She symbolizes the phrase ‘Beauty with Brains’ to the tee. A beauty pageant winner, a leggy supermodel, showstopper for prolific designers and a cover girl for the most reputed magazines in the world, Esha Gupta was already a star when she decided to make the plunge in Bollywood. Chirpy, bubbly and extremely straight forward: that’s the best way to describe her temperament. Her Unabashed realities and controversial statements might have just plugged in the right chord for some juicy tabloid headlines, but with the success of Raaz 3 and her upcoming Chakravyuh, she just wants to prove her points.
Talking to us during her promotional spree for Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh, she opened up to decode her character Rhea and went on to talk about the nationalistic views and sentiments that are upheld by Jha’s political thriller.
Initially you were quite apprehensive about donning the role of a cop and you had almost said a No to the film. What made you give the final nod thereafter?
You know what, I was never apprehensive about the role. People made me apprehensive. There were a lot of mixed opinions about whether I should or should not do this film. But I always go with my gut feeling. I will be really honest. When Pakashji’s Raajneeti had come out, I was in Bombay and a couple of my friends arranged tickets for the premiere. I was one of them and I had just moved to Bombay at that time. Then, I went along with my friends to watch the film and the moment I walked out of the theatre after watching the whole film, I questioned myself, “Will Prakash Jha ever work with me?” So when I got a call from him during Raaz 3 and he asked me to meet up after a couple of days and offered me the film, my gut told me to sign the film. After he finalized me and I said a yes, there were many people who were telling me I shouldn’t have given the nod. I wanted to do the film because it is once in a lifetime role where I get to play an IPS officer; the role is quite a mature one. Plus, whichever actress has done a film with him were already established with a kit of at least ten films already done. People might have wanted me to do more glam roles, but I felt if this has come my way at this stage of my career, it was meant for me only1
You did two commercially viable films like ‘Jannat 2’ and ‘Raaz 3’ before you jumped on to do a slightly off beat unconventional ‘Chakravyuh’ which is not at all a typical masala Bollywood flick. Why did you go for a change so early in your career, especially when both your films had been box office successes?
Then again, everyone was skeptical about Raaz 3 as well. But Raaz, being a horror film, that too in 3D, a lightly adult film was commercially viable. It was not because of anything else, but because the janta liked it. The audience really liked the film. And with this film also, I want the audience to see what Chakravyuh is all about; the problem that gnaws the entire nation should come to the fore. We are not aiming at 100 crores with this film, we would all want that to happen but that’s not a necessity. I personally want the audience to check the film out and like the film, more than this being a commercial success. People had claimed Raaz would sink, but the fact remains that the audience wants to see something new every time. That’s what happened with ‘Raaz’ and I am really hoping the same happens with Chakravyuh too!
Playing a cop for the first time must have been very challenging and taxing at the same time. What preparations did you take to perfect your characterization of Rhea?
With a director like Prakash Jha by your side, you don’t need anything else. The best thing I could do, like everyone else, was to sit with an open mind, open heart and open ears when you are sitting with him. While he describes something, he keeps on influencing all of us and we get to observe and absorb every little thing that he does. He tells us every single thing; all you need to do is make it your own. If he tells me, pick up a glass like this, I would look at him and then think myself, ‘How would Rhea pick this glass up?’ Prakash sir had embedded Rhea’s character so deeply in my heart that I would do anything and think how Rhea would do it.
As an actor, what are you expecting from a socially motivating film like ‘Chakravyuh’?
Well, I expect people to like the film and I want the film to do really well. Chakravyuh is basically a film about these three men, Arjun, Abhay and Manoj. My role is enough to contribute to the film but it does not rotate around my character. It is not just about my or Arjun’s character but it’s about how all of us are in a Chakravyuh and every character is equally important. I have already got my fresh air of relief from Raaz where a lot of people have been appreciating my performance. I have a got a lot of calls and that make me really happy, having done so much for myself.
Not just that, you have performed some dare devil stunts in the film, even though you have severe vertigo issues concerning your health. What lend in the confidence in you to perform them with so much of gusto?
Obviously I have realized one thing. If I am scared of height and don’t want to do stunts even though it is important for the film’s narrative, then I should sit back at home and not be an actress. Once you are in this business, you are nothing but the director’s property. Things like these are something mental, it is not physical. You swim, drive, and do stunts even if you don’t know how to do them. It’s a mental dilemma; if I wouldn’t have done it, they would have taken a body double and I did not want that to happen.
You might just be two films old but then you have been Media’s favourite child when it came to controversies. The nude scene in ‘Raaz 3’ being one of its kind, how did you react to all of it?
I just think that controversies are something that is very easily created. Someone says something in a very different manner, in a very different tone and it is always perceived differently and that’s how misconceptions happen. All you need to do is be strong, to know what you have done and hear it out. Even when people claimed I was upset at Bipasha Basu being the centre of coverage for ‘Raaz’, I directly called up Mukesh sir and asked about. It was actually said in a different manner and the way it came out was absolutely different from what it was meant to. I feel its better to talk it pout rather than keeping it in your mind and limping over it.
What are your upcoming projects?
There is nothing on the film front but there are a lot of endorsements happening. There is also a TV show I am in talks about but there is not a film that we can talk about.