Mumbai: Aditi Rao Hydari is not new to Bollywood. Cinema lovers may remember her as the meek, sari-clad aunt from Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's 'Delhi-6'.
But three years after the 2009 film, she has broken the myth that character actors cannot play leads, by landing herself a starring role in 'London, Paris, New York' opposite Ali Zafar.
Hydari, who grew up in New Delhi, spoke to Reuters about what it takes to make the transition from a supporting actor to a Bollywood heroine.
Q: You started off with 'Delhi 6' and 'Yeh Saali Zindagi'…
A: "I know what your question is going to be. That you started off with ‘Delhi 6' and ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi', so why did you start off with supporting roles?"
Q: Actually no. I wanted to ask you what it takes to make the transition from a supporting actor to a solo female lead in Bollywood?
A: "(Laughs) Destiny, faith. What else?"
Q: Is that all? There must be something more to it right?
A: "35 million people can tell me you have the talent, why are we not seeing you in a lead role. Even in ‘Delhi 6' where they made me look really sad and frumpy -- everybody said we want to see more of you, please do more lead roles.
"But I can do nothing. I have no contacts here, I don't know anybody and I am not the kind of person who picks up the phone and says ‘sir, can I meet you'. Also, why should they trust me with a role? On what basis?
"It's destiny that someone takes a leap of faith in you. You can sit in a chair and say she's talented but not actually do anything about it. So it takes a leap of faith for a producer to say ‘we'll take her.'"
Q: So the ball isn't actually in your court?
A: "See, a film is an actor and producer's baby. So we take your vision and put ourselves into it and give it flesh, but we don't take a call on who should be in a film. My work as an actor is to believe and to work with an honest intention. I know that I cannot network or do certain things that will make me compromise my principles -- and there are many things, I am not just talking about the casting couch."
Q: Isn't it also about choices? Did you get a lot of supporting actor roles after 'Delhi 6'?
A: "Actually no. I think people figured that I was too young to do those kind of roles. Also, I moved to Mumbai immediately afterwards and got a couple of ads, so that changed perceptions I think. It didn't take too much time. I saw the script of ‘London, Paris, New York' and within two pages of reading it, I wanted to do it. I loved it."
Q: What next after 'London, Paris, New York'?
A: "I wish I could talk about it and I know it sounds very clichéd to say ‘I am in talks' but it is true. You know I would read interviews of actors who would say ‘I am in talks' or ‘it's in the pipeline' or ‘I am reading scripts' and think to myself, why do they even say such things? But now I know.
"Someone is making a film and they have a plan for it, they have certain things that need to be put in place and me blabbing about it may not help. So as much as I would like to talk about it, I cannot."