190210 Rakul Preet Singh
Rakul Preet Singh Image Credit: Supplied

Indian actress Rakul Preet Singh had just struck one item off her bucket list: a skydive in Dubai.

“I have been wanting to skydive in Dubai for the last three years. But somehow, you never find time to come and just do it… My resolution this year was to find time for myself and I just did. I loved that adrenaline rush,” said Singh in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid! last week.

Singh, who will be rolling out her new Tamil romance ‘Dev’ on February 14 in the UAE, was still high from the gravity-defying free fall and claims she dove off the aircraft like an absolute professional. She had planned a photoshoot in the UAE around the dive that was booked months ago. The adrenaline rush was her way of reminding herself that she’s alive and that her cells were breathing.

“I thought I would be more scared. But I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be and I was surprised at how strong I was. Like any proper actor, I had my camera face on when they told me that I shouldn’t put my head down [in] the free fall as the cameras would only capture my head. So there I was like a typical actor, smiling away even though my cheeks were quivering at the wind.”

Her excitement had hardly worn off when we met her for an interview in her hotel room in Dubai. Singh, who enjoys immense clout in the Telugu and Tamil entertainment world with hits such as ‘Gilli’ and ‘Loukyam’, gives her take on…

Mastering the Telugu language, despite being a Punjabi…

“I can now speak Telugu as fluently as I speak Punjabi. When there’s a desire to do something, language can never be a barrier, especially for art. I love being in front of the camera and acting in films … Tomorrow, I get back to filming ‘Marjaavan’ with Bollywood actor Sidharth Malhotra. What really matters is how passionate and dedicated you are towards your craft. People appreciate hard work … And about mastering dialogues in Telugu, I was great at cramming as a student. I am someone who scored 100 marks out of 100 in Social Science. So I could ratta [memorise] my lines without any difficulty and that helped tremendously.”

190210 dev
Rakul Preet Singh and Karthi Image Credit: Supplied

Attaining success in South India …

”I didn’t get it easy. Initially, I had done smaller roles without really knowing what I was doing. I knew from the start that I wasn’t going to get that traditional big launch since I have no acting background. I had to work my way up. In the beginning of my career, I had made some wrong decisions and I am glad I made them. That was my learning curve. I was so new and I never grew up on a dose of films like many actors. My dad [an Indian army man] was strict and didn’t allow me to watch many films… I didn’t know what I was supposed to do at the start.

I turned down many films in the beginning because I was doing my mathematics honours and producers wanted me to keep aside 60 days for filming, which meant my studies would be affected. I told them to give me roles that required six days of shooting so that I could study… In hindsight, why did I choose to play a heroine’s friend or a special appearance back then? So when ‘Venkatadri Express’ [2013] was a success, I valued it a lot more. If I had not made those mistakes or — let’s not call them mistakes — but that learning curve, I wouldn’t have valued my success as much.”

Her Bollywood films ‘De De Pyaar De’ with Ajay Devgn and ‘Marjaavan’ with Malhotra…

“Ajay Devgn and Tabu ma’am are such veterans. They are chilling one minute and the next they are in front of the camera giving their shot. That switch is amazing to watch … Ajay sir makes you feel comfortable. ‘Ruk Ruk Ruk’ [song featuring Ajay Devgn and Tabu from the 1994 film ‘Vijaypath’] was the first song that I ever sang to.

With Sidharth, I enjoy a different kind of camaraderie and comfort. ‘Marjaavan’ is our second film after ‘Aiyaary’ so there’s a certain comfort level. My characters in both these Bollywood films are vastly different and are at a contrast. [In] ‘De De Pyaar De’ I play a spunky, London-based girl. In ‘Marjaavan’, there’s a lot of dialogue-baazi [word games] and masala thrown in. In my Tamil film ‘Dev’, I play a strong role of a workaholic in this new age romance.”

Acting offers that come her way...

“Honestly, it’s not in our hands. The box-office results often determine what work I get in the future. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not from the acting industry and so I don’t have the liberty of choosing scripts. When you reach the level of Deepika [Padukone], Anushka Sharma or Kangana Ranaut, then people begin writing for you. Right now, I just hope my films work.”

Hitting back at trolls on social media (In January, Singh hit back at a social media users for making lewd remarks on her choice of clothes and lifestyle. One vitriolic tweet seemed to suggest that she was promiscuous)...

“I have never hit back at trolls in the last six years of being an actor. But I woke up to that [lewd] message the morning after I spoke about equality of women and #MeToo at a book launch. When I saw that message, there was a flutter and felt if I didn’t reply to that comment, I didn’t have the right to go and talk about women empowerment in a public space … It wasn’t Rakul, the actor who spoke out that day, but Rakul, the girl. Many had a lot to say about the choice of my words.

I agree I could have framed it better but then I would have been politically correct. My question to them is that if you were walking on the street and somebody teases and hits on your family, will you say please with folded hands or are you going to react and give them a taste of their own medicine? I was disgusted that someone could openly write something so sick and disgusting on social media … These are the people who turn out to be rapists or sexual predators … Every girl needs to stand up for yourself.”

On the #MeToo movement that’s engulfing the Indian movie industry...

“I am not denying that it exists, but I haven’t experienced anything of that kind. I have just been lucky. But my heart goes out to all those who have the courage to speak out… Perhaps, it’s my army upbringing but I don’t give too much importance to not getting a role. It wasn’t do or die. I wasn’t desperate. This problem isn’t just in our industry. It’s an opportunistic world where there’s power play … A trader or a farmer will exploit too … I am glad this movement happened and hopefully it will translate into a safer place for women. I hope the #MeToo movement doesn’t dilute.”

Don’t miss it!

'Dev' releases in the UAE on February 14.