'People on top are not happy'

In a stop-and-go trip to the city, Neha Dhupia talks about what keeps her going in an industry obsessed with the number game in a MiD DAY exclusive

Engaging in a tete-a-tete with Neha Dhupia is always refreshing. The lady is forthright and fearless. After all, she took the nation by a storm with her risque statement: Only SRK and sex sells.

Today, she has a different take on what sells in the industry. Underground for a while, Neha is back with three releases that hold a lot of promise. 
You have replaced Tabu in the forthcoming film Maximum, in which you're paired opposite Sonu Sood. How does it feel stepping into such a seasoned actress's shoes?
The expectations on my head were too high It wasn't just the director's decision, but also  Tabu's to opt out of the film. Without making it sound controversial, I would say that the director thought I'd fit in better. When you replace someone of the calibre of Tabu, you have to ensure that you can at least match upto her. I hope I have.

What's the film about?
It's loosely based on the true story of an encounter cop played by Sonu. I play a saree- clad homemaker, a character I haven't played before. She's a woman who stands for herself and her family in times of need. 
Your next release is the much delayed Pappu Can't Dance Saala opposite Vinay Pathak in December.
I play a back up dancer called Mehek who's from up north and moves to Bombay with dreams of becoming a part of the film. There's also Raftaar with Emraan Hashmi, a film on the media. It's releasing in February 2012. I play someone who's a part of the media, but in what way and at what level is something I can't disclose now.

Last year your performance in Phas Gaya Re Obama was particularly applauded. But you didn't pick up an award. Have you got your dues in the industry after eight years?
No. My dues are long overdue, but I have no complaints. I will take it slow and steady. I'm passionate about films and don't do a film thinking if it will give me an award. Most of the times, awards have nothing to do with the performance. You can quote me on that.

Will your views on awards change when you receive one?
High time, no? But I am self motivated, self driven. Even if and when I get an award, I won't have an endless list of people to thank. Of course, one would want to win an award, but I'm excited about the work I do. It's not about being in the top five because I know people on top are not happy. A lot of the times you don't get nominated as there are many other deserving people. As long as the audience and the industry are on my side, I'm happy. For me, a bigger award is that after almost 10 months of Phas Gaya Re... releasing, a journalist is bringing this up. My level of happiness doesn't depend on  how much I get paid for a film. But it's also true that I'm not satisfied, and that's the only thing that's driving me to do better.

What are your criteria for taking up a film.
The script, a director to execute the script in the manner that it's written and a producer to ensure that it reaches the right audience as every film has an audience. If at the script level itself, it falls flat, then it's not happening. I read at least four scripts a week and turn most of them down. Sometimes the message you send out in the industry gets you only certain kinds of films.

And the message you seem to send out is that you prefer niche films.
There are days when I don't want to use my brains, wear a chiffon saree and dance around trees. That's also a lot of hard work. I want to do that too. It's not as if I only want to do niche films. Today something as entertaining as a Bodyguard also sells. I'd love to do an action film and a rom com.

And Kannada films?
I keep getting offers, but it has to be worth my time. Sometimes working out dates at a stretch gets a little hard.

Enough of work. So, tell us,  are you dating a Venezuelan guy called Jimmy whom you met on a trip abroad?
My stand on my personal life is still the same: no comments. I'm still a party pooper as far as that goes. Even before I learnt to say 'I Love You' in the industry, I learnt to say, 'No comments.'

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