Rakul Preet Singh – Blurring Borders

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Don’t let her baby face and infectious smile fool you. Rakul Preet Singh has a strong head over her shoulders that thinks beyond her eyes.

For Rakul Preet Singh, it’s important to stay the way she is. Her achievement would be that she stays the way she was when she was 18-year-old girl who started out in films. With strong views on #metoo, she wishes something good comes off it. We chatted with her after she totally aced the FHM cover shoot. Excerpts from a freewheeling interview with the actor who has managed to make a niche for herself in diverse film industries… from Hyderabad to Mumbai:

Q- The biggest news doing rounds about you is that you are going to play Sridevi in NTR’s biopic. How did you get the role?
A- I have a special appearance as Sridevi for about 20 minutes. I’ve known Krish, the director for a while and I remember he told me that he would like me to play Sridevi and narrated the story to me. I trust his sensibilities a lot. I am happy that I can live up to that expectation, especially because it is the first time somebody would be playing Sridevi onscreen. It’s a huge responsibility. I’d be lying if I say I’m not nervous. She’s not with us, so the amount of pressure and expectation really goes up. We had a team from Bombay to work on the look, one full day of trying the look. We’ve shot for a day now and will shoot the rest sometime around November.

Q- Did you prepare for the role?
A- I watched a lot of her films from the ’80s and ’90s. I rehearsed the scenes, especially the songs. I learnt her way of talking and mannerisms.

Q- Tell me something about your Hindi film where you are paired opposite Ajay Devgn. What’s your character like?
A- It’s a love story between a young girl and an older man, revolving around age difference. Age is not a bar when it comes to love. The story is set in today’s age and how two people in love have different ways of looking at life, and have different insecurities. I’m working with two fantastic actors Tabu and Ajay. It is amazing.

Q- When you did your first film, people anticipated that you will be playing similar roles. But you waited it out and surprised everyone with Aiyaari. Did similar kind of roles kept coming your way after the first Hindi film you did?
A- I finished shooting for Yaariyan, before I started shooting for my first film in Telugu. Yaariyan took a year to release. The Telugu film released three months before it and became a big hit. I got busy with films in Telugu and other regional language and decided to wait it out till something really interesting comes my way. Meanwhile, I was getting films with big stars, Allu Arjun, Ram Charan, Junior NTR. When Neeraj Pandey approached me for Aiyaari, my dates and everything else fell into place, unlike the first time when we were discussing the film. For me, the idea is to work with people whose work I really admire. It’s the permutation combination, either the script should really excite me or a big name should be attached to the project.

Q- Now that you’ve worked with most of the film industries in India, what difference you see in the functioning of Hindi film industry and others?
A- I feel language is the only difference. Films are a form of art and when you’re creating content, there’s nothing else that matters except for the language barrier. We’ve become so connected that there are no major differences in the industries.

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I feel language is the only difference. Films are a form of art and when you’re creating content, there’s nothing else that matters except for the language barrier.

Q- Which city do you call home now?
A- Hyderabad! I’m from Delhi but being an army kid, I grew up all over the country. I feel connect with Hyderabad because it’s the place that paid my bills. It’s the people from the state who made me what I am today. I bought my first house there and started my business. I have a house in Bombay too and I can work anywhere, but Hyderabad is where I want to go back to. That’s home for me.

Q- Have you picked up Telugu?
A- I speak Telugu as fluently as Punjabi now, probably more fluently than Punjabi (laughs). I did 16 films in a span of four years. So, I was literally working every day of my life and learning lines, eventually the language.

Q- You’re a mathematics graduate. Did you have other plans in terms of career?
A- I didn’t have other plans. After 12th, I started modeling at the age of 18. My parents have been extremely supportive. Their only condition was to get a college degree. As a child, I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I was always in awe of the beauty pageants. When I realised that I want to get into modeling, I did not waste any time and went for it. I did my first shoot when I was in the first year of college while pursuing a mathematics honours degree from Jesus & Mary in Delhi. But because of my attendance falling short, I switched to correspondence and finished my degree. I know education is something that you can always fall back on. Luckily, things worked out for me. If they did not, I would have finished my masters degree and then taken up brand management course.

Q- You moved to Bombay but got a Kannada film first, right?
A- Yes. I got a call for a Kannada film. For a teenager, it was overwhelming. I had no idea what or just how big the South Indian film industry was. I said no. I, then, spoke to my dad who told me to give it a try. I basically did the films to sustain myself. It was also my first brush with acting and I loved the process so much that I decided to continue acting. I continued modeling and also entered the Miss India pageant. I signed Yaariyaan at the same time.

Q- What’s your take on nepotism? Do you ever feel like an outsider sometimes?
A- These are just stories about being an insider or outsider. I’m not from a film family but this is what I chose to do. Nobody has forced me. It’s depends on my hard work to create a space for myself. I don’t really consider nepotism a big thing. I agree that things might be easier for people who have people connected with the industry but at the end everyone has to work hard and make a name for themselves. Instead of cribbing, I work hard. At the end, what sustains is talent. We know of so many people whose big launches did not work and also of those talented actors who are successful irrespective of whether they are from the industry or not.

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We know of so many people whose big
launches did not work and also of those talented actors who are successful irrespective of whether they are from the industry or not.

Q- How do you tackle rumours? Does your family get affected?
A- Now I know how to. My parents do Google and check news. I remember two years back when I bought my house in Hyderabad, it was rumoured that it was a gift from an actor. My dad was curious and used to read up on it and called my
manager asking why people were talking wrong things about his child, when he knew it was my hard earned money. They better understand how these rumours work. As long as my family knows what the truth is, I don’t really care or pay attention.

Q- Is this also how you handle Internet trolls?
A- Absolutely. I do nothing. I don’t read it and if I do read it, I just wish them luck that they get a life. Sometimes, if I’m in a mood to have fun, I reply on Twitter saying, “Great, all the best!” I feel for everybody who decides to be a part of the showbiz, we are under camera all the time, so we have to be prepared for it. You cannot expect that you land here and everybody’s just going to appreciate you. The world doesn’t function like that. I feel it’s very important to know what your limitations are, what you expect, what your weaknesses are before you get into the industry, because otherwise people will butcher you. I’m also a little spiritual, so it helps me.

Q- You train really hard, especially for your role in Aiyaari. You also own fitness centres. Have you always been a fitness enthusiast?
A- I was a national level golfer in high school and trained every day. When I started modeling, it converted into working out. I train at the F45 centre, an Australian franchise. When they asked me that they looking at expanding, I went through their business plan and I liked it. This is how I opened my first studio in Gachibowli, Hyderabad followed by one in Vishakhapatnam and another one in Hyderabad. There are three Fs of my life: films, fitness and food.

Q- How does your diet plan look like?
A- I’m careful about what I eat. Over the years, it has become a part of my lifestyle. I feel bad for those who starve to get a certain kind of body. Eating right is what I call my diet. I eat clean. For example, I will opt for salad over butter chicken any day. This does not mean I don’t eat carbs. I eat dal, roti, sabzi at home with brown rice. I eat everything as long as it’s not fried, sweet or packaged.

Q- Do you have a cheat day?
A- Yes. I have more than one cheat day but my cheat meal is healthy too. I avoid putting sugar in my system. So, for my birthday, I got a cake made of fruit sugar and almond flour, no maida. I am glad that people like me now have lot of options, thanks to the health industry taking off. The problem is since I know the cake does not have sugar and almond flour, I would want to eat the whole cake (laughs).

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The problem is since I know the cake does not have sugar and almond flour, I would want to eat the whole cake (laughs).

Q- What is the meaning of true happiness for you?
A- True happiness for me is what I am doing right now. I’m spiritual and value even the smallest things. I feel if people are talking good things about me behind my back, that’s my achievement. My family, friends and my work make for my happy space. If you ask me, how I look at a hit or a flop, I would say I celebrate every film I have acted in, irrespective of it being hit or a flop. There are thousands of people who dream of being in a film even for two minutes. I feel fortunate that I am a part of it. I’m the chosen one, God’s child.

Q- Do you think that you can make real friends…true friends inside film industry?
A- Absolutely! My best friend is an actress, Lakshmi Manchu from Hyderabad. We just celebrated our birthdays together in Sri Lanka. I am not a vengeful person. I am happy with the competition. If a role is not coming to me, it was never meant for me. It’s better to have friends from the industry because they are like-minded, who can discuss work and understand the kind of pressures we go through. The reason my best friend’s from the industry and we still find time to reach each other in spite of the schedule, you know exactly what you’re looking for when you’re in your comfort zone. Having said that, not everybody thinks alike. I consider myself lucky that I have a few friends from the industry. I am also in touch with my friends from school and college.

Q- What qualities do you like in a man?
A- I don’t look at what qualities he has. My first criterion for liking a man is that he should be taller than six feet, so that I can wear my heels (laughs). He should be an honest person, nice even when I am not around. But, it’s destiny to meet someone special. He should be like me, not be arrogant and shouldn’t disrespectful to people, especially the ones who work for him. He has to love food and be a fitness enthusiast. It’s okay even if he doesn’t like films.

Q- What’s the biggest turn- off for you in a man?
A- Boasting is the biggest turn off. Someone who’s trying too hard.

Q- Would you date someone if you’ve met them on a blind date or online?
A- I’ve never met anybody like that, so only if it happens I can tell. I don’t think I am someone who would go online to date because I feel it takes a while to know somebody. I don’t think I can do a blind date.

Q- What does fashion mean to you? Are you big on following trends? What do you think about airport looks?
A- Fashion is comfort for me. A line needs to be drawn after the director says, pack up! There is already immense pressure on looking a certain way for the roles and our work hours are erratic. On top of that, there are airport looks to pull off. It’s too much pressure. If I have shot for 20 hours, taking a 5 am flight and expected to look a certain way, I feel it’s inhuman. A lot of people lose themselves because of constantly trying to be perfect. I feel imperfections are great. I am dressed casually for  travel with my spectacles. I feel that they need to let the actors breathe for their sanctity of mind. I was once photographed in oiled hair in Bandra, but didn’t care. That photograph is not going to change the person I am. I hope they stop papping us at airport.

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That photograph is not going to change the person I am. I hope they stop papping us at airport.

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