Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, the film co-stars her alleged former boyfriend Hurman Baweja.
Priyanka tells Patcy N how difficult it was to play 12 characters in a single film.You play 12 characters in the film. Was it difficult?
Yes. This is my most difficult film but also the most important one of my career. Playing 12 characters is like doing 12 films. I have tried my best to play the characters differently. I had to look different in all of them, yet I had very little time to prepare and establish each character on screen. Each character has one song and about two scenes.
All the girls had to look between the ages of 20 and 23 except for one. I have seen a lot of people play multiple characters with large age differences. But I had to play all in the same age group. So I did not have much option. Only my hair and outfits were different in all my characters. So I had to work on my body language. I have experimented on my voice and accent. It was a real test for me.
'I pick films that are different'
Which have been your most difficult films till date?
Fashion, Kaminey and What's Your Raashee.
I pick films that are different. But that does not mean I do only women-oriented roles. When I did Fashion, many people asked me how I would outdo the performance. But I think that if the film is entertaining and my characters are well-etched and performed with sincerity, people will like any role. In Kaminey, I have only eight scenes but people have really appreciated my character.
I try to do different things in all my films, whether the film works or not is not my criteria. See Love Story 2050, Drona, Fashion, Dostana, Kaminey or What's Your Rashee. You should be able to recognise my film just by looking at my photograph in that film. I am no acting queen, I have no acting background. But I learn everyday on the sets. I have worked with so many talented directors in such short time that they have helped me improve myself.
Who worked on the characters -- was it Ashutosh or you? What was the most difficult thing to do?
Both of us. Ashutosh had written the 12 girls so brilliantly that half my work was done. But then actors have to put their own in the characters too.
One thing is sure: I haven't read as much Linda Goodman as I did for this film. Putting an element of each star sign in each character was difficult.
Also, I don't know anything about the Gujarati culture. During Kaminey, I did not know about Marathi culture. Some of the girls in What's Your Raashee come from orthodox Gujarati backgrounds, while others are NRIs. So they are from different stratas of society.
'The most difficult character was Capricorn'
Did you shoot one character at a time?
Ashutosh had promised me that we would shoot one character at a time, that it was be smooth sailing. But such things never happen. We shot all 12 girls together. So when I was playing Bhavna, I would also have to play Jhanakana or Hansa. I was going totally mad.
Which character was the toughest?
This is like asking a mother which child is her favourite. For me, the most difficult character was Capricorn, as I had to play a girl aged 15 or 16 years old. It was difficult to convince people that I was that young. I have not used any prosthesis but I had different eyebrows for this character. I also worked on my voice.
What was your first reaction when Ashutosh offered you 12 roles?
I was shooting for Dostana when he called and asked me whether I had signed any film in October. I said I hadn't. So he told me not to sign until I had heard his script. I told him I would return to India only after a month [Dostana was shot in the US]. So he read out the script on the phone, and then sent me the novel, Kimball Ravenswood [by Madhu Rye] on which the film is based.
What was working with Ashutosh like?
He is one of the most intelligent filmmakers I have worked with. He said this film was tougher than even Jodhaa Akbar because he had to create 12 different girls belonging to different cultures.
'This film is not about astrology'
You have broken Sanjeev Kumar's record of nine characters in Naya Din Nayi Raat and Kamal Haasan's 10 characters in Dasvataram.
Only the record has been broken in playing so many characters. But we still don't know how many people will like me.
How much do you believe in astrology?
Not much. I would always wonder how the entire human race can be divided into 12 kinds of people. But when I started reading up on it, my perspective has changed. Now I think it's possible that people are similar to each other according to their sun signs.
Since you are a Cancerian, are you as serious as the one shown in the film?
Everybody has good and bad qualities, it's not all according to their raashee. So that does not mean that all Cancerians are sad people and all Geminis are hyper. The situations are like that.
Don't you think this film promotes astrology and superstition?
This film is not about astrology, and it is not promoting it. Yogesh [Hurman Baweja] is not seeing a girl who is compatible to his raashee but is seeing girls from all raashees. So it's an open-minded film. It will break superstition.
'Acting is a very difficult job'
Will you ever choose a boy according to his raashee?
No, I would not. Yogesh's character does not choose according to their raashee. He decides based on their characters. His matrimonial ad gets replies from 176 girls. He tells his parents to choose a girl from each sun sign, as he has only 10 days to select.
You haven't been keeping well because you have been working back-to-back. How much time do you get for yourself?
I don't get any time (laughs)! I fell sick when I was shooting for What's Your Raashee because we were shooting late hours. Plus, the stress of playing 12 characters.
Acting is a very difficult job. You have to work at it a lot. You should not think of Meghna Mathur [Priyanka's Fashion character] when you're watching Sweety in Kaminey.
I am the daughter of an army officer so discipline is very important for me. I have to keep up with my commitments. That took a toll on me, as I had the flu.
Now I am on two weeks leave and am going abroad with my parents. My mother is going to keep my cell phone off.
After this, I have Pyaar Impossible. There will be a break of seven months and then my Siddharth Anand film will release.