I would feel awkward if I had to play Salman Khan’s bhabhi or mother after starring opposite him: Ayesha Jhulka on her comeback

Ayesha Jhulka returned to our screens with web show Hush Hush earlier this week. The show, created by filmmaker Tanuja Chandra, also stars Juhi Chawla, Soha Ali Khan, Kritika Kamra and Karishma Tanna. Ayesha gained popularity with her films like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander with Aamir Khan, Khiladi with Akshay Kumar, Sangram with Ajay Devgn and Chachi 420 with Kamal Haasan and Tabu. The actor then went on a sabbatical as she stopped getting the sort of roles she wanted.

In this interview with indianexpress.com, Ayesha opened up about why she finally decided to make a comeback, make a digital debut, her struggles while not working and how she’d “feel awkward” if she was asked to play Salman Khan’s bhabhi or mother. She made her debut with Salman in Kurbaan (1991).

What made you choose Hush Hush as your digital debut?

I couldn’t have asked for a better project, a better team, a better director, a better producer and a better platform. It is like ‘paanchon ungliyan ghee mein‘ kind of situation for me. I always wanted something like this, probably I manifested it. When Tanuja asked me, I immediately told her that I’m not ready, I don’t know what it was but I was nervous. Now I’m so glad that I’m a part of it and I have to thank my director for it, she was convinced that I’d be able to do it. She gave me the opportunity to not be who I am, but somebody totally different.

You’ve made a comeback after a long gap, did you get offered work in that gap?

I didn’t always get what I wanted. I have no qualms or shame in saying that I was being offered things that if I had done this, I’ll not… I had stepped back for a reason. I was not acting for a reason and if I have to accept similar roles now, what is the point of me not working for so many years. I didn’t want to feel that way, and that’s why I kept saying no. In fact people must be hating me all these years because they kept saying things like, ‘why is she saying no, she’s not doing anything!’. But now I can explain what I was waiting for.

What were you going through while you were away from work for so long?

I was either getting the roles that I’ve already done, or I’d get big projects with big directors and big producers with a big star cast where I have nothing to do. It was very difficult to say no as people around me would get excited thinking how it is such a big production, etc.

People tried to convince me by saying, ‘it is ok, do it, what now you’re looking for Filmfare award or what?!’ I’ve heard all these things, then I’d say ok, but the next morning I’d say no because something inside me was just not convinced.  In those roles, I’d be expected to stand like a prop because you have a Ayesha Jhulka in your project, I’m not a big name but I am also not a nobody. I did not just want to be used, I did not want to be in a project just because of my name and something attached to it. It makes you uneasy. People had a problem with me saying no to work, but I’d have a problem with agreeing to do the kind of roles I felt were not good. I constantly felt that I’d to keep proving myself even about things I didn’t want to do.

When I stepped back, I got a lot of television offers also. I have nothing against television, that’s acting too, it is beautiful, daily soaps came much before OTT but I said no there also. I had a lot of big channels approaching me directly, they were offering me shows that did well also. However, my choice was not that because I couldn’t work for those many hours; I didn’t want to feel mechanical about my work. Those shows did very well and I’d question myself for not taking it up but I was not getting an affirmative voice from inside me.

Would you say things have changed now, than that it was in the 90’s. Do you think roles for female actors have evolved now?

That change has been evident very strongly. I don’t know (but) I’d feel very awkward if I worked opposite Salman (Khan) or any of my co-actors and suddenly I’ve to play their bhabhi or mother. I don’t know, I just mentally… So I’d rather not do it. But if there is a character which is strong, convincing and author backed, I would obviously do it. Then I wouldn’t think about it. So, it is a beautiful change and I am looking forward to doing much better roles.

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