The first time I met Abbas, I lied to him. I was sitting in the Barista outlet at Andheri, Mumbai, with a group of friends which included Alishka (who went on to play Sandhya aka Bombs in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na). Abbas walked up and asked her whether she wanted to act in his movie. She said no. She worked at a call centre then, and didn’t want to be an actor. I couldn’t believe she was refusing him. I made her change her mind right there, but she was reluctant to go back to him. So I went up to his table and said my friend wants to act in your movie. He asked me what I did. Now, I was in Bollywood to be an actress. But to say so at that point would have made me into such a wannabe. So I said, “I am a writer.” He offered me a job as an assistant director!
We fell in love while working for Jaane Tu… It was only when the project got stalled and he asked me out to dinner the first time, that I said, “I need to tell you something.” I told him I was an actor and not a writer. So, I think it’s alright to lie once in a while, but not okay to build a relationship on it.
Working with your husband means he’s far stricter with you. He and Madhu (Mantena, the producer) were both reluctant to cast me. It was John Abraham who insisted on it after listening to a script narration from me, with my acting out all the characters.
I couldn’t have a milkshake without getting into trouble with them. Even on off days, I had to work out for two hours. They were more demanding with me. But it really works in your favour.
I am probably the worst liar on the planet. I should not even try. Before Pakhi’s birthday in 2009, she told me, “Abbas, you have never managed to surprise me. This time if you don’t do something, I am divorcing you.” We were planning to buy a house and had seen one. But we were not sure whether we had the resources for it. I called up the owner of the house and said, “I have to gift this to Pakhi on her birthday. We need to wrap this discussion.”
We reached a figure and I bought the house. I still had to wait two days before telling her, and I was behaving so weird that she told me, “Abbas, obviously you have got a great surprise and it’s killing you. So let me put you out of your misery. You don’t have to wait two more days, tell me now.” I started rambling something so badly that she said, “Don’t tell me you’ve bought the house!”
Working with my wife wasn’t difficult. I was reluctant to take her in the beginning. That opens you up to a degree of censure. People start doubting whether your motivation has been clouded by your love. I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with that grief, even though she’s such a talented actress. But luckily, I got fantastic support from both the industry and media. This was a part she was born to perform. Both of us were so paranoid about mixing our professional lives and personal relationship, that we lived in separate rooms while making the film. For two months, we only interacted on the sets for shoots. It was only after finishing the shoot that we held hands and went for a walk in London.