In recent times, Parineeti Chopra played three diametrically different parts and received praise for the films — Saina, The Girl On The Train (TGOTT) and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar — which released in quick succession. Had the second wave of the pandemic not raised its head, perhaps the actress would have started prepping for her next set of films. In a candid chat, Parineeti talks to BT about the lessons her past experiences as an actor have taught her and how at this point in her life she is not ready to take on anything that’s half-baked. Read on:

You recently said that you have changed the way you approach your characters now. Is this an organic shift, or have you consciously worked towards it?
When I signed Saina, I thought I had to do just two things — play badminton and act. There were two clear sections, both of which I thought I could pull off. I knew basic badminton, and I’ve been an actress for a few years. But my approach towards my work changed while I was working on the remake of TGOTT. People think that I am this happy and exuberant girl all the time. I have to burst that bubble and say that I am not that girl, and the person that I played in some of my previous films was not me. I want the audience to know that I am no longer going to play that girl on the screen or even off it. My films this year brought me back to my roots and the person that I was.

As a part of the effort in bursting the bubble, did you have to dig deep into yourself and change your process as an actor, too?
For me, it has become imperative that people don’t see Parineeti in the character that I play; they should just see that character on the screen. From trying to act like a character, I have started working on becoming the character. Even in the past, I could never put up with the superficiality of things. Yes, I would do things even though I would not feel a connection with them. However, today, even for the smallest thing, I want to be fully present in the moment. I love it that I have found myself as an actor and it’s a huge success for me. I don’t have to pretend to be someone else, and neither do I have to work according to other people’s opinions.

It has taken you about a decade and a dozen films to get into this space. What triggered this change?
It just so happened that when I was shooting for TGOTT, I stayed put in London for two months and focused only on that film. After that, I shot Saina for two months in a similar fashion. That was something I had never done before. I had to focus on nothing else, but the role at hand. And that is how I love to do things, which I realised while I was in London. There was a time when I would just shoot and go home. I no longer feel or work that way. That change came about wonderfully on that set. The hangover spilled over on the set of Saina, and it worked wonderfully. It’s the team of TGOTT that gave me the courage to be myself at the right time.

Could you elaborate on it?
Until then, there were so many professional decisions that were half-baked. I knew I didn’t like what was being offered, and yet I took it up, and on so many occasions, I went home dissatisfied with my own work. Today, I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ very clearly on the basis of my own filters. What happens to a film eventually is its fate, but now when I go home, I am more satisfied as a professional. Today, if someone tells me I didn’t do something correctly, I will be interested to know what happened because I did it believing in it, which was not the case earlier. I was listening to so many people, and despite being dissatisfied, I would go back and do the same thing repeatedly, but not anymore.

Do you feel that in recent times, people have doubted why you were being cast in roles that you were not an obvious choice for?
A lot of people will always be doubtful before they see anything that you’ve done. It’s our job to prove that we can do it. Also, I am at a stage where I want to surprise people. Saina, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, and TGOTT are films that I wanted to be a part of. If anyone had doubts, I hope I have proved them wrong. I don’t want to just act well, I want to surprise people with what I can do. Let it be unexpected. There is a thumb rule for me — if I am the obvious choice for a film, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to be dissatisfied with my work ever again.

Have there been occasions where while you were shooting a film, you realised that it wasn’t shaping up the way you’d hoped it would?
People may assume otherwise, but as actors, we realise within a couple of days of shooting where the film is headed. In the initial years of my career, I used to get a feeling ki hum kya film bana rahe hain, wah! I was one among four girls in my first film and it was an unconventional start of sorts for me. I made off-the-mark choices even with a few of the subsequent films. And I was always thrilled that we are doing something phenomenal. Then, I got that same feeling again while shooting Kesari and Golmaal Again. I can feel the difference because I have been in a zone where I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing.

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