Your appearances in movies have decreased in the past few years.
Well, I have “Fatso”, plus I’m reading a few scripts. But I have so many other interests besides cinema which are financially productive. It is fortunate that films are not the only bread and butter for me. I’m able to do films for the love of it. And it’s a luxury very few people have. I don’t only love cinema. I love automobiles, writing, technology, travel etc and they have all become revenue streams for me without me even making an effort.
So what’s keeping you busy?
I run a volunteer portal. For most people, the act of being a volunteer is pre-designed. But giving money just takes care of your momentary guilt. The real solution lies in taking time out to do something productive for society within your own sphere of influence.
Sometime ago, you contemplated working with the government for this?
The government is very rigid and bureaucratic. They are not open to change and ideas. I’ve had an experience where I tried to integrate some government functions with my volunteer portal. I realized that they are on a complete different wavelength, which is not abreast with young India. The government has no clue about what makes young India tick.
But the government keeps harping on the ‘youth factor’. So many young MPs, plus there’s the Rahul Gandhi factor...
With all due apologies, they are doing nothing for young India. As far as Rahul Gandhi is concerned, I don’t want to comment on that. All I’m saying is, they don’t have their pulse on the youth of the country and are not doing enough. They are just not interested. Actually, the problem is when these young people join a particular party, they have to shut their mouths. They can’t speak up. The solution to India’s problem is a third front – not the BJP or the Congress, unless these parties are willing to reform, unlearn and then re-learn.
Don’t you want to join a political party?
I don’t want to join a party, because the moment I speak my mind, the party whip comes into action. That’s the problem. If people like Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora were independent candidates, they would have been more effective. They are still doing a great job, but I think they would have had a lot more on their side, had they been independent. The reason people join a big party is because it’s assured that if you do well, you’ll go somewhere. It’s tougher to start from nowhere, work from the grass-root levels and build something out of it. Everyone has his eye on the next elections. It’s like a five-year-plan for each party.
So, what are your political aspirations then?
I laud the effort of Manpreet Badal in Punjab, who had the strength to stand against two big parties and launch his own. It’s a selfless act. I’m not sure if I’d like to stand for elections right now, but for the next vidhan sabha elections, I’ll be campaigning and working for Manpreet.
What’s your take on ‘celeb activism’ considering you endorse quite a few causes?
When a celeb gets involved in an activity, the media attention is high. The cause benefits as there is more visibility. So most organizations rope in celebs for that very reason. And the poor celebs do their bit to oblige, and that becomes tokenism.
And what you do is not tokenism?
One has to go out there and spend man-hours in the cause they endorse, which I do. On an average, apart from reading scripts, appearances, attending events etc, which takes care of my livelihood and passion, I’m putting in 40 hours a week to work for causes I believe in.
Has acting taken a total backseat?
Not at all. I do what I do because I want to. My public reach is going to go to waste if I don’t do anything about it. What’s the point of this popularity if you can’t influence people in a positive and productive manner?
Has life changed post marriage?
I’ve been with Rishi (Attari) for long. Marriage doesn’t change anything except the fact that now you have someone behind you like a rock. Not that he wasn’t earlier, but I think he takes his role in my life a lot more seriously. He’s always been supportive of whatever I did, even before we got married. My husband is very involved with what I do. When I set up my organization, he was the one who prompted me to make it national rather than just limiting it to Chandigarh.
You’re quite active on a popular micro blogging site. How do you stop yourself from having foot-in-the-mouth moments?
One has to be a little restrained. But micro blogging sites do a great service to the people by revealing the true nature of the celebs that people idolize and strips them down to who they genuinely are – good, bad or ugly. I don’t have to worry about making silly or ridiculous statements because I know I’m not stupid. I would have been worried if I was. It’s important to speak up and stand up even when the general majority is in one direction. When I first spoke about the Manipur blockade, people didn’t know about it. They don’t know about Irom Sharmila. Of course, people know Anna because he has a better media management cell. I think people need to be a lot more aware. There’s more to what is being shown to them. And for that, the Net is a great tool.
Do you feel the need to slow down, maybe start a family soon?
No. I like living life in this manic pace. Maybe 15 years down the line, I’ll slow down. I have immense entrepreneurial aspirations and I’m working on them. I hate to be restricted. And I’m not planning a family anytime soon. Not that when I have kids, I’m going to stop doing what I love. Bringing children into this world is beautiful and is an extension to your life. It shouldn’t put the brakes on your dreams or anything else.