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Southern comfort: Lara Dutta
Southern comfort:
Lara Dutta

Compiled by Nisha Susan

Advantage Lara

Sometimes celebrities depress us. Sometimes us gossip trawlers depress ourselves. What does it mean a woman of Lara Dutta’s abilities who can give us only this in the fortnight that she got married (and her husband’s ex-wife, supermodel Shvetha Jaishankar, got married too). “Being a Bangalorean, I like south Indian food, so I am glad I married a south Indian.” And a note to fellow gossip trawlers. Nice try with Lara-Hesh as a couple monicker but perhaps you’d like to try again.

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Fight club

Prequel to a brotherly war

Two brothers who are actors. Two brothers who are directors. The elder brother in each pair has a reputation for being an industry maverick and saying whatever is on his mind. A misunderstanding leads to angry words and rivalry. Isn’t this the perfect scenario for a wonderful television series? Sadly, there is no call to get the popcorn yet. All we have so far is filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s Facebook status message. “Salman Khan thinks he made my brother’s life. Hope he does the same for Arbaaz (Khan) when he does Dabangg 2. All the best.” Wait for the next salvo.

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The Dairy Dilemma of Mr. Jha

After the campy extravaganza of the last Prakash Jha outing (gay lover instead of horse? genius), we are ready for anything. Just anything. Even though the new Jha production Aarakshan is likely to make us pull our hair with its ‘neutral’ views about reservation. All the stars have been warned to not say anything about reservation so no excitement there. So why are we wasting all these column inches about Saif Ali Khan learning to milk buffaloes for the new Jha production and Mr Jha yarning about which dairy farm the buffaloes came from? Can a little birdie tell him we just want more from wherever it is that Raajneeti came?

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Family Plans

Manju Kapur, that chronicler of the great Indian family saga, wrote about Difficult Daughters, A Married Woman, The Immigrant and Home. Divorce can’t help but feature in her next book Custody, which is out this week. It features Raman and Shagun, the ideal couple with ideal children, that is, till Raman’s boss Ashok enters the picture. A messy divorce is followed by a bitter custody battle and then for that little piece of perspective, there is childless Ishita. Readers are promised courtroom drama, critique of the judicial system and some heartbreak, apparently.

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Psychologies

‘Acting is like falling in love with the wrong man’

WHO An ex-student of Delhi’s Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Swara Bhaskar recently appeared as Kangana Ranaut’s friend Payal in the film Tanu Weds Manu. She has also acted in Madholal  Keep Walking and appeared in a cameo in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish. A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, Swara’s two passions are entertainment and activism.

By Niha Masih

Swara Bhaskar
Swara Bhaskar 26, actor

Was Mumbai a huge culture shock?
Yes, especially for someone from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). I think I was just not ready for the kind of attention Mumbai pays to looks. For the longest time, people would not believe that I was an actor. They were like “You don’t look like an actor, you don’t dress like one, look at your face.” Otherwise Mumbai has a completely different energy from Delhi. The industry is dynamic. But Delhi will always be home, so I can’t help but keep coming back.

Do you feel opposites attract?
Sure, I think they do. But yes, the basic mental wavelength has to match. For instance, I have verbal diarrhoea and sometimes you can’t hear my boyfriend because he is so quiet.

Describe yourself off-screen.
Very close to Tanu from Tanu weds Manu. Everyone on the set would joke with me that I’m actually more like Tanu. I even had a tattoo. We would spend a lot of time covering it up.

Do we see the real Swara in the roles you essay?
Only in the part where I’m beating up Eijaz (co-star in Tanu weds Manu). I definitely brought my energy to the part where she’s losing her temper on her friends. I think that’s my most real self. But otherwise it’s (Payal) not really the part I’d relate to very much. As an actor, you have to make every role your own but that doesn’t mean you relate to them. You bring your conviction to them by bringing about some truth and feeling towards what you’re doing. At the end of the day you’re the instrument. It’s not going to happen if you don’t make it your own.

What is your take on plastic surgery?
Would you go under the knife to fit in Bollywood? It’s a personal choice for people. I’m not very comfortable with the idea of it.

Bollywood has a conventional sense of beauty and most actors have to conform to it at some point. Do you? 
I think the glamour industry in any part of the world has a certain conventional idea of beauty. Every society has its own idea. So that’s not new to Bollywood. But yes perhaps since the industry is so focussed on the body, so the obsession with how you look becomes magnified. I can understand the need to look nice on screen. I want to look nice on-screen.

Is there one thing that you want to change about yourself to be in Bollywood? 
I’m trying to run every day to lose the fat on my face.

How do your parents react to your career choice?
I’ve forced them into believing that I’m like the Indian Railways – a heavy investment project with a long gestation period and I’ll give returns after many years. This is what I told them when I went to Mumbai. My dad was hesitant initially. My mother teaches film, so she was okay. Two days after I told them about my decision, The Pioneer carried a story on the casting couch! But they’ve been very supportive and that’s the only reason why I’ve managed to survive in Mumbai till now despite all the uncertainties. I think my parents are now used to me breaking awkward news to them. I’ve regularly gotten into trouble, so now they’re used to it.

What is one stereotype of B-town that you conform to and one that you do not?
The stereotype I do fit in is that if you were to ask me my age, I would lie. The stereotype that I didn’t conform to is that I haven’t done the casting couch. All my friends would ask if it happened to me and for the longest time it didn’t, so I would wonder if there was something wrong with me. At least I’d be given a chance to prove my virtue! I’m sure <<hota hai>> but all the roles that I have got have been on the basis on very gruelling auditions.

How important is a lead role?
I’m in Bollywood to do lead roles. Tanu weds Manu was a brilliant script. I couldn’t stop laughing when Himanshu narrated it. I wanted to be a part of a commercial film as both my earlier films – Madholal Keep Walking and Niyati (unreleased) are very arthouse kind of roles. That’s why I did Tanu weds Manu. I am not going to be in Mumbai if I can’t do lead roles. And not being in Mumbai and not doing lead roles is like not having an arm and limb, so I’m very clear about that now.

Did you act in front of the mirror as a child?
Yeah, I was a horribly precocious and self-obsessed child. I was staring at myself in the mirror all the time. After Sushmita Sen won the Miss Universe, I would keep looking at myself and wonder if one day I too could become one.

So you didn’t take the beauty pageant route to Bollywood? 
No, I took the Delhi University route instead. That was just a childhood thing. I went to Sardar Patel school, later Miranda House for literature and then JNU for sociology and now have landed up at Bollywood.

You’re happy with your choice?
I was just telling my Mom the other day that acting in Bollywood is like falling in love with the wrong man. You know it’s a gamble, you know it might totally screw your life but what to do you’re in love. I didn’t want to live with the ‘ What if’ feeling. I look at love and work in the same way.

How have friendships impacted the way your life has turned out?
I think with all the uncertainties, anxieties and insecurities that the industry has to offer, I have managed to be reasonably cheerful and happy.

Have u forged friendships in Bollywood too?
Though I haven’t been here for too long, I would say in every film I’ve done, I’ve managed to make at least one or two friends who are genuine. I share a deep bond with them.

Do friendships last in Bollywood?
You’ll have to ask me this five or 10 years later. I don’t think I have spent enough time here.

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