Are you and RJ Anmol satisfied with the kind of response and reactions your book Couple Of Things has received?
I think the book has matched the expectation because whoever has read the book, has confessed that they cannot put the book down. It’s that intriguing. On e-commerce sites, we have already reached bestseller status. We are in the top bestsellers, which is very gratifying. And of course, you can see the feedback of the readers. It’s been a very, very satisfying feeling.
When you were writing this book with Anmol, did either of you feel you should hold something back, possibly for another book? Or did you decide to go all out and chronicle everything in one go?
That was never the intention. The intention was that we are writing our love story. The essence is the love story. But then we have to also be true to ourselves. We have to talk about every intimate aspect. And because our careers hold such an important place in our lives, it was because of our careers that we met each other, that our paths crossed. It was very important to mention how it all started and chronicle our complete journeys.
With ‘Couple Of Things’ you have focussed on your relationship, your journey and your love story. Since you are an actress and Anmol is a radio jockey, should you have saved the career journey as another book?
When we were writing the chapter, there was so much to chronicle that even the publisher suggested that the exhaustive experience of Anmol’s and my professions could be separate books. Anmol and I were writing the stories between the lines and that actually needed visualization. We feel that one book is not enough, obviously. But then, like I said, it was a complete recipe that had to be put together.
The story of your encounter with a Tarot Card reader in Australia became quite popular. Why do you think the audiences reacted to that story?
I feel when you tell a true story, it’s something that’s experienced by others as well. Reality always has more of an impact on viewers or readers. Practices like tarot and other mystical things have a lot of interest in any case. So I won’t be surprised if that chapter from our book caught a lot of eyeballs.
When the Tarot Reader told you about the actress whose name starts with the letter K, how did you react to the revelation? How did you feel about something as intense as someone harbouring negativity towards you?
Well, the tarot reader just mentioned that ‘a person with the alphabet K is very negative towards you’. Those were her words. She didn’t say an actor or an actress, or some relative. She was very pessimistic about it. When someone reads the entire book, they can put two and two together. But I don’t want to be very vocal about it because I don’t have any guarantee either. I’ve not caught any one red-handed.
When you experience such episodes in real life, how does that make you feel? Is it intimidating, it is frustrating? How will you describe the emotions?
At that time of course it was very frustrating. Especially for a teenager to read her or his name being written wrong can be difficult to accept. I was mentioned as Amrita Arora in articles a lot of times. It happened around 2003 and 2004, which were the years when I was making my name for myself. It can be very frustrating for a new actor when everyone is rooting for you. People tell you that you will get this award and you don’t get it. People say, your films are a super hit. They tell you that your film celebrated a Silver Jubilee at the box office, you’re called the lucky mascot of the industry, but you don’t get the magazine covers. You’re not on the cover of some of the top magazines. That’s when you end up questioning, ‘why is this happening with me?’ One is not always in a position to do any calculation at that age and time. Then you’re just stuck in that sulk mode.
Do you feel any regrets?
No. I have never felt like a victim. I have never felt that I was wronged and things should have been better for me. I’ve had a successful career, I’ve worked and collaborated with some wonderful people and extraordinary talents. I have succeeded in my career as an actor and I have done it with hard work and honesty. Looking back, I feel grateful and lucky to have had this career.
Now that you’ve looked back, you’ve lived past it and processed what happened, what would you say to a newcomer? How should they deal with such a situation if it happens to them?
I think my only advice to a new actor would be that don’t let any negativity, maybe bog down your spirits. If you curb hope and you end up going into a cage kind of a thing. You probably run away from the situation or you lose hope or you don’t try. Don’t let anything dampen your spirits and curb your spirits. Just keep believing that good things will happen to you. During the beginning of my career, there was no social media validation, which adds more to the drama. Nowadays, newcomers have the benefit of social media validation. It’s not only their box office hit, but it’s also about the number of people who follow you. Now you have your army. We had fans and followers, too but now your army has a voice and a platform to show your strength to the world.
There was a time during the mid-2000s when social media was also blooming, internet experts used to say Amrita Rao and Shahid Kapoor were the most followed stars online. Did you ever get to experience that fandom?
I never felt that. I felt that when I was with the audiences, whenever I did a live appearance or when I interacted with them personally, I could see the craze and the adulation. But I was never made to feel that when I was in the industry.
Why do you think that happened?
I don’t know. I was never given that feeling that I’m at the top, which I’m sure I was, but I never got to feel it. Today, I guess it’s great for everyone because you get to meet everyone and people come to meet me because they know me, they identify with me. You can’t hide one’s popularity because of social media.
Another story that was spoken about from your book was about the time when you missed out on working with Salman Khan on Wanted. Did you talk to Salman about it later on?
No, this incident didn’t come up in my conversations with Salman. I got to know about it via another acquaintance in the film industry. But, Salman had approached me for another movie after that. But it didn’t work out.
Going back to Shahid Kapoor, your film Vivah is an iconic film and over the years it’s garnered a cult following. What memories do you have of making that film with Sooraj Barjatya and Shahid?
I think one of the best experiences ever of being on a film set happens when you work with Rajshri Productions. It’s like there is the film industry and then there is Rajshri Productions. They are very different in the way they work and the way they treat their actors. It feels like they’re part of your family. Words are not enough to express what it feels like to be a Rajshri heroine and be on the set of a Rajshri film. They have that old world charm that I get attracted to. They have values, ethics and the way they treat you makes all the difference. The way Sooraj ji explains the scene, there’s so much value in it. To give you an example, every year Sooraj ji goes to Mathura and Vrindavan. Every year without fail, he sends me a message saying, ‘you know, I’m in Vrindavan and Mathura and I’m just remembering Poonam (Amrita’s character from Vivah) because Poonam was from Mathura. That is how much he lives his characters. They become a part of him. When you are working with them it’s not like a movie is over, money is made, now move on. It’s never like that. There’s so much emotional connection with what they do. It is unbelievable.
Would you say it’s their warmth and genuineness that makes the difference?
I think it’s about respect. I think they have a lot of respect for everybody. In fact, Sooraj ji is someone who will explain the scene with the same sincerity and enthusiasm to every actor on set. It does not matter if you’re playing the nurse, the guy standing in the corner or the munshi ji, every character, supporting character, supporting actor is treated at the same level as the lead stars. There’s no specific treatment for some while others are treated differently. Even the staff and crew working on the film feel close and personal with the Rajshri team.
What’s keeping you busy right now?
A lot of my focus is on our YouTube channel Couple Of Things, because I think the times that we live in are so amazing that you don’t really need another person to give you a platform to connect with the audience. Making the most of that, we have our own channels today and it started off on a very fun note. We decided to reveal our love story to the audiences. This mindset changed during the pandemic because prior to that, for 10 years, Anmol and I did not talk about our relationship. We both strongly believed in having our own self-made journeys and crossing our professional paths together. But it so happened that during the pandemic, we felt that it was a good time to talk about our love story. We started the concept of recreating ourselves and recreating those scenes and at the very same locations where they happened before in our life. We got an outstanding response from the people for it. The comments kind of inspired us to keep going on this journey of promoting love and relationships. Because as we observed through the comments on our videos, a lot of people are either losing hope in love or finding love. So we thought, why not do something where we can create content and have modern generations realize what relationships are all about.
Do you feel it was the focus on creating content for your audience that led to the success of your YouTube channel?
I think when the intention is right, you’re sure that the journey will be successful. That’s the only intention right now that we’re doing something to bring a smile and bring hope to our viewers.
Are you also focussing on films and acting opportunities?
Not really. I think I will consider good movie offers, but I’m not as excited. Having said that, if I get a good OTT offer, I will be excited about a good story. Ideally it should be a woman-centric movie or OTT project. Because I realised while doing TV, which was a stint that happened just a year before the OTT gates opened in India, how much more you can dive deep into the character when you’re doing half an hour content daily versus a two hour movie. A good series will definitely get me excited.