You were the biggest female star of Bollywood in the ’80s and ’90s. Why then did you choose small-budget ensemble films, Dedh Ishqiya and Gulaab Gang, as comeback vehicles?
When I was acting during that period, the nature of films was such that they were mostly formulaic masala entertainers. The characters would be in black-and-white with little resemblance to real life. I didn’t have much choice in terms of characters but I tried to choose roles as different and as strong. I remember being advised against doing Parinda and Mrityudand, being told these were too arty and wouldn’t go in favour of my image.
How often did such roles come by in those days?
Not very often. Mostly I was expected to look like a pretty doll. However, movies such as Tezaab and Beta were the content-driven commercial films of that time. I am glad that the industry has changed since then. Films such as Dedh Ishqiya and Gulaab Gang have given me the opportunity to make up for lost time. I like that the characters written for women don’t offer an apology if she is bold or ambitious — there is no sick mother or brother at home which explains the heroine’s independent streak in a man’s world.
Is that what made you want to come back?
It’s only part of the reason. With my parents spending a large part of the year with us in Denver, I felt I was uprooting them. Also, had I waited any longer, my children would have been too old to adjust to a new place. I did expect my older son, Arin, to feel displaced for the first few months but he likes the informality of India. He likes the fact that friends can meet anytime as opposed to fixing playdates beforehand. What they miss is the space and the outdoors. In Denver, they would go skiing; here they have to make do with tennis and squash.