'I've never pushed my daughters'

Drama Queen

Lilette Dubey may be best remembered for her brief, vamp-esque acts in commercial cinema – her seductive cougar act in Kal Ho Naa Ho comes to mind – but the stage, she claims, is where she can tap into her full potential.

versatile : Lilette Dubey

The actress’ infatuation with theatre has been more or less continuous since her college days, and though she takes the occasional break to do a film, she doesn’t hesitate to call theatre her ‘first love’.

Her theatrical ventures may cut into the time she spends in commercial cinema, but Lilette claims she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I came into films quite late, whereas I’ve spent decades doing theatre. I enjoy films, and they’re monetarily more rewarding – but I only do it parallel to my dramas,” she explains.

Lilette comes from a family that’s heavily involved in acting; although her father was an engineer and her mother a doctor, her sister and two daughters have also tried their hand on the stage and screen. “Both of us did theatre in college, and continued thereafter. Our family has a lot of interest in theatre – we have our own styles, but it’s nice to be able to discuss work with them,” she says.

As for her daughters, they’ve both chosen very different paths, but Lilette can’t be happier. “My elder daughter, Neha, was studying psychology when she got the role in Monsoon Wedding.

Soon after, she decided that she didn’t want to do acting, and went abroad to get a Masters. Ira, however, is very interested in this field – she did Aisha and she’s now doing three plays,” explains Lilette, adding, “I’ve never pushed them in any way. I’ve always told my kids that I want them to do something that makes them happy.”

Lilette’s roles in commercial cinema may have been brief, but they’ve been impactful. “Lots of people have said that to me,” she says, adding, “I don’t compare cinema with theatre – contemporary actresses tend to be more decorative than performance-oriented – so when I do a movie, I’m not looking for artistic satisfaction. I just do it for fun. When I got the role in Kal Ho Naa Ho, I wasn’t sure whether to take it up; but my husband kept telling me to try out comedy, so I did it just for a lark!”

She’s also rather critical of people who believe Bollywood is witnessing a change in the quality of its films. “One ‘Dirty Picture’ happens, and everyone’s excited. That doesn’t mean Bollywood is getting female-oriented – one just has to compare the payment that male stars get compared to female ones, to see that. I think the change is happening in little waves – it isn’t tidal yet,” she concludes.

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