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‘I got emotional and began crying’

Ileana’s emotional audition for 'Barfi!'
Barfi! star, Ileana D'cruz talks about breaking down during her audition in the film

Much has been written about Ileana D'cruz's Bollywood debut 'Barfi!' but few know much about the girl who will romance Bollywood's poster boy Ranbir Kapoor in her very first film. If you've seen the trailer, her Bengali bride avatar would've caught your fancy or left you a bit curious at best. Ileana may be plunging into Hindi films now but this Mumbai girl has already achieved celeb status in Telegu films and has even endorsed several big brands in TV commercials. In a candid chat with Yahoo! India, she tells us about her journey into Bollywood and what was her plan B, incase her film career didn't take off.

Firstly, why did you consider moving to Bollywood and how did it happen?
The 'why' is only because a film like 'Barfi!' came along. If it wasn't for a film like it, it wouldn't have been Bollywood. The 'how' is very simple. I had read about the film a long time back but there was no clarity on who was playing the lead role opposite Ranbir (Kapoor). So when I heard that Anurag (Basu) wanted to meet me, I was very curious. We have a very nice conversation where he took out a little handicam to record me talking. Through our 30-45 minute chat, he transported me back to my childhood days and at the end of, I got very emotional and began crying. Feeling a bit embarrassed, I told him that I didn't mean to cry. The only thing he said was, "I've found my Shruti (Ileana's character in 'Barfi!') and you're onboard." Ranbir had seen the video that Anurag had shot and he told me, "When I saw you sitting on that little beanbag, with no makeup and your hair tied up and I just saw you talking and I started crying." I was asked to recollect the most emotional period of my life and I did.

Being a Mumbai girl why didn't you opt for the Hindi film industry earlier instead of beginning your career with Telegu films?
I was living in Bombay for some years and then I shifted to Goa for a few years. I did some commercials at that time, one of which was for 'Fair and Lovely' but I had no plans to do films. That is when I got my first film role in 'Devdas' which was shot in the US and I was very young then so I just jumped at the offer. It was no holiday and was too tiring and we worked in extreme weather conditions. So then I realised that it's my first job and I am doing well at it and it pays well too. My plan B was to get into fashion designing and singing was something that I always loved but this was a more practical option.

What was the brief for your character and how did you translate it in your own way?
I had asked Anurag in detail about my character. What does she look like, since she is based in a different period, how she would react to a situation and so on. The thing with Anurag is that he doesn't give you a very specific brief about the character but he allows you to ask questions from time to time. I had an idea about the character but how the character responds or feels was something  that we had to explore and work on. We discussed this over time. She was a person who is very reserved and guarded but after Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor's character in the film) comes into her life, she lets herself go for the first time. There is a portion of her life where she gets married and how she changes post that also sees a different side of her. At several points during the course of making the film, I was unsure about why Anurag wanted me for the film and I asked him that as well. His response was always that, "I just felt that you were the Shruti that I was looking for."

Did you relate to Shruti in any way? How was she different from you as a person?
I couldn't take anything from my own life and put it into Shruti's character. She is a Bengali girl, based in a different period and has very deep-rooted Indian sensibilities. I am a very straight-forward and blunt person. She is more diplomatic and calculative about everything she says and does. So I had to think and prepare a lot before I went ahead and did a scene. Shruti also made me realize that the love people experienced and shared in that era was so pure and innocent. It's very transparent at the time. Today, life is so complicated.

What was the biggest challenge in essaying your character in the film?
For me, understanding Shruti was the biggest challenge. She is such a protected girl, who has to go through a very difficult situation in her life as the film progresses. Also understanding the era was important as that dictates the sensibilities completely. We didn't do any workshops to understand the character and the mood and the character was crafted just through the conversations Anurag and I had.

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