Salman Khan is my dream actor to work with!: Pernia Qureshi says in a brief interview

Mumbai, Srishti Dixit: Says entrepreneur and stylista Pernia Qureshi who is now gearing up for her Bollywood debut who has talked with Srishti Dixit.

Pernia Qureshi is one of the pioneers in the Indian fashion as she made luxury brands and labels more accessible to people through her online venture Pernia Pop-up Shop. She has styled Sonam Kapoor for Aisha and continues to be one of her best friends. Pernia is making her Bollywood debut this year with Imran Abbas Naqvi in Jaanisaar and she is really pumped up about the same! Being a fashion-monger, it was my dream to meet her and caught up with the stylist-designer-classical dancer-actor for a quick rapid fire. She gave me an insight on how she looks at fashion, what are her career goals and how she would deal with stardom. Read on for more…

You are an entrepreneur, a stylist, a designer, a dancer and now an actor. What’s next on your bucket list?
For now, it is complete focus on acting. I didn’t always know that I want to be any of the things that I am today; I just am open to new ideas as an artist. I am always looking for creative satisfaction, because if I don’t then I get depressed. I don’t like having free time. I let my career just flow and let it be I didn’t try to control it too much. I was skeptical when the film was offered to me, but as a dancer I have been performing my whole life so I am used to emoting. My director told me that I already do this and the only thing needed is dialogue and camera. My director assured me that I can act so I was like “Okay! Let me try this. Worst case scenario it will not work out. It is not that big a deal!” I didn’t realise that I’d have the time of my life, I haven’t enjoyed anything else this much in my career. That is when I decided to pursue his and not just do it as a one-time thing.

How was it like to be on a film set?
I have been on a film set for Aisha as I was styling Sonam for that. But we were like fat kids on the set. We were either eating or trying on clothes. I didn’t take it as a hardcore learning experience. As a live stage performer, I always thought performing live for an audience is the shit because you are under a lot of pressure and that gives me a big high. But somehow acting in front of a camera was the same as performing live for me. I was so upset when the film was wrapped! I was like “I want to shoot some more!” But Muzaffar Ali (director of Jaanisaar) added a scene later, we just shot it so I was really happy.

Why did the makers change the name of the film from Raqs to Jaanisaar?
Isn’t it nicer? At least you know what it means, everybody’s heard this word. People couldn’t even say Raqs and I thought the name was getting butchered! Jaanisaar really goes with the essence of the film, it is political patriotic drama with a love story. ‘Jaanisaar’ rolls off people’s tongues better…

So a lot of Jaanisaar is shot in Uttar Pradesh…
The movie is based in Awadh, 1870s and since it is based there, Muzzafar uncle used a lot of real locations, it looks extremely authentic. I am a history buff, this movie was meant for me! We shot in La Martiniere, the boys’ school in Lucknow and the building, its architecture, the inside is unreal! We also shot at the palace of Kotwara, it’s Mughal-colonial. Our shooting locations are going to enhance this film a lot because we haven’t faked anything.

You’d be speaking a lot of Urdu in the film. Was language a barrier for you?
I am only speaking Urdu in the film and it wasn’t a problem because I am from UP, my father is from Rampur, my mother is from Pakistan. I grew up in a fully Urdu speaking house. I went to an American school but my mother had this really annoying rule when I came back home on vacation, that she would not speak or respond to me unless I don’t talk in Urdu. Sometimes when you are trying to get something really quickly you don’t want to stand there and form a sentence thinking ki yeh Urdu mein kya hoga! But she tortured me in my childhood like this! Her big worry was that I’ll lose my mother-tongue. The good thing that came out of this is that I can speak in Urdu. I had to work on my pronunciation and dialect for the film but the language wasn’t alien to me.

How was your equation with Imran Abbas Naqvi?
Imran is amazing. He is tailor-made for this role. He plays a British-return prince brought up and educated in England. His character had to be extremely well-spoken, he had to have a certain vulnerability and innocence which boys these days hardly have! Actors don’t really have that quality these days because they think and know that they are great! Imran too has the airs of an actor because he is a huge star in Pakistan, but something about him is so sweet even in real life which translated onscreen. We became very good friends very quickly; he was extremely helpful and did my lines with me whenever I asked him to. Sometime he would suggest me to try and do things differently. He is a great guy to work with.

He and Fawad Khan debuted almost around the same time but Imran didn’t really get as popular. Do you fear that it might affect your film?
No not at all. I feel like by the time our movie comes out people will think that it’s Imran’s debut. I say this because in this film Imran’s look is completely different. In his debut film Creature 3D his role wasn’t that big so even in promotions, he wasn’t around or promoted as much as Fawad. Fawad had an equal part to Sonam in Khoobsurat, so he was marketed in that manner. I don’t think Imran got the same kind of opportunity to get introduced to the audience. But this film will be very different as he plays the main character. It’s his film completely.

How do you plan on introducing yourself to people who aren’t from the fashion circuit?
I don’t have a strategy. I’ll just be myself. I am candid, honest and very clear about where I am in my life. Right now, I have established myself in fashion and doing films is a humbling experience! I have worked really hard the last two years trying to make my online shopping business ( Pernia Pop-up Shop) started and established. In the fashion industry, I feel like everyone knows me and there is a certain amount of respect I get which I feel honoured to receive. In films it is totally different; I will have to prove myself. I am back to ground zero and will have to work twice as hard. There are so many people who have no idea who the hell I am, they are going to see me with a completely fresh perspective, my talent and acting is going to speak for me. I can’t trick people into liking me or fake anything. It’s all up to how good I am.

What’s the one thing you have that other contemporaries of yours don’t?
I think being a professional dancer works in my favour because I don’t think there is any other actress in my generation who is fully-trained in any forms of classical dance. People take classes but that s not called professional dancing.

Sonam said that the general perception of an actress in India is that if she dresses well, she isn’t much of an actor. Do you think you’ll suffer the same?
Oh Sonam! (giggles) I don’t fear this at all because I feel if you convince somebody who is watching your film that you are that character, you have done your job. I play a character called Noor who is courtesan in the film. If I can convince you for those two hours while you are watching the film that I am Noor and if I can make you forget that I own a shop or I go to fashion shows in Paris… I’ve done my job. If I can’t then I have to improve, that is what I feel. There are people in Hollywood who are extremely stylish and even greater actors! How I dress is my personal choice, it has nothing to do with what I do on camera. So I don’t believe that if you are stylish you are necessarily going to be perceived as a bad actor by people who give you a fair chance. If there are people who don’t watch my film and be like “oh she is terrible!” then I can’t help them because they have issues of their own. (laughs)

Now that you are becoming an actor you will face a lot of controversies, you already do. How do you plan on dealing with that?
I am a very private person I only have a very few genuine friends and I like it that way. I don’t just like to go around and be available to everyone and I am not everyone’s friend. If someone is speculating into my private life they don’t know what’s really happening, I’m gonna try t let it not bother me because most of the time it won’t really be true. I have to ignore it.

What if it is the truth?
I still have to ignore it because the moment I start confirming stories about me then they are going to assume that all stories are true. If I start a dialogue it’ll open gateways to something really bad.

If you were caught in a cleavage controversy, how would you have dealt with it?
I completely understand where Deepika is coming from. Somebody is senselessly talking about your cleavage; the entire thing was so stupid. We need better things to talk about! It was a salwar kameez she was wearing and they were acting like she was wearing a bikini. Maybe I would have also reacted the same way and said “Leave me alone!” If I was having a bad day and this kind of news was floating I would get really annoyed.

But then a debate ensued where one side said that she can’t have a problem because she is a celebrity…
No, let’s be fair to all the actresses in the industry. People say a lot of things and actresses ignore a fair bit! She also ignores a lot of stuff that is said about her, this is not the first time. She just had enough, she is a human being, she got annoyed after a certain point. Don’t push someone to a point where you are really trying to get a reaction out of them.

Rapid Fire

One overrated fashion trend according to you?
Nothing, there are no fashion faux pas or no wrongs. It all depends on who is wearing it and how they are wearing it. Rihanna can wear a paper bag over her head and that could become a fashion trend!

One fashion trend you think is done-to-death?
Crop top! I have definitely added to overdoing of this trend. It’s the new thing everybody is obsessed with.

One trend you’d like to start?
Wearing flats. I have sprained my ankle more than once and am forced to wear them and I have realised they are awesome! Boyfriends are sick of heels.

One outfit you think you cannot pull off?
Shoulder pads.

Should fashion always be about comfort?
Fashion should be about whatever makes you feel great. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s comfortable. You could be wearing a tight dress which you’ve stuffed yourself in and you look super hot because you’ve worked out and your body looks great, you could feel like amazing, I say go with it!

So clothes play a big role in how you feel about yourself?
Of course they do! Dressing up is all about feeling good about yourself. You are representing yourself to the world; everybody is making their judgement of you when they see you. No matter what these pro-feminist people say, it always matter, people are judging them in their khadis also. You should wear whatever makes you feel great.

Five things you always carry in your handbag?
My lip balm, my wallet, my two phones, and chewing gum!

I wasn’t expecting gum…
Well, you never know who you meet, gum ensures minty fresh breath. And also it stops me from eating!

No make-up in there?
I don’t know how to do my own make-up. I’m a retard! I just wear tinted sun-block and lip balm in general.

One beauty product you can’t do without?
I hate chapped lips so I cannot do without lip balm. Also hand cream after I wash my hands because without that I can’t touch anything. I have issues clearly, I have a bit of OCD!

One label you love?
Oh there are many! I love many… Dhruv Kapoor, Huemn, Hemant and Nandita, Pankaj and Nidhi, Payal Pratap is one of my favourites. From international there’s James Perse, Top Shop and a brand called The Row which is really expensive so don’t buy a lot of it but I love their stuff, I love Stella McCartney, these are labels I love in my personal wardrobe.

One actor you wish to work with?
Salman Khan! That would be like a dream! A film with him where I can be totally filmi! I don’t think my decision to work in a film would depend so much on the actor as on the film. Unless it is Salman, then would do anything! Sonam will tell you this, there is a really filmi side to me I am big Bollywood buff, my favourite movie is Hum Saath Saath Hain. Salman is like a filmi heroine’s dream!

One film role you loved this year?
It’s an obvious answer, Queen. Every frame was hilarious, everything from beginning to end was awesome!

One role that you would have like to play?
Jacqueline Fernandez’s role in Kick and Deepika Padukone in Ram Leela!

One film wherein you didn’t like the styling?
Nothing striking in my mind, our costume designs have got better

One fashion/beauty hack you swear by…
Seamless underwear

Which actress according to you is a complete package?
Sonakshi Sinha, you can make her do anything. She can be extremely demure, you can strip her off her make up and make her be completely real and she can handle it. She can be totally glamourous as well.

Do you think the same about her style as well?
Not as much. But I believe that when you are an actress it is not your responsibility to be extremely stylish. That is not a must because your job is to convince the audience about whatever part you are playing. Style is an added bonus not a pre-requisite. Fashion police is just mean, don’t put so much pressure on these girls, they are here to act and entertain. If they are doing that well, leave them alone. They should be able to have whatever personal style they want. People put pressure and are on their case to dress up all the time.

Which actor is the complete package?
Ranbir Kapoor