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The opportunity to interview Jacqueline Fernandez came quite unexpectedly: the call came out of the blue and I barely had time to conduct research on the Bollywood actress.

What I did know was that she started off as a fashion model, wore the Miss Sri Lanka Universe crown, debuted in Bollywood as Jasmine in Aladdin, did an item number in Housefull, co-starred in Murder 2 for her sex appeal (a necessity for almost any Emraan Hashmi movie), graduated to Housefull 2 and then Race 2 (with the infectious Lut Lag Gayee) and followed with another item number in Ramiya Vastavaiya.

Her next movie, coming out on Eid, is the Salman Khan starrer Kick, a reworked version of the 2009 Telugu movie of the same name directed by Sajid Nadiadwala (Judwaa, Mujhse Shadi Karogi and both Housefull movies).

I knew the one question I wouldn’t ask Jacqueline: her experience acting opposite Salman Khan (almost every interview clip of hers about Kick includes the query).

Bollywood hottie Jacqueline Fernandez talks about her upcoming Eid release Kick with Salman Khan in this exclusive interview to Images on Sunday

When the call came, I was caught off-guard by Jacqueline’s openness. Unlike some Bollywood actresses I’ve spoken to, there was a very bright and breezy allure in her voice. The ego of a rising starlet hasn’t rubbed off on her yet.

When are you coming to Pakistan?

JF: “You know what? Hopefully very soon. I have just done a (Pakistani) ad for a skin care brand, and I’ve heard such great things about the place.”

Talking about her character in Kick, Jacqueline says its “a very, very simple character; a meek character actually.” She plays a student from Delhi and “Salman Khan’s character comes into her life and changes everything.” Her character, who I believe is called Shaina, is the central point of 2009’s Kick. Nadiadwala’s movie, written by Chetan Bhagat (2 States, 3 Idiots), looks like an expensive variation — the kind that guarantees masala and a hell of a first week at the box-office.

Actresses are often lost in the hubbub of big-budget productions. What makes Kick any different?

JF: “Even though (Kick) has high-octane action, it has a lot of heart as well. That’s very beautiful (and) I think the most amazing thing about it.”

And what is the kick in Kick?

JF: “I think Salman Khan — who is amazing — and (the movie’s) fantastic action.”

I asked Jacqueline if she had a way of approaching her role to which she responded, “Not really. I think you’ve got to work very closely with your director and you have to be very clear about what he wants — which is important. I sat with Nadiadwala for a very long time before we (commenced) shooting. I pretty much made sure that I do what he wanted for his character.”

“I have just done a Pakistani ad for a skin care brand, and I’ve heard such great things about the place.” What about doing a Pakistani motion picture even if our productions cannot match Bollywood payscales, or a cross-border collaboration? “Absolutely! It is definitely something I would consider,” says Jacqueline Fernandez.

Is Sajid a better producer or director?

JF: “He’s an amazing producer — he’s always been amazing — and now that I’ve seen him direct, I hope he directs many more films and casts me in all of them! (laughs)”

I apologised to Jacqueline before asking the next question; unfortunately there is no way to not ask about Salman Khan when talking about a ‘Salman Khan movie’. Her reaction, fortunately, was genuine (and perhaps rehearsed), “Obviously it was an amazing experience. I will have to say that it was the most inspiring experience I’ve had because he was very professional on set and he’s very, very focused and passionate about his work. (And it’s) something I learned from him.”

When I asked her how she feels seeing herself on the big-screen, she responded enthusiastically, “I am an absolute train wreck. I am like: ‘oh, gosh! I don’t even want to see myself, I don’t want to watch this movie. I don’t want anyone to watch the movie with me’. I would go quietly and sneak into a cinema or (see it on) DVD or something. I tried kidding with all my directors before that I don’t want to be at the screenings, and if they can excuse me. But they’re like ‘you have to be there’.”

Somewhat calmer, she continued, “But now I’m gradually adjusting and getting used to it. I think Kick’s screening will be an amazing memory as well. So for the first time, I’m actually looking forward to it.”

Jacqueline’s native country, Sri Lanka, is regrettably not a place of thriving national cinema. After cementing her status as a commercial Bollywood star, she has now signed According to Matthew, a Sri Lankan crime-thriller based on a true story.

Does the Bollywood label help transcend borders?

JF: “It definitely does open a lot of doors for international cinema,” she said about Bollywood’s current global appeal. “It’s something that I’m excited about.”

What about doing a Pakistani motion picture, or a cross-border collaboration?

JF: “Absolutely! It is definitely something I would consider.”

Even if Pakistani productions cannot match Bollywood payscales?

JF: “Yes. Absolutely. For sure.”

Jacqueline, maybe owing to her time as Sri Lanka’s Miss Universe, says she is keen on social work. How does it feel when the media only highlights the glamour of a leading lady and not her philanthropy or social work?

JF: “Even the glamour aspect of it is a lot of hard work. A lot of people do say that (its only glamour that) gets highlighted. As an actor, I think what they fail to realise is that even if there’s something as a glamorous role — or being a glamorous actress — that’s definitely also something that needs a lot of hard work and discipline.”

Touching on her acting credits, Jacqueline adds, “Maybe sometimes the right roles do come along and the actor is appreciated for it, but sometimes you have to reach out for the role. They don’t come so easy.”

Special thanks: UTV Motion Pictures

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 20th, 2014