I’m your everyday woman!
The JW Marriott…Room 385…. They’re dressing up a Diva. That’s why it looks like a hurricane just blew over. There are dresses – mountain heaps of them – lying around on the beds. And shoes – to beat the Imelda Marcos collection and hairpieces and other bling-bling stuff. So, there’s standing room only.
Down by the dresser, the make-up lady is giving the Diva a ‘face’. Everyone’s holding their breath as she carefully picks out brushes and paints in mysterious dark shadows and sensuous highlights onto a near perfect face.
Down below, the azure blue ocean sings a gentle serenade.
Suddenly, the reverie is broken as the ‘Diva’ picks up a tweezer and begins plucking fiercely at hair on her upper lip, exclaiming, “Oh God, look at the big muchhees I’ve got! You can see them a mile away! Such big, big muchhees! (‘moustache’ for those not in the loop).
It startles her make-up woman who protests feebly, “Baby, you’re going to make your upper lip sore with all that plucking!” Her handiwork disturbed, she begins afresh, stroke by gentle stroke….
Meet Bipasha Basu, the down to earth Diva! Actually she has a problem with the word ‘Diva’.
She thinks of Divas as rather aloof and eccentric beings, locked away in their ivory towers, hurling abuse and stones at anyone who dares to cross their ‘moat’.
“Me, I’m so down to earth and normal,” she laughs.
I quirk a brow and cast a glance around the room at the ‘intensely material world’ laid out before us, with five people on standby duty for her shoes, hair, etcetera.
She catches on; smiles, “Yeah, sometimes, I’m made to look like a Diva. But that’s really a very thin veneer. Beneath it all, I’m your everyday woman.”
She is. All silk and steel. Self-made. For someone who left home at 16 after just seven days of college, she’s honestly come a very long way.
That’s why she has great respect for women who’ve made it on their own. Her favourite these days is Rakhi Sawant on Bigg Boss. “She’s such an original,’’ laughs Basu. She loves her spunk – like that nagin dance she did – strictly for a cow and the filmi, coy glances she casts at Amit! “Beneath that crusty exterior there’s such vulnerability – I just love it that the code word for her is Bips!’’ Basu declares happily.
The other guy she just adores is Ravi Kishen, the Bihari dude on the show. She enjoys how he holds forth on the entire world with his razor sharp critique. “What was that dance number that he did?’’ she laughs. “Sajna hamar ghagra remote se uthab” — what unique imagery. Was there ever such a song, or did he make it up on the spot?” she asks incredulously.
Such Bhojpuri idioms may have escaped her a few months ago. But Basu has just had a taste of life in the mofussil towns of UP and Bihar as Billo Chaman Bahar in Omkara and as a small-town medical student in Apaharan and she’s still savouring the after-taste.
“When Vishal (Bharadwaj) approached me with the role of Billo and mentioned the name of the character I was to play, I laughed. “I’ll sound like ‘Pan masala’, I’d ribbed him initially.”
Eventually not only did she perform the raw sultry Beedi jalaile and Namak issak ka numbers, she even learnt to abuse fluently in Purabia – that too in sync sound!
It was a strange new alternate world for her. But once she understood its idiosyncrasies, she made it her own.
Like she says, “Art film directors look like such intense scary types but they are so real! I love Vishal. His extreme humility despite his genius is unique. And, Prakash Jha – he’s such a charmer. You wouldn’t guess that, looking at him!’’
Yes… Corporate, Omkara and Apaharan are all significant films in her career where she’s extended herself beyond the familiar. What was the response like?
“All positive, not one negative remark,” she says enthusiastically. “I do feel no matter how small your role – if it’s significant, then it’s one small step on the road ahead. I’m grateful that these film-makers thought of me for their films – coming as I did with all that baggage. At least now, it’s out there that I can act.
“Corporate was a really significant film for me. It came at the right time. And with it I was able to reach out to a completely new audience.” She considers it a huge compliment – that the film has been included in the Indian Panorama section for the Film Festival being held in Goa.
So having tasted blood, does she intend migrating towards serious cinema like other actresses?
“Never! I love my glamorous roles. Our films are essentially all about naach gaana. And I’m intelligent enough to realise that at least 50 per cent of my success in films is because of my looks. Besides, even in Omkara, my dance numbers have become huge hits. For the first time in all these years, I’m beginning to enjoy my filmi dancing. It was with the title number from the film No Entry – Ishque di galli vich no entry – that I was finally able to overcome the mental block I had about dancing. And it showed on screen.”
From the rustic Omkara to the uber chic Dhoom:2 – was it a schizophrenic leap for her? What’s she doing in the film? “I play a cop in search of an elusive thief. But she’s not your ordinary dry cop in khakis, she has a feminine side.”
Normally, sequels are a huge letdown. What about Dhoom:2?
“I think that it’s even better than the first. It has far more intense characters and really great action. You know, of the fast and furious kind. Of course, it’s not the kind of film you take home with you. But while you are there, you will be completely engrossed with what is happening on screen. More than anything, I think Dhoom:2 will inspire people to work out! (Laughs.) There’s such a congregation of hot bods in the film.”
Are we going to miss John Abraham? He was such a big part of the first film and now you’re in Dhoom:2 and he isn’t.
She laughs. “You know, even I was offered Dhoom. But I thought that the girls had nothing to do, so I asked for one of the guys’ roles. I said, give me Ali, Jai, Kabir. But they wouldn’t!’’
Talking about Abraham, his character in Dhoom has endured even to this day. I ask her if she’s read a report in the day’s newspaper. A band of bikers inspired by Abraham, would dress like him and race up and down Carter Road, robbing people of their mobiles and things.
Basu is not surprised. “They probably think he’s a robber in real life and the ‘actor’ bit is just a front! Some fans are so truly gullible that they cannot distinguish between our real and screen characters. You should see the things they say on John’s Internet site. Like after that Clinic ad, they think that John and I actually live on a boat! They want to know where it’s anchored – so they can come visit us! And, after Aitbaar, they believe that John really beats me up!”
Despite the hail of stories about their split – Basu and Abraham are still the golden couple…her conversation is peppered with stuff about him. And he’s never far from her thoughts.
For the rest, she believes in travelling light. “Every few years, I press the erase button on my past, so I can go forward unencumbered,” she says.
On that happy note, we break conversation and she goes in for a quick change…
And returns in a stunning cream number.
She may have a quarrel with the word, but dressed like that?
She’s all Diva. All dark chocolate. The kind, doctors say, is good for the heart.