I’d wish I met Minissha Lamba at her house because on meeting her, you’d observe she shifts restlessly in her seat, as she will do throughout our conversation, and admits that talking about herself is “very uncomfortable”. Yet she will not hesitate before answering a question, or reply that she doesn’t know, or edge around cautiously before reaching a tentative conclusion. “It’s just always awkward, you know?” she says. “It’s hard. Hard to explain why you do what you do.” Petite, pretty, an apparent slip of a girl, she’s a knot of uncertainties, sometimes – which, you later realize, conceal an iron resilience. Lamba could easily have been another perky, goofy, rom-com actress, and the next Meg Ryan types. But this lass decided to go the other way before her directors took the other route. That’s why we see her in Bachna Ae Haseeno, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Dus Kahaniyaan and now in Well Done Abba. Many, including her co-star in her latest film, Boman Irani, regard her as one of the very best at doing what she does. Up close, you see the years etched delicately on her face with each passing small yet substantial performance. Not that she is worried about her age and milestones. Minissha has never let anything get her down and that’s why she is climbing the ladder of success slowly but surely. In this extended chat with the actress who’s almost exhausted after giving interviews from morning till late evenings, the last thing she’d want is a phone call for the same. For a change, I decided to be her last wish that evening to make up my loss of not meeting her at her house. But what’s surprising is the fact that even at 8.30pm she still sounded like the interview was her first one. That’s what our Mini (we love to call her) is – calm and composed, because that’s what detects the traces of her charm. Well Done Mini!
As far as future projects are concerned, I want to do massy entertainers
Every time we see you on the big screen, you’re like a cat on the prowl. But this time around, you’re going into the skin of the character. Well Done Abba is touted as your most critically acclaimed work so far.
(Laughs) Hopefully, it should be when the film is released. Yes, the overseas audiences including critics who’ve seen the film at various festivals around the globe are raving about the film. Fingers crossed. It’s an absolute honour being a part of a Shyam Benegal film because I didn’t expect to get a call from him so early on in my career. And for him to have a role for me to play in Well Done Abba was perfect. The last thing any person would call me for is to play a role of a village girl.
The last impression which audiences have of you is of a sexy bikini babe from Kidnap. Then you play a village girl draped from top to bottom. Is Minissha ready to plunge in the dirt?
Well, Minissha Lamba has plunged into the dirt with Well Done Abba. It didn’t matter how much dirt you had on your body or how grimy your fingers and feet were because that would look even better on the screen. But as far as future projects are concerned, I want to do massy entertainers. I want to do films that make people laugh, cry and touch their heart.
They say it’s a man’s world in Bollywood. When it comes to women, their critical acclaim is what gets them going, right?
Both are important, you know. For me, it’s not the question of ‘either’ ‘or’, it’s both. I’m being very honest.
But a peep into your body of work shows us that you’ve worked with the best in business – YRF, Excel, Shree Ashtavinayak, etc. How often do we see that in just a six year old career?
I’d say that I’ve been extremely blessed. I am grateful for all that has come my way. I really am. And at times when you feel low, at times when you feel that you should be doing more, one just needs to look back and see things which you’ve already been given and blessed with. I’m so happy that my follow up is a Shyam Benegal film. My very first film which I was recognized for, which I was critically acclaimed for, which people still talk about, was the film Yahaan. And I hope Well Done Abba is a follow up to that. This film is yet another stage and a phase where I have evolved as an actor.
I never expected a call from Shyam Benegal
How did you impress Shyam Benegal for the role?
There was no impression or convincing act done. I never expected a call from Shyam Benegal. It came as a shock to me when he wanted to cast me in the film, as I said earlier. On the day of our first meeting, I was wearing a dress and my ‘cool’ shades with high heels. Suddenly I felt very silly walking into his office dressed like that because he wanted me to play a village girl (laughs). I said, ‘Sir, I am standing up. You can see me once more and are you really sure you want me to play a village girl in your film?’ Shyam sir said, ‘Absolutely. I cannot think of anyone else.’ It was signed, sealed and done.
And how easy was it to portray a very real character? Someone who you may have seen for yourself?
Oh, very real. It is easier to portray a real character because you have so much of material that you can pick up from. From someone who is around you. When you have to play an over the top character, it becomes a bit difficult because there is very little reference from people that you know. Real roles are easy because you can borrow so much from life and from what you see around you.
Tell me something about your ‘abba’ Boman.
(Laughs) He is a gem. He is absolutely amazing. Boman is as good in this role as he was in his very first film that he did. He said that he started acting at the age of forty five or forty six. I was left wondering why he didn’t take up acting before that. Well Done Abba has further proved his absolute versatility once more. He doesn’t need to prove anything anymore. Boman is superlative and you cannot exaggerate that any more.
And what has Minissha Lamba need to prove?
Lot’s more. I have a lot to prove. I have a lot to go. I have to prove things that people thought I couldn’t do or I feel I can’t do. I do feel that I am someone who can do serious films and light hearted romantic comedies. My work is what’s going to keep me coming. As an actor, I’d love to try different things for myself and my audiences. Some things will work and some things won’t but how I come back from my failures is what’s important.
I have to prove things that people thought I couldn’t do or I feel I can’t do
How well do you know the box office Minissha?
(Laughs) Well, we all know that the box office is the God we pray to every Friday. Box office is the ultimate pedometer of how you’ve done. Well Done Abba is definitely a film that’ll work at the box office and I pray that it earns pot loads of money for the simple reason that there are lots of people out there who like to make different cinema like this and who don’t have twenty crores to spend on a film.
And do we see hope when it comes to marketing a film like Well Done Abba?
I really don’t want to talk on something that I don’t know. I am not into marketing films. I do not know how it functions. I just want to concentrate on films. For everything else, you have professionals dealing in that particular field. We’ll leave the marketing tactics up to them. One thing is sure – Well Done Abba is a paisa vasool film irrespective of what the marketing the film will do.
Name one film you’d have loved to be a part of.
I’d have loved to be a part of 3 Idiots. I think it was a superb film with fun, laughter, pathos and emotion all weaved in one. It was a marvelously enjoyable film. I can just imagine what a time the makers and the cast must’ve had while making a film like 3 Idiots.
The song promo of Well Done Abba is the talk of the town.
(Laughs) Yes, it’s a crazy number. It’s a telegu hindi rap song. It’s got a hectic catchy beat to it. Ila Arun has sung it. You cannot imagine a crazier song that this. By the end of the film, my aunt and uncle in the film figure out what a crazy pair we (I & Sameer Dattani) make. It’s a hilarious song.
And what about your crazy partner – Sameer Dattani?
What about him? Well, he is an extremely talented actor. He is doing some really good films right now. Well Done Abba is going to give him his best recognition he has ever had for any of his films for sure because he is absolutely wonderful and a delight to watch in this one.