Fifteen minutes into the interview, she has already called most Indian men mama’s boys. I was expecting a glimpse of the docile Shruti Ghosh who fluttered her eyelashes and stole our hearts in Anurag Basu’s Barfi!. Even my slightly parochial and pretty conservative Bengali grandmother approved of her. Can you even fathom what a grand compliment that is, Ileana? “Really? I didn’t think I looked Bengali at all!” I don’t want my grandmother to see this shoot. Statistics show that disillusionment kills more people than liver damage. Barfi! (2012) is supposed to be Ileana D’Cruz’s ‘debut’, but, of course, it is not. D’Cruz debuted in 2006 with the Telugu film Devadasu and is pretty popular in Andhra Pradesh. When Barfi happened, she already had six years of experience in cinema. But, this shift to Hindi cinema was not consciously planned. “When Barfi! was offered, I honestly thought it would not work at all. I thought it was a big mistake,” she says. “I took it up because it was a challenge and I didn’t think I’d ever get a role like that.” But, why does she always choose films that have big casts with multiple leads? Ileana laughs. “I am very secure with myself and do not get bothered by stuff like that. But, it takes pressure off my shoulders too. The reason why I signed Barfi! was also because I had very good actors to bank on like Ranbir and Priyanka. I thought that if I sucked in the film, they’d at least lift it up.”

Barfi! was followed last year by Phata Poster Nikla Hero (PPNH), an absolute disaster helmed by Rajkumar Santoshi, and D’Cruz will be seen next in Main Tera Hero by David Dhawan. The last time I checked, both Dhawan and Santoshi were has-beens. “It was a conscious decision to do something commercial after Barfi!. Anurag [Basu] specifically advised me to do so. And, these films are really fun, you know. I have proved myself as an actor and, now, I want the audience to see me as a Bollywood heroine. I don’t know why PPNH didn’t do well. But again, I care more about my performance than the film’s box office returns.” D’Cruz is a big fan of Dhawan. “I think his films are quintessentially what Bollywood is about. And I think people love to watch these films. And, if you are in films people love, they automatically love you.” Despite being a David Dhawan fangirl, Ileana does not come across as the typical film actress. She reads. We spend a couple of minutes discussing Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. That is something you rarely do while interviewing a movie star. “I am an intense person and nothing frivolous works for me. I humour people if they want to sit and gossip and talk about shoes and bags, but I can only do that for a brief amount of time. That is why I get along better with older people. I shop for frying pans and home-y stuff when I’m abroad. Maybe, I give out this image of a girly girl but I am nothing like that.”
She has been a “fool in love twice”, and, call it heartbreak or pragmatism, she shoots down all accepted notions about romance. There is no Mr. Perfect. There are no fairytales in real life. Having her heart broken was one of the best things to have happened to her. “I think it is wrong to have a checklist. There is no such thing as Mr. Right. What matters is finding somebody and making it right with that person.” And, this is the same girl who jumped on a flight to meet someone she had met online? There is still some room left for heady romance, then? “That,” says D’Cruz smiling, “was the best thing I ever did.”