Ileana D’Cruz: On the comeback trail
In a candid chat, the actor talks about her return story, relationship status and career choices
Ileana D’Cruz makes a re-entry after six years in Telugu cinema as the female lead in Amar Akbar Anthony (AAA). “It is a really good film to make a comeback with. It has all the essentials of the commercial genre combined with a wonderful story. This is the first time that I’ve played a complex role with many layers to it. My role has a different vibe to it. Also, it’s my fourth film with Ravi (Teja), who has always been one of my favourite co-stars,” says Ileana, who has dubbed in her own voice for the film.
While she has been doing some interesting work in Hindi cinema, the actor asserts that it wasn’t a conscious decision to move away from Telugu cinema. “I got my first Hindi film, Barfi!, when I was doing Julayi. It had a great story and I thought it’s a good film to be a part of. I spoke to Trivikram (Srinivas) about exploring that opportunity as I hold him in high esteem for his sensibilities as a director. He echoed my views about Barfi! without even knowing how big my role was in it. After that, I ended up being part of several Hindi films, and somehow I missed out several offers in Telugu cinema,” says Ileana, who is optimistic about her second innings.
Unlike her earlier films, she tells us she wanted to do something that is worth remembering for a long time. “I was 20 when I did Devadas. Now I’m 32, and there’s a remarkable change in my thought process and personality. I have been making some sensible choices. At some stage, you start respecting your work. I didn’t know that Pokiri would be a game changer in my career, and am glad Mahesh Babu’s sister, Manjula (Ghattamaneni), convinced me to be a part of it. I like the fact that I made some mistakes and learnt from my failures. Over the years, I have been passionate about my work and wanted to do meaningful cinema.”
The actor was extremely shocked to learn that a section of media disrespectfully wrote about her leaving Telugu cinema for Bollywood. “People have misconceptions about my career in Tollywood. I was taken aback when people started endless speculations and baseless rumours that I’ve quit Telugu cinema and shifted my base to Bollywood. After starting off here and working for over six years, why would I do that? The reason is, I wasn’t offered any good work and I was asked to do special numbers, which I didn’t find it exciting. After a while, I got used to these gossips. I believe in kismat and felt everything happens for the best,” says Ileana, who wants to strike balance between commercial and content-driven films.
Our conversation veers from films to her personal life. The 32-old star has been playing the guessing game on the status of her relationship with Australian photographer, Andrew Kneebone, by sharing some suspenseful hash-tags and adorable pictures on social media. However, she denies getting married to Kneebone and says, “I’m really happy with my relationship status. I’m neither pregnant nor married, just evolved as a person. After coping with depression, I feel mentally strong again. I have evolved as an actor and the respect for my work has grown enormously. My working relationship with people has also changed for good. I have said a lot of things on my Instagram page. Jitna mujhe bolna hain…utna boldetihun, uske aage main kuch nahin bolungi. I can tell you I’m really happy and I'd like to keep it that way (smiles).”
Recently, the #MeToo movement in the industry has gathered momentum. Backing the movement, Ileana says, “It’s scary to think about coming out and sharing your painful experiences. But, it's time to break the silence. Even small things will make a difference. And not just in the film industry, it’s rampant everywhere. I hope people will find a way to sort it out. The Producers Council in Mumbai wanted to form a committee to address these issues.”
Any personal experiences? “Let’s not go there. When I want to talk about it, I will. It's a tricky position and it’s a weird line to decide what is considered harassment. If you are a victim, you can talk to people and get their advice. Thankfully, I’m lucky in that matter. I feel it’s really unfortunate that those who face harassment and intimidation are targeted, become mentally weak and such experiences make things horrible for them. There should be mutual respect between all people.”
The Khatarnak actor wants to keep a distinct line between her personal and professional space. “I hate being called a celebrity and I don’t consider myself a superstar. I’m an actor and I don’t look at anything beyond that. I’m a normal person and I go out, buy things, pay my bills, etc. When I started out, I didn’t realise that this was something I am meant for. Now, I realise that not many people get such opportunities and it feels good to be here,” says Ileana.