There are no half measures when Lara Dutta talks. It’s straight from the heart. Without giving it a second thought, the actor on a comeback confesses her career is still not top priority. That honour is safe and secure with her domestic life. Her frankness extends to her co-stars and colleagues as well. She’s all praise for longtime friends Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra. The warmth only doubles when she speaks of husband Mahesh Bhupathi and daughter Saira. Every bit of her focus is devoted to her better half and child. But that doesn’t mean she’s step motherly towards acting. She makes sure she gives it her all when it comes to performing on the set of Singh Is Bling. Her commitment goes to the extent of getting bruised when it comes to doing physical comedy. One of the most beautiful women in the world is a lot more detached from fame and fortune than you’d think is possible…
Did you miss being on a film set for these years?
Honestly, no. Being on a film set is not exciting for an actor. The exciting part is between ‘action’ and ‘cut’. The rest of it is hours and hours of waiting. Spending an hour on make-up and hair are things I don’t miss. What I miss is my craft, the organic process of acting. But I’ve had such an incredible life in the last three years, marrying someone who is so far from this business (Mahesh Bhupathi), being immersed in that and then starting our own tennis league.
Was it a conscious decision to marry a non-industry person?
Definitely. I believe it’s healthier for a relationship. Mahesh and I belong to diverse fields. Though my husband is a huge masala movie buff. He needs to see a film on Friday. (Laughs) Had I known this earlier; it would’ve been a minus point for him.
Is it because Mahesh loves masala movies, you said yes to Singh Is Bling?
I want to do films that my family can watch. Also Mahesh loves this genre and doing comedy has earned me a reputation. If I have to leave my three year daughter at home and wait for hours for a shot, I might as well do something I enjoy. Also, I love working with Akshay Kumar. I know exactly what it’s going to be on the set. There are challenges that he will throw at you and comedy can be physical. I have marks to prove it (she laughs and points to a bruise on her hand). That’s thanks to Akshay. The film is high energy. I can’t do slow cinema.
What’s your role in Singh Is Bling?
I play a Goan named Emily. Singh and his friends can’t pronounce her name. She becomes ‘Imli’ for them. She’s quirky and causes confusion in Singh’s life.
In your tweets you referred to Akshay Kumar as a friend, philosopher and guide…
If I ever need to put things in perspective, I can pick the phone and call Akshay. He has made it the hard way. I call him the jugaad machine. He figures out every possible combination, aise nahin toh aise, aise nahin toh aise. He’s figured out how to survive here. He can figure out every camp, every situation and every environment in the industry. Most actors have a special bond with their first co-stars. Akki is someone who holds your hand from day one. He has always wished both Priyanka (Chopra) and me the very best. He wants to see the girls who began with him make it in their careers. He gives you straight answers; you need such people in your life. He’s not shy of telling the truth. I’ve worked with everyone, from Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan to Aamir Khan. But I’ve never seen an actor work harder than Akshay. His attitude is ‘don’t lose the hunger’. Even when he’s waiting for his shot, he is thinking of ways to better the scene.
Any changes you have observed in him through the years?
No. He’s pretty much the same. But with age he has matured, he’s wiser. Now, he has a daughter (Nitara), so he’s a bit cautious of what he does. Earlier on it was Khiladi Kumar. He’d go all out to do action. He has made me do the maddest things. Unfortunately, he found a bakra in me. Akki convinced me to swim and dive for Blue, although I was hydrophobic.
He’s also known to be a prankster…
You have to always watch your back with Akshay. We were sitting in his van two days ago, while he was watching the Nirmal Baba show on TV. He called up the show’s contact line and said, “Mujhe Nirmal Baba se baat karni hai. Meri biwi mujhe bahut maarti hai!” He’s totally mad. He’s entertainment nonstop.
Priyanka Chopra and you started your journey together. But she has come a long way…
She’s fabulous. I know Priyanka from the day we participated in the contest – that’s almost 15 years ago. Priyanka has single-minded focus, she knew that this is where she was headed and she hasn’t wavered from it. I respect her. She’s one of the most talented actresses we have. She’s not someone who’s made it by hook or by crook. No other female actor has that much energy. She’s unbelievable, she’s still excited, she still promotes things like her life depends on it. You have to live, eat, breathe cinema to be like that. She is 150 per cent into it, nothing else matters. That takes guts. Also, I’ve seen her through the passing away of her dad. She handled it so well.
Have you never cared about being on top of the game?
No. I never cared about the number game. I was happy with the kind of success I got because it also gave me the opportunity to have a life away from films. Or else I wouldn’t have survived so long. I’ve always walked to the beat of my own drum. I was able to explore different facets of myself. I wanted to have a marriage that is sane, stable and strong… away from the limelight. I enjoy going home and being Mahesh’s wife and Saira’s mom. That’s equally important to me as being Lara Dutta in Singh Is Bling.
Does motherhood really affect an actress’ career?
It’s an outdated concept. Actually, once you are in your 30s, you become more comfortable with yourself, more accepting; you break away from the rat race. You’re more at peace with yourself. I’m enjoying this space now rather than waiting to be cast opposite a hero. Also, motherhood frees you of vanity. When you’re getting off a plane at 5 am after a 10-hour flight and your child has puked over your shirt and you’ve got mashed banana in your hair… there’s no room for vanity.
How has life changed being with a sportsman?
A lot. When I go to the US open, the Australian open or to Wimbledon and when I am in the player lounge, I’m just Mahesh’s wife. I like that. Nobody apart from Leander (Paes), Rohan (Bopanna) and Saina (Nehwal) know me. People do know that Mahesh is married to a Miss Universe but apart from that nothing. In the lounge, I change diapers and run around to warm milk bottles for Saira. It’s normal and nice to step back and enjoy the freedom to do that. In Mumbai, I can never take my child out to a park because people start taking pictures and videos. But Saira has now grown comfortable. Earlier she’d be zapped why people were pulling her parents away from her to take pictures. Recently, for Mahesh’s IPTL (International Premier Tennis League), we had Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in Delhi. There people, on spotting me, began shouting in the stadium. That’s when the players became aware of the fact that Mahesh’s married to someone who is also a somebody.
What have you learnt from Mahesh?
Mahesh is patient and God bless him for that. Because both his wife and daughter have verbal diarrhoea and we’re both emotional. He understands where a fight can be picked and how to avoid it. I don’t have patience. He’s respectful in his dealings with people. The most amazing thing about my husband is that if something has to be done, he will get it done, no matter how impossible it seems.
Who is the disciplinarian between you two?
Of course me. Mahesh would let Saira have the cake and the bakery. He spoils her. But I can’t be too strict given her age. Saira’s a great negotiator. If I ask her to brush her teeth, she says ‘two minutes Mama’. Also she’s like a sponge, she picks up things instantly. (Laughs) Like the other day she asked me, ‘Why did Nitara’s dad hurt you?’
What do you enjoy doing with her?
I’m a hands-on mother. I’ve taken her everywhere. I’ve even climbed the Great Wall of China with her. I have taken her snorkelling in the Maldives. We’ve done white water rafting. We paint and mess around. She knows all her alphabets. She loves swimming.
(C) 2015 Lara Dutta Zone
Source: Filmfare, July 2015