After her not-so-successful debut in the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Rockstar, Nargis Fakhri has spent more time on magazine covers and in gossip rags than shooting films. The US-born actress signed Madras Cafe almost a year after the release of Rockstar. “I wasn’t living in Mumbai and after Rockstar, I had to decide if I wanted to shift my base to India. I finally moved only in 2012. I was inundated with scripts but none of them made me jump and want to be a part of the film. I don’t want to do six films a year. I wanted to do films that I would feel connected to and want to watch as an audience,” explains the 33-year-old.
When director Shoojit Sircar offered the role of Jaya, a journalist in war-torn Sri Lanka in Madras Cafe, it didn’t take Nargis long to sign on the dotted line. “ The story hooked me right from the start and the vision that they had for this film was something I really wanted to be a part of. On all accounts, Madras Cafe was a win-win film for me and something that I would be stupid to let go off. As my second film, I couldn’t have picked any better.” It helped that Nargis was really keen to work with Sircar after watching his 2012 hit Vicky Donor. “I absolutely love Vicky Donor! It’s amazing how different Madras Cafe and Vicky Donor are and yet they are both so easy to relate to.”
What intrigued Nargis about playing Jaya was understanding the character’s “passion, her burning need to do something for the people she doesn’t even know”. “I am not someone who would probably risk her life for anyone else, but Jaya does it each and every day. If you watch BBC or CNN, you will see these journalists reporting from field even when they are in the line of fire and could have bombs exploding around them. They are so committed to their jobs and nothing else really matters. That’s what I wanted to bring into my portrayal of Jaya. I am the kind of person who, if exposed to something like this, would be screaming my lungs out,” she says with a laugh.
Nargis did intensive research before playing Jaya. “I watched documentaries and had long discussions with Shoojit to understand what it takes to be a war correspondent. We also had a lot of workshops. Researching this particular line of work was very interesting and I actually see these journalists in a whole new light now.”
Having worked with John Abraham in the film, Nargis has come away a fan. “More than a good actor or producer, John is lovely person. He is extremely patient and committed to whatever he is doing. There were times I would need extra takes and he would try and help as much as he could. I feel really lucky to have worked with such nice people in my second film.”
Critics were not very kind to Nagris after her debut film. ‘Stiff’ and ‘zero screen presence’ is how many described her histrionics. “Everyone has been quite generous with their criticism. Don’t get me wrong, I value criticism as much as I value praise. Both tell me if I am headed in the right direction. While I do take most criticism as constructive, there have been some rather unnecessarily nasty ones as well.”
During her brief time in Bollywood, Nargis has been linked with every available bachelor in Mumbai. From her first co-star Ranbir to Shahid Kapoor and the latest on the block, Uday Chopra. If insiders are to be believed, the Yash Raj scion is very serious about Nargis. But the actress just laughs off the link-ups. “Uday and I keep bantering on Twitter. He’s a fun guy. I value my friendships; if people want to interpret them differently, there’s nothing I can do. I make friends easily and that can probably be misconstrued sometimes by some people. Ranbir was a lovely co-star, my first hero in my first film and he will always be a dear friend. Shahid I know very briefly, but then again he’s a great person to be around with.”
Dealing with criticism and link-ups is the downside of being celebrity and Nargis maintains that she is still learning the ways of Bollywood. “Well, every day I am adjusting and learning,” she says with a laugh, adding, “I have found my footing here, but there’s a long way to go. I am growing every day.”