In an industry that typically sidelines actresses as they age, Bipasha Basu has reinvented herself, going from sex symbol to the queen of Bollywood horror movies, a genre that most mainstream stars avoid. Basu, 35, has found success in several horror films in recent years. Basu’s latest is a remake of the Thai film 'Alone,' about a woman whose dead twin comes back to haunt her and her husband. She spoke to Reuters about the film, why she does horror, and her worst fear in real life.
Q: Can you talk about your role in 'Alone'?
A: “'Alone' is a triangular love story. It is a little unique and different from other films because, owing to the horror genre, the third element is a dead person. There is a husband, wife and a dead girl. The dead girl is the wife’s sister and both of them love the same guy. It’s interesting for me to play conjoined twins. As it is, twins are difficult to play because make-up, styling, body language, everything needs to be different. But conjoined twins was even tougher because you are attached to a body double. In my case it was an action double who was attached to me, and she wasn’t even an actress, so she couldn’t even give me my cues. It was a tedious process to do the scenes where I had to play the conjoined twin. They are two different girls, one who is going through a crisis in her marriage, and the other who is a little crazily in love. She happens to be the dead one.
You’ve done a lot of horror movies of late. Why is that?
A: I must have done around 35 thrillers and around five supernatural films in a career span of 14 years. Yes, these five films have come back-to-back, but that is also because of the fact that horror films are now being accepted as A-list. Earlier, people would look down on them because we had films like the ones the Ramsay brothers made. We have now come of age, and are doing great special effects in our country. Also, horror films give you the potential to make very different stories, where the actress does not need to be the love interest. She could be pivotal, she could be driving the film. Worldwide, in the horror genre, the focus is on women or children, because they can depict vulnerability better on screen. As for me, I don’t choose films according to genre. I choose the character. In my case, it’s just happened that three films have been back-to-back horror films, and they have found acceptance and done well. Most actors in our business shy away from horror films, because of how these films were perceived. Everyone wants to be safe, in this business. But I have always played on unsafe ground. I have always made quirky choices in my career. There is no plan in place -– I just go by my gut and sometimes things work for me, and sometimes they don’t, but that’s ok.
Q: Is there a fear that you will be typecast?
A: In 14 years you cannot be typecast. You can’t last that long. Everyone knows there is talent and there is personality. After a point, there cannot be any typecasting. I have done all kinds of films -– stupid films, funny films, serious films.
Q: Is genre fatigue setting in or do you enjoy doing these films?
A: If I didn’t enjoy them, I wouldn’t be doing them. No one is putting a gun to my head. I am doing something rather than just mouthing two-three songs or being wooed by a really handsome hero. I crave to do more, and supernatural films are giving me the opportunity to do that, I will continue to do them. In 'Aatma', for example, I played a single mother. In 'Raaz 3', I played an ageing actress. These are the roles you don’t get in regular masala films.
Q: Do you believe in the supernatural?
A: I do believe in the supernatural. Otherwise I don’t think I’d be genuinely scared on screen. Right from childhood, I was a scared girl. I think my parents told me a lot of scary stories because I was a brat. I have a lot of fears, and I have never managed to make them go away
Q: What is your worst fear?
A: I think it would be coming to face to face with someone like Anjanaa (the ghost in 'Alone'). I think I would die, or at least faint. When I have to go put on the light in the kitchen, it’s quite scary.
Q: Do you watch horror films?
A: I do enjoy them, but I never watch them alone, ever. I need to hold hands, shut my eyes and ask someone else what is happening on screen.
Q: You’ve been called the Horror Queen of Bollywood. Is that a title you enjoy?
A: I enjoy anything as long as it is a compliment. You could call me anything. There are so many people who are struggling to get anything in this industry. If I can make a mark, I welcome it. And if I can bring credibility to the horror genre and be a crusader for it, I don’t mind them calling me anything. As long the audiences enjoy it and the films make money.
Q: Any plans of directing or writing films?
A: I used to say that I would become a director. I even started writing a film, but then I grew up and realised that the job of a director is very tough. I am unpredictable, so I don’t know what I will do in the future. I like my life to be a little unplanned and I enjoy it as it unravels.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: I do just one film at a time. I am going to start work on a film called 'Niya,' which is a slice of life film, and the story of a family.
Q: So are you going to take a break from scaring people?
A: I am definitely going to take a break because I am tired of answering questions about why I am doing supernatural films. My seven-year old niece called me and grilled me about why I was doing this film. I have to answer to her as to why I am a zombie in a film.