Did you know that Zareen Khan, star of films like Veer and Housefull 2, has a passion other than acting? “I’m a very passionate traveller,” Zareen told City Times in a recent telephonic conversation, while expressing excitement about her television debut, AXN’s Jeep Bollywood Trails, where she revisits famous cinematic locations.
Zareen also recently won the Best Actress award for her new film Hum Bhi Akele, Tum Bhi Akele at the Rajasthan International Film Festival. She describes the film as a ‘beautiful human story about the relationship between two people.’ Hum Bhi Akele, Tum Bhi Akele, which deals with the stigma surrounding the LGBTQ community in India, also won the Best Film award at the South Asian International Film Awards in New York.
Excerpts from our conversation with Zareen:
You won the Best Actress award on January 22, 2020, the tenth anniversary of your Bollywood debut, Veer. How do you feel about receiving this award on such a momentous day and in the same city where Veer was shot?
I was really overwhelmed by the whole thing because the whole day, on January 22, I was celebrating, like, ‘oh my God, I’ve completed 10 years in this industry’. It’s been a rollercoaster ride – the journey and everything that came with it, the ups and downs.
Then in the night I get the news about the award. I couldn’t go to the Festival but my co-star and producer Anshuman Jha, who was there, received the award on my behalf and he sent me a picture! So it was just an overwhelming feeling on that day and it ended on such a great note; winning that award from the Rajasthan International Film Festival means a lot because somehow it’s a step towards establishing myself as an actress rather than just a pretty face.
You received the RIFF award in the same city as your first film Veer was shot. What are some of your favourite memories from shooting Veer?
Rajasthan is a very historically beautiful place. They have a lot of palaces, forts etc. Veer being a film of that era and me being a princess, I did stay, when we were shooting, in a lot of the palaces which are now converted into hotels. It’s just a body of things – all those memories of anything that is your first is very special to you, whether it’s your first love or your first job.
Veer was my first film, a movie that I did at a point when I had no idea about this industry. I didn’t even know where the camera was placed when I gave my first shot. Though the film didn’t do that well it is always going to be very close to my heart. And yes, it always makes me very nostalgic whenever I think about it.
How would you describe your Bollywood journey? Looking back, is there anything you would do different if given a chance?
How do I sum it up? It’s been a rollercoaster ride since I don’t belong to a ‘filmy’ background. It was very difficult. It still is. Somehow my struggle started after I became a part of the industry and there have been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of wrongs and rights, a lot of good and bad. But I think everything has been a lesson.
Maybe, yes, if I started now I would do a lot differently because I’m more aware now than when I started off. I would have tried to polish myself a lot more but at that time I was just a girl who was put in front of a camera who had no idea about things.
Last year, you were body-shamed for sharing a picture that showed your stretch marks. Bollywood is extremely image conscious. As someone who has to deal with both positive and negative attention, what advice would you give new actresses today?
I would say don’t take anything negative to heart. We live in a world where you could be the juiciest peach in the world but still there would be somebody who doesn’t like peaches. You’re not supposed to take criticism to heart but turn that criticism into your good, take it positively. Give it your best, have faith, and never ever give up!
You’re starring in a new AXN show called Jeep Bollywood Trails. How do you feel about your TV debut and what can you tell us about the show?
I am so happy and excited about this show. It’s like a custom-made TV debut for me. A lot of people don’t know that I am a very passionate traveller. Whenever I have free time I just go off on a trip, even if it means that I have to take off for a road trip for two or three hours. I love being on the road. If I’m in one place I am very restless. This show will show the audiences what I am as a person and not Zareen Khan, the actress.
It’s a show where I get to travel all over India and I had the opportunity to see the country in a very different light.
It’s given me the opportunity to see the nitty-gritty, the corners of India, different flavours, different people, different cultures.
I don’t think I could have asked for anything better.
As part of the show you visit the shooting locations of some famous films like 3 Idiots, Jab We Met, Ranjhaanaa, Dhadak and Bang Bang. Have you seen all these films? Which is your favourite?
The concept of this show is that we have spoken to top film directors and they have shared their experiences of shooting these films in iconic destinations. So I’ve gone to those places and re-lived their experiences through whatever they told me.
All of them are amazingly beautiful places, each different from the other, but I’m a little partial towards Ladakh, because Ladakh is a place that I’ve been trying to visit for years but it somehow never happened.
I got to go to Ladakh through Jeep Bollywood Trails and I saw it in the best possible manner. I don’t think I would have been able to see it in that way had I gone on my own.
Speaking of travel, in a recent interview with Telegraph India you mentioned that Dubai is one of your favourite places to go shopping in. What are your thoughts on the city as a travel destination and what do you like to do while here?
Dubai is home for me. My best friends stay in Dubai so I keep coming there. I just love everything about the city. Shopping of course because Dubai is one of the few places where I get my shoe size – I don’t really get it in India easily.
Then, the food, the places, in winters it gets really nice, because they have these open beach areas. I love Barasti. And when I’m there for a longer duration we go to Fujairah and camping. Whenever I come to Dubai there’s always a new tourist attraction or something else that’s new. I love the place – it never disappoints.
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