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Compiled By Nisha Susan

Sarah Jane Dias, perhaps a leading lady

If at first

After discovering the tornado that is Priyanka Chopra, we’ve learnt never to dismiss supermodels in Bollywood. Perhaps there will be a day when we know what Sarah Jane Dias looks like (as opposed to 20,000 lookalikes). Perhaps the moment will come sooner than we like given that she is in the next Farhan Akhtar-Ritesh Sidwani production Game. Despite the ensemble cast, promos are pitching her as the female lead. Then again, perhaps not. We have come to the sad conclusion that we like Excel Entertainment only for allowing us to fantasise about Farhan playing yet another neurotic.

Sarah Jane Dias, perhaps a leading lady

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Pali wedding

AND THEY ARE OFF!

So young Imran Khan and long-term girlfriend Avantika Malik were finally wed last week. Happy happy joy joy for the young twosome. Karan Johar designed his clothes and Manish Malhotra hers. We think Avantika’s clothes could have been more adventurous but that’s just our busybody opinion. And certainly compared to Imran’s black bandgala, anything she wore would look outrageously outré. It’s great that Karan added his faux comic narrative of ‘always a wedding planner, never a bride’ to the event but what else can you add to a black bandgala?

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HIGH NOON

Rohan Sippy’s new film Dum Maro Dum is out in April. Unlike the gentle zaniness of his previous films, this one is going to be a thriller. Abhishek Bachchan plays a cop trying to crack a drug cartel in Goa. One hears good things about the Sridhar Raghavan script, but the making of Dum sounds like a film in itself. At one point, all the assistant directors were fired. At another point, the very genteel editor of the film was told politely to depart. Her services were not required and no explanations forthcoming. Perhaps we should have stopped at saying Bipasha Basu plays a Goan girl.

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FEAST/FAMINE

In Delhi, we have a special manner of complaint. It freezes, it simmers. And the climactic extremes continue into its cultural life. Either it is a desert or we are swimming in the stuff. After suffering months of nothingness, January is looking like terrifying excess. Apart from everything else, there is the impending exodus of all things print to the Jaipur Lit Fest. And whose bright idea was it to make the ginormous India Art Summit coincide with the Lit Fest? Who’d blame those complaining bitterly about having to choose between these offerings?

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Psychologies

‘Indians like sex a lot but don’t want to talk about it’

By Nishita Jha

YANA GUPTAWhat was Jana Synkova’s life like in the Czech Republic?
I have a sister who is three years older than me; she is married with kids. Both my parents were remarried so I have a whole lot of step-siblings as well. But it was not a big family because after my parents were divorced it was just me, my mother and my sister living together. My father went to live with his new family. We were never scared of the fact that there was no man around, but it affected me in many ways, it influenced my behaviour towards men and relationships later. I had no father figure to compare men that I was in a relationship with because I had no father prototype like most women so I compared each of my men to each other. Which was quite bad for them!

Why did you want to leave the Czech Republic? 
For me it was all about having my own life and my future in my hands, it wasn’t that I specifically wanted to leave the Czech Republic but really just about freedom. I wanted to see and experience new places, new people, and after a point I guess the Czech Republic just became too small for me. I always travelled by myself although I made a lot of friends wherever I went. I’ve been practically everywhere except Australia and New Zealand. The first time I started travelling alone like this was when I was 16, but I left home completely at 19 when I had graduated.

What did you miss about home? 
Nothing. I’m serious. The food sometimes, but not the way people from India miss Indian food. In fact, I think now when I travel I miss Indian food much more than Czech food.

What about India drew you to life here? 
It’s hard to explain this to an Indian because for you this is usual fare — but India is different from any place that I’ve seen in the world. I could talk about it for hours and never lose the smile on my face, that’s what India does to me! The speed of life is different from anywhere else, but perhaps what keeps me here above anything else is the fact that people have a natural warmth and a readiness to talk to strangers that I never felt back home. In the West, people are so stern and rigid in their behaviour, in their dressing and even their jokes! It was the cold that drove me away and it is the warmth that keeps me here. From the moment I reached here, I could talk to everyone from people on the streets to random strangers in the bus, everyone was so open. There is a madness to they way things function here — people turn up late, there is a total lack of organisation but still somehow everything runs and works. Once you love it, you cannot live anywhere else. I miss it when I’m away and feel so much joy when I’m back that I realise that means I’ve found home.

What repelled you? 
People littering and pollution used to really drive me mad. I know I sound like a schoolteacher, but it’s just that was accustomed to a life where people worked really hard to keep their environment clean. Also, the environment meant everything from your room to the house to the streets to the whole city, it’s something we make an effort to teach our children. Here, you could litter the streets but people go to such pains to keep their homes clean it didn’t make sense at first. But I’ve learnt to accept the mess and the chaos.

Did you ever have a sense of the fact that people were treating you differently because you were white? 
Initially, definitely. When I reached India I spent my first week in Goa then went to Pune. I could see that I was getting a lot of attention because I was white, I was being looked at whether I was doing anything interesting or not! Which was really funny to me. It’s lesser now because I’ve become so Indianised — meaning I have a better sense of what to wear where and how to behave differently around different people. Earlier, I would wear small shorts and a sleeveless top anywhere if it was warm, then I realised that here that qualifies as beachwear! People would stare at me even longer than the usual “white person stare”. So, I learnt to adapt but not completely — I’m still me, I guess I still dress a little differently from Indians maybe because I still refuse to cover myself up unnecessarily if its hot outside, I cant be uncomfortable. But yes I’ve become wary of drawing unnecessary attention.

How long did it take you to develop this sense of what is India-appropriate?
Actually it took pretty long because no one tells you these things you have to sense them on your own. Body language for instance — my ex-husband would constantly have to remind me that social distance in India is different from the rest of the world. I would go for a meeting and sit in a way that was comfortable for me, like maybe I wouldn’t cross my legs or sometimes sit cross-legged but it would make the other person uncomfortable. I didn’t know what was the ‘right’ distance to keep from people you meet for the first time. Satyakam (ex-husband) made me realise that these things may come across as being suggestive to some people because they simply aren’t used to it, Indian women don’t act like that. It took time because I didn’t think I was doing anything weird or wrong, and it means reorienting your entire personal body language.

When Babuji zara dheere chalo became a hit, and people started talking about how hot I was or how much I had exposed my body, it was strange because I didn’t think I had worn anything extraordinarily skimpy for me. I used to wonder what the big deal was. I had worn smaller things when modelling abroad, but it was just that you were given a certain costume and you wore it because you were professional — not because you intended to show yourself off, or seem daring or anything like that.

On one hand, oversexed item songs are the rage in Bollywood. On the other, something as inadvertent as a wardrobe malfunction kept you in the news for weeks, cases of obscenity were lodged against you, the photographer concerned and the person who organised the event. Does this hypocrisy in the Indian attitude towards sex frustrate you? 
(laughs) Of course! It’s kind of funny because yes, the repression is very evident. But it varies from place to place, the cities are slightly better off than the villages, some parts of the city are more liberal than other parts, some people who look very liberal are not and some women who seem very traditional are totally cool so its confusing! In the past 10 or even five years I’ve seen things change — cinema changed, kissing scenes became acceptable on screen so there is this sense that things are changing very fast — but at the same time it is a fact that the masses are repressed. I don’t get it, because it is not as if Indian people don’t like sex, they like it a lot (laughs) but they just think there’s something bad in talking about it openly. They want to do it but cover it up, it’s definitely hypocritical. But I’ve learnt to laugh at it. I don’t get upset about it at all, how can you! It’s hilarious!

In the industry, you have to learn to let go of a certain self-image. These things will keep happening, because it’s natural. I know sooner or later someone is definitely going to write something about me that I will dislike. But what do I do about it? Nothing! I know I can’t possibly be liked by everyone, so rather than living the way they want me to live and making a mess of it, I’d rather live the way I want to and do it well. I knew that the wardrobe malfunction would be all over the news for a few weeks when it first happened, but I also have developed enough sense to know that soon no one will remember it. I’m still entertained by the incident whenever I think about it! I remember when the Shahid-Kareena kissing pictures were plastered all over the news and they kept denying it was them, I couldn’t understand why because I actually thought they looked nice, it seemed like a good kiss and it was a nice picture!

From the reality shows you have been doing of late (Khatron ke Khiladi and Jhalak Dikhla Ja where she is famous for her daredevil antics) it seems like you are actively trying to push your boundaries all the time. This is not the static world of looking pretty for photographs. Is it the adrenaline that turns you on? 
I love stunts and danger, and I want to test my theory of how I fearless I was on Khatron ke Khiladi. I would do it again happily. I don’t think my mom ever watched it but my father did see some of my stunts on Youtube, thankfully by then I had already performed them and the show was over so he couldn’t do much about the fact that I liked diving off planes, they were just glad that their daughter was alive. Through all of it, moments before being locked underwater or in a box of snakes or jumping off great heights, I realised I don’t feel any differently. Its not like there’s a high and I’m addicted to it, it’s just a feeling of being blank and quiet, which I like. It feels natural and on a level it is that for me, because I subscribe to the belief that the soul is indestructible and all the things that happen to the body are just incidental. My natural state is hanging in the air! There were definitely times when I was uncomfortable, but never afraid.

When you fall in love with someone from a different nationality, how easy or hard is it to bridge the cultural gap? 
It was not hard at all because Satyakam was totally different from most Indians. He was in Osho’s Ashram for 18 years when I met him, so there was already a lot of things that we felt the same way about although our lives had been very different. But yes, If I had to marry an Indian-Indian there might be a lot of things to work around, but love makes everything easier, no?

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