I had rejected ‘Prem Qaidi’ as I was supposed to be introduced in a bikini: Ayesha Jhulka


Remember Ayesha Jhulka, who with her impish smile and a twinkle in the eye, had ruled the roost in the '90s with films like 'Khiladi', 'Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar', 'Himmatwala', Waqt Hamara Hai', 'Chachi 420'. The actress had taken a sabbatical after her 2010 release 'Ada...A Way of Life' and had made a comeback with 'Genius' in 2018. For the #BigInterview, the actress opened up about her Bollywood journey, and films she was unable to do, shared memories from iconic films and of her superstar co-stars. Excerpts:
What's keeping you busy and away from Bollywood?
I am still a part of Bollywood; just not on screen. There is a lot of work coming my way in films, web-series, and also TV, but if I can't take it up unless I fit in. I am looking forward to doing roles that can give satisfaction as an actor. Otherwise I keep busy doing work for animals. Also, I am writing a script, and reading a few which I am considering for acting prospects. So a lot is happening right now (smiles).
Did you stay away from films deliberately post marriage?
I started working at a very young age, so when I got married, I wanted a normal life. I quite enjoyed it! Being away from Bollywood after marriage was a good decision.
Did you ever think of starting a family?
I don't have kids as I didn't want them; I spend a lot of time and energy on my work and social causes. And I am glad that my decision went down well with the entire family. Sameer is a wonderful husband, and a great human being; he has enhanced my life by giving me the freedom to express myself in various quarters of life and supporting me in whatever I wanted to do. I never felt any pressure; I am really glad and lucky to have him.
Let's revisit your film journey. Your parents don't have a filmy background. So, how did you make it into Bollywood?
I had just won a couple of beauty contests in the 80s--Miss Delhi, Miss Mussoorie--and also done commercials for Raymond. Gautam Rajyadaksha was shooting me back then and circulated my photographs in the industry which landed me my first film, 'Qurbaan' with Salman Khan in 1989. I was very young then but thankfully didn't have to struggle much to get a break. Back then, I had never thought that my Bollywood journey would last this long. Things were different back then--less manipulative, less planned.
I was very lucky; things were very easy for me because I had the support of my parents and family. Whatever came to me, I took up, and whatever didn't, I let go thinking it was never meant for me; there was no struggle. I can't think of any instance where I sat down to plan a career. If I had done that, I'd probably have had a longer and more substantial career but I am very happy and content with however it went.
Ayesha Jhulka's hair had become the talk of the town back then...
(Laughs) People used to only talk about my hair and I used to keep getting compliments over how long, dark, and voluminous they are. I used to love my hair too but things changed as we grew up.
Any film that you rejected only to regret it later?
There were a lot of films that I couldn't do. I couldn't do Mani Ratnam's 'Roja' due to date issues and I regretted it. Then there was a Rama Naidu film, 'Prem Qaidi' which I had to reject because I was supposed to be introduced in a bikini in the film.
Do you feel Bollywood has changed over the years?
There are a lot of differences in Bollywood now; the world is changing too. We didn't have any technology back then, now our films are technically sound too. A lot of management companies have entered the scene and different genres have been introduced. Things have progressed a lot--some for the better, others not so much.
Any bizzare thing that happened to you during your filmy career which you think wouldn't have happened?
In 'Dalaal', my body double was used without my knowledge. That was really not called for and should have been discussed with me in advance as an artiste. I had also filed a complaint in this regard.
Do you regret making any decision in your career or life?
I don't really regret anything; it is a very escapist thing to indulge in regrets. I just feel that whatever had to happen, happened. We should not sit and sulk over the things that didn't. In fact, I like to concentrate on things that happened.

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