By Ruchika Kher
Mumbai, April 26 (IANS) She competed with other "really pretty" girls for the best roles, songs and the maximum box office hits in her prime, but 43-year-old Juhi Chawla says she has long crossed the stage of insecurity and is not in the rat race.
In fact, Juhi says she gelled well with her one-time rival, Manisha Koirala, who co-stars with her in the new film "I AM". In so many years, this is the first time they are working together.
"Manisha is a very sweet and chilled out person; so it was great working with her. Also, we are not in any kind of rat race now. We have crossed that stage when there were comparisons and you yourself felt a little insecure because there was this other really pretty girl vying for the same roles," Juhi told IANS in an interview.
"At that time, you used to compare who has got better songs, who has got better and more successful films, but all that stage we have crossed. That time I didn't know her. I had met her very briefly. But now, when I worked with her, we were very much at ease with each other," she added.
After being in commercial cinema for 15 years and giving hits like "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak", "Darr" and "Ishq", in 2003, the former beauty queen moved to art house movies with "3 Deewarein".
"I AM" is slated to hit the screens Friday and also stars Sanjay Suri, Purab Kohli, Rahul Bose, Nandita Das and others.
This is the first time Juhi is working with Manisha who had debuted in Bollywood just five years after the former in 1991. In Onir's fourth directorial debut, Juhi is playing a Kashmiri Pandit, while Manisha essays a Muslim girl.
"The part of the story I am a part of is loosely inspired by Sanjay Suri's life. It revolves around a Kashmiri Pandit girl Megha, who returns to Srinagar with her family after many years of fleeing the city because of militancy," said Juhi.
"She goes back with anger and a little bit of resentment because of what she and her family had to go through. Then she meets her childhood friend, who is a Muslim girl and who stayed back, and in the three days that they spend together, Megha realises she is not the only one who has lost and suffered."
Juhi and Manisha's parts were shot on real locations in Kashmir. So how was the experience of shooting there?
"I had different experiences. Although in the markets everything went on normally, at every corner there were barricades, army jeeps, barbed wires, so you do feel that everything is right but not right completely. You are at peace but there is a sense that anything might happen any time," she said.
"On the other hand, the locals were so happy to see us shooting because now not too many shootings happen there. People were excited that film crews are again coming back.
"Also, we had to be careful with our volumes. There were a few dialogues for my character that might not have been liked by people watching the shoot. In the film, they hold meaning, but the bystander wouldn't have understood that because he or she has not seen the film. So we didn't want to get into a problem," she said.
Juhi is also the co-owner of the Indian Premier League team Kolkata Knight Riders and runs production company Red Chillies Entertainment with Shah Rukh Khan.
Out of Onir's three films, Juhi has played important roles in two - "My Brother Nikhil" and "Bas Ek Pal". His "I AM" is a collection of four stories running parallel to each other.
"I was quite happy with my role because the casting for this film is very right. For instance, no one will be able to imagine me in Afia's role (Nandita Das's character) because Nandita is perfect for it," said Juhi, who is married to businessman Jai Mehta and has two children with him.