MUMBAI— She’s a big star down South, having not got enough attention in her 2014 Hindi debut, “Yaariyan.” Rakul Preet was back in Hindi films with the 2018 “Aiyaary,” which proved a non-starter. It is now “De De Pyar De,” her latest film featuring Ajay Devgn as her hero, which Rakul looks at as her proper take-off point in Hindi cinema. We met the tall and bubbly actress at the Hotel Sun’N’Sand for a chat.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: How do you look back at your journey?
A: I think that now I am much better prepared with Mumbai, and with my craft as well. I was an Army kid, and we had a very limited dose of films. We were not even allowed television beyond certain hours. I auditioned for “Yaariyan,” and that was a nice experience.
Q: Why do so many heroines like you shine first in the South?
A: I think that everyone has their own journey. Whatever happens, happens for a reason, and that is your journey. Today, I enjoy the hustle of promotions, and I am a workaholic. I can work around the clock. In fact, I am overwhelmed that people like me can make it and be loved by so many.
Q: What is the strong point of working down South?
A: In the 1990s, I think actresses there got particularly fabulous roles. Now, Hindi films are becoming very strong on content, with niche movies becoming mainstream. I do not see much difference, or actually any difference, in the two industries today, though Hindi cinema is at its best now. The working style there is a bit better: there we begin work at 9 a.m. and wrap up at 6 p.m., which leaves us free for our personal lives.
Here, we arrive at 9 a.m. but wrap up only by 9 p.m. Over there, since we start work at 9, we arrive at 6 or 7. So both are 12-hour shifts, but there’s works out better for us. Other than that, we have efficient people there as well as here, and some inefficient experiences in both places.
Q: What were the on-screen dynamics with Tabu like?
A: You have seen a bit in the trailer, but there is a lot more. It’s a constant one-upmanship game and dialogue-baazi. As people, both Ajay-sir and Tabu ma’am are amazing, sweet, without any airs. And that is very important for the film, as it is essentially THEIR love story into which I come in. The chemistry and comfort had to be there. With Tabu ma’am, the additional point was that we are both from Hyderabad. And it was also very surreal for me because the first song I actually sang as a tot was “Ruk Ruk Ruk,” in which they both feature in “Vijaypath.”
Q: What is your personal take on age difference in love?
A: I think that when there is love between two people, it is their priority and not anyone else’s business. Love is not for society but about complementing each other. I would rather have two people happy with massive age differences – I have a few friends like that – than a toxic relationship between same-age couples.
Q: Do you have a boyfriend – of any age?
A: Oh, I am struggling to have a crush! There’s no guy, and first I want that to happen! (Smiles) I sometimes think, “Am I intimidating?” But I don’t think I am. Yes, a possible limitation is that I am tall, so my guy should be six feet or taller, as I must “look up” to my man. I guess ninety percent of the men thus fall short!
Q: How are you planning to balance Hindi and South cinema?
A: I can’t plan, what’s destined will happen, and I am very instinctive. Telugu cinema is from Hyderabad, where Rakul came from, and it gave me so much, so my loyalty is there, ditto Hindi cinema. I live one day at a time. If I like a Telugu script, I will do it. If I like a Hindi film script next, I will take that up too. Today, language is no barrier anyways.
Q: I personally loved “Aiyaary” and watched it twice, but it flopped. What is your explanation?
A: I think it was a little too niche, for people who want entertainment, in the way it was presented. I guess as actors, we cannot really be objective, and the results anyway are never in our hands. It is how much you learn from the journey, how much you cherish it, how much it improves you as an actor and as a person, that makes the real difference.
By the way, my father too loved the film and watched it twice. He is an army man and will be obviously biased towards such a subject.
Q: So what did you learn as an actor from working in it?
A: I cannot pinpoint what one person – a film, director, or a co-star – does to your craft. Everything matters – experience, emotions, and the passage of time. It is a subconscious process, and I know that since 2014, I have grown as a person and as an actor. I am a clean slate every day, and that’s what matters, for anything can be written on it.
Q: You are now doing “Marjaawaan.” That makes all your four Hindi films completely diverse.
A: Yes, Milap Zaveri (writer-director) has told me that he has never written such mass masala dialogues for any heroine before!
Q: One point. Since you were barely allowed to watch films or TV, what were your parents’ views when you decided to turn actress?
A: Oh, it was my parents who convinced me! My mom thought I was tall and she figured I should try contesting for Miss India! I said, “What are you saying?” because I was this tomboy who hated make-up or dressing up. But they pushed me and that’s how my modeling started. Today, they are heads-on into my career. Every evening they ask me what I did today. They are aware of my activities – from Google – even before I am.
Q: A lesser-known fact is that you own three gyms.
A: Yes, I have two gyms in Hyderabad and one in Vizag, which I started three years back. They are part of an Australian franchise and are called F45, standing for ‘Function 45.’ I am a psycho for working out an hour every day. I get this adrenaline rush in the gym whether I am happy or sad – I must sweat it out. I have always been a lot into sports from childhood.