The very glamorous Sangeeta Bijalani,last seen in a Hindi films in 1996, is poised-and what poise!-to make a comeback in Onir’s Shab. She speaks to Subhash K Jha about her plans.
What made you take the plunge again after 19 years?
It wasn’t planned that way. It isn’t as if I wasn’t getting any offers. I’ve been getting movie offers for quite some time now. Somehow, I wasn’t sure I wanted to act in movies again. I didn’t know whether I’d be comfortable with the idea.
The changes in film industry made you uncomfortable?
No I wouldn’t say that. This industry is home to me. I virtually grew up here. But I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to work again or not.
Does the idea of facing the camera again make you uncomfortable?
No no not at all. I’ve always been very comfortable facing the camera. I’ve been there for so many years. Although I was out of the public domain for so many years, the relationship with the camera didn’t end. It was dormant.
What prompted you to take up a movie offer?
I met Onir a year and a half ago at my friend Anita Dongre’s fashion show. He kept asking me why I didn’t return to movies. We were from the same group and he kept asking me to get back in the movies. Then he came up with the script of Shab. He suggested I just read it. I did. And I was hooked. Onir wants me to play a powerful diva. At the same time he wanted someone who looks vulnerable and soft.
A lot has happened in your life. Does that make you a better actor today?
You know, you grow every day. You learn so much from life. All those experiences are bound to reflect in your personality. I think today I’m a far more evolved person.My journey so far has been beautiful.
Why were you so reluctant to come back to the movies?
See, I am open to any experience. Life has taught me to expect the unexpected. I don’t shut doors to anything in life. I read Onir’s script, loved it. It was in the realistic space, and I loved that. I’ve a very interesting role that suits me. I never did realistic cinema in my career. I always did the commercial stuff.
Yes,in fact you were in many hitsof the 1990s with Mithun Chakraborty?
I am not complaining about my acting stint in the past. I had fun while it lasted. I hope my second innings too would be interesting.
Do you feel apprehensive about the changes that have overtaken the film industry since you left?
No apprehensions at all. Now that I’ve said yes to Onir I am fully prepared to take the plunge again. Actually, I’m glad to be back at a time when so many different genres offilms are being made in Hindi. When I was playing the conventional heroine there was just the commercial and some offbeat cinema, nothing in-between.
In fact you made your debut with a brilliant commercial film?
Yes, J P Dutta’s Hathyar. But at that time I wasjust doing what I was asked. To be honest I wasn’t all that involved, nor was I passionate about acting.I was happy with whatever came my way. Today I feel I am far more clued in and emotionally evolved. I think this is the best time to be in the movies.
Is Onir’s film going to be the beginning of many other offers?
Now that I’ve stepped into it I am fully into it. It’s time for me to get back into the groove. I am happy to be working again. The film industry has changed completely. The industry is so much organized now. No one can afford to be lazy or disorganized. There are people to take care of everything. Earlier we had to handle everything from dates to media ourselves. It’s more of a team effort now.
But you never stopped being in the limelight?
No that isn’t true. I wasn’t doing anything in terms of work. I may have been visible but I wasn’t doing anything. To be honest it feels good to be working again.
Are you now living in Mumbai?
Mumbai has always been my home. I was living in Delhi for a whole. But for the last ten months I’ve been spending a lot of time in Mumbai because our home needed renovation and also I needed to be close to my Dad. My mom passed away in 2005.
Your dad needed you?
No, it’s the other way around. I wanted to spend time with him.We fool ourselves into believing our parents need us when it’s the other around.
Have you beenin touch with the film industry specially through Salman Khan‘s family?
No, not at all. I am not in touch with anybody in the industry. I’ve completely cut off from the film industry.When I started getting offers I wondered if I’d fit into the changed scenario in the industry. Onir’s script made me make up my mind.
So this is a new start for you?
Yes, I feel like a newcomer.
Then I hope to see you win all the debutant awards next year?
Ha ha, I hope so. I need the industry and the audience to support me.