Rachana Dubey (BOMBAY TIMES; July 20, 2017)

Her debut (Hero), backed by Salman Khan, may not have won her critical acclaim, but her screen presence couldn't be ignored. From a heady romance, she has now plunged into a spunky wedding comedy. As Suniel Shetty's daughter Athiya Shetty gears up for her second outing, Mubarakan, she admits that she is equally nervous and excited. In a coffee-laden conversation with BT, she opens up about aspirations, inspirations and insecurities. Excerpts:

Considering the fact that your much-anticipated debut didn't do as well as expected, the second outing is extremely crucial. So, what drove you to take up Mubarakan?
I was very clear that I wanted to do a commercial film that would allow me to do things that I really enjoy. I love dancing and being the quintessential Bollywood heroine and Mubarakan offered me a chance to do that. Anees Bazmee (director) is the king of comedy and chaos. Anil Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor and Ileana D'Cruz...I don't think I could have asked for a better team. Each one has different experiences and knowledge. I was the only one who had acted in just one film, but they didn't treat me like a newbie. Comedy is not easy, but you learn so much from it. So, I didn't have a reason to say no.

Do you think it's a lot tougher to get your second film?
Yes, it is. I am feeling the Friday pressure, though not too much. There was pressure during Hero too, but the whole journey was so special that it didn't hit me. This time around, while I'm enjoying myself at the promotions, I am nervous and anxious at home. I also tend to overthink, but it's important to know where you stand. I want to be patient with my career. I know things will take time and I'm practical about that. There's no hurry.

The industry didn't expect a two-year gap between your first and second films. Also, you spoke about being patient, but with four newcomers entering the industry every year, is it easy being patient?
I said no to a couple of films, which I felt were too early for me to take up. I know that at this stage, I wouldn't be able to hold a film on my shoulders. I wouldn't be able to pull off those roles either, as it will take time and experience to get there. As an actor, you have to be realistic. By being patient, I don't mean just waiting - it's about what you do while waiting. You use your time to hone skills and grow as a person. For me, less is more. I understand there's stiff competition, but I am not insecure about not being visible. Out of sight may be out of mind, but it's okay. I want to be remembered for my work, not for being seen.

So, what makes you insecure?
Failure. When I said that I wanted to be an actor, my father said, 'We'll whip you into action if we see you letting success go to your head, but will you be able to take failure on your chin? Can you handle that Thursday pressure or smile back at a weekend when your film tanked?' Failure is my only insecurity and I know that it's inevitable.

Do you consult your dad before giving your nod to a film? What did he say about Mubarakan?
Dad is my sounding board. He was very happy because some of his best work has been with Anees sir. He says that a film like this will take me to many homes. He also told me that while it's important to do some serious films, a commercial light entertainer balances your career; these are films that will create an audience for you. I feel sad when critics don't appreciate films like Mubarakan. They don't see the reach these films have. Just because it's a mass entertainer, it doesn't mean that it is meaningless. A comedy doesn't always have to be slapstick.

Being an actor's daughter, you don't have to look elsewhere for guidance. Does being a star child make the industry any different for a newcomer?
Being an actor's daughter gets you instant recognition and it helps open some doors for you. But what you do inside the door is up to you. It's only hard work and talent that can see you through. You can be anyone's child, but you can't fool the audience.

Of the current crop of actresses, is there anyone you really look up to?
I don't want to be like anyone else. I am too much of a newcomer to compete with anyone. I first need to create a body of work. As for inspiration, there's Anushka Sharma. I love the way she carries herself. She comes across as a really nice person and she's courageous to back films on her own so early in her career. I also love Alia Bhatt. She's a fantastic actor, confident in her skin, which is important for young girls. She's the perfect example of that.

In Mubarakan, you are paired opposite Arjun Kapoor, whom you've also known socially. Did that help?
Arjun knows his craft well. He also understands all aspects of filmmaking, including the business side of it. As for knowing him, I didn't know Arjun when I was growing up. I didn't know most people because we lived in South Mumbai. Tiger (Shroff), his sister Krishna and Shraddha Kapoor were the only star kids I knew. I met Arjun because his sister Anshula and I are friends and I got to know him better while working on Mubarakan. As a professional, he is thorough. He plays pranks on the set, but when work beckons, he has blinkers on. Did knowing him help? It doesn't matter. I knew Sooraj (Pancholi) also before we started working together. As actors, we're playing characters. How we act together depends on what the script demands. If a character demands a certain kind of chemistry, you have to deliver.

Shortly before Mubarakan went on floors, it was rumoured that Arjun and you were more than just friends...
I have known Arjun for many years. It's just that you are getting to see our equation more clearly now. I have nothing to clarify; we are not even awkward about this. We laughed and joked about everything that was written because there is nothing to be taken seriously.