You have now turned designer. How does it feel to begin a brand new career at this phase of life?
It’s another world altogether. It’s a far cry from being in front of a camera or holding a microphone, but I’m so excited. This wasn’t even a pipedream six months ago, and now I’m set to open my own store. It is all going at a million miles per hour.
Where from did this whole idea to design saris come about?
Quite simply put — my husband. One day, I walked in to a fabric store and bought a few fabrics. I took them to a tailor and told him what to do, having no idea how they would turn out. When I got them back, I didn’t think they were anything to write home about, but when I showed them to Raj (husband), he told me that we have something here. He pushed me to create more saris. As time went past, I really started to enjoy playing with the different fabrics, designs and colours and that’s how it all began.
Can you tell us more about the collection?
The collection is based on a very simple notion — every sari I design is something I would wear myself. It reflects my likes and my sensibilities. As far as fabrics are concerned, I use a mixture of net, satin, georgette, silk and chiffon — basically fabrics that drape well. I love to fuse and use fabrics and colours that are contrasting.
Between work and home, how did you manage to take time off to design the collection?
I have no idea. I have never been busier — my son, my work on screen, and my other work commitments are enough to fill up all 24 hours of my day, but somehow I manage to carve out the time to do this. I guess I make it work because I enjoy it so much.
Coming from you, we know that the sari would have been your obvious choice, but do you think that this piece of garment gave you the chance to bring out your creativity completely or did it restrict it?
No way does it restrict my creativity? Not at all. As you rightly say, my love affair with the sari is an open book. I wholeheartedly believe that the sari is the most versatile garment ever — it can be formal, conservative, fun and sexy. I can’t think of a better garment to allow my creativity to flow through. I love clothes, I understand saris the most, and I’m taking this understanding and love affair with saris to the next level.
You changed the notion that women with short hair don’t look cool in sari...
I personally think that women with either very short or very long hair, look very good in saris. It is actually a flattering garment for any woman — whatever her length of hair, or her size be. Its versatility and ability to flatter is boundless.
You have taken this collection to various places and you also have plans of expansion. Tell us more about that.
When I launched in Araish in Mumbai in September, I was very nervous. But when the first sale was made, I actually told that person, ‘I want to take a picture of you’. Since Araish, I have also had a sell-out exhibition in Singapore and people keep asking me where else am I going to be showing my work. I plan to open my flagship store in Khar, Mumbai very soon. I definitely want to expand and would love to be in all major metros in India very soon. But I will tell you something — now that I have unleashed the designer in me, I’m eager as hell to try my hand at other things — other Indian wear and accessories.
Talking about your acting career —you are back on television, and this time not as an anchor...
My return to fiction on television is after nine years. I always thought that if I was making a comeback on TV as an actor, it would be in a show that would be all about me. And then 24 was offered to me. And I said ‘to hell with a title role’. I don’t mind playing supporting cast if I have to for a show like 24. And so here I am, playing (what in my mind) is the best female role on 24.
Your role in 24 as Nikita Rai is a very crucial one. Was it really tough to make a comeback with a role like that?
I love playing Nikita Rai. The funny thing is when Abhinay Deo, the director, contacted me he was calling me for another role. I went to meet him wearing boots and a vest. And I told him, “Look at me, I am Nikita Rai”. And so, I auditioned for both roles. I was auditioning after nine years, and here I am today playing the character I wanted. Sure, acting is hard work and long hours. And it took me a while to understand the pace of the show. As far as getting into the skin of the character was concerned, I would like to believe I am a lot like Nikita Rai — in person and in physicality, so that didn’t take too much work. I get to wear a holster and a gun. And do action. This is like a dream come true.
Working with Anil Kapoor...
He is amazing to work with. He has an intensity and an energy that’s unmatchable. He has the eagerness to learn like a newcomer and the experience of his many years of work. That’s an explosive combination. He never sits on the set. He is always walking around or rehearsing lines.
He inspires you to be your best.
If you had to rate the Indian version of 24 as compared to the American series, what would you say?
I think the Indian show is better. It has heightened emotions and a level of drama that suits the Indian audiences. It is the best, most slickly made product on Indian television. And yes, we need much more content as brilliant as this. In my 19 years in this entertainment industry, this is the project I feel most proud to be a part of.