficial for it but right now, I don't want to think about all that and just want to focus on making the film.
Your song 'Exotic' has got beyond 30 million views… What's the progress on the singing front?
Yes, that's a lot of views! I am excited about that and my new single will be out in March or April which will be my solo number. It's an EDM track. It's a cover of the ballad which released in 1991 by Bonnie Raitt. It's one of my favourite tracks and probably one of the reasons that I wanted to become a musician. This is a dance version of this classic.
Recently, you were a victim of racial discrimination… Have you faced this during your college and school days?
Yes I did. That's probably one of the reasons I came back to India. And I am glad I did because that's why I became a Miss India, Miss World and now a movie actor. But yes, I did face bullying in school. However, this is a part of life and you should learn how to deal with it. I think success is the only way of shutting people up. Despite that, I think that my song being selected as the NFL theme song was great. It can't get more American than that. The girl next door is a global face now and she doesn't have to be blue-eyed or blonde anymore. The best answer is to focus on positivity.