March 27, 2002


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Telling the world about Indira Gandhi

Perizaad Zorabian is Indira Gandhi in Bandung Sonata Analyse this.

A ballet dancer. MBA degree holder. Actress. An unlikely career profile? Well, I've just described Perizaad Zorabian .

"You could say my foray into films was an accident," she says. Her motto: take each day as it comes. Whether it was Nagesh Kukunoor's Bollywood Calling or rookie director Viral Lakhia's Namaste , the Mumbai lass rushed in where angels would have feared to tread.

Currently in China shooting for her forthcoming international project in which she portrays India's only lady Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Perizaad tells Vivek Fernandes that she believes her fortune cookie has a lot more in store for her:

Your new film sounds rather exciting.

It's called Bandung Sonata --- about the first Asian-African conference that was held in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. The film has an important political impact --- the conference marked the first gathering of the Asian and African countries without superpowers America, the United Kingdom and the USSR.

Bandung Sonata is being produced by the China Film Group Corporation, the largest film production studio in China. This film is the largest production of the year.

It is a bilingual film that will be made in Chinese and English. This same studio co-produced Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Emperor and Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

What is your role in this Chinese production?

This film is about the events that occurred at the conference. Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier, played a very significant part in the conference, which is why the Chinese are making the film. The film takes a look at leaders from all over the world. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru attended the conference, accompanied by his young daughter Indira Gandhi. She was being trained by her father.

I play Indira Gandhi. The film does not have too many mainstream actors or actresses.

How did the film fall into your lap?

Perizaad in Namaste Uma Da Cunha, the international casting director, called me in for an audition. The Chinese casting director had come to Mumbai and Delhi to scout for actors. At the audition, I was asked to speak to a panel on a political issue. This was all impromptu, so I had to improvise. I gave it my best. The next thing I know, they emailed me, saying I was selected.

Why choose Bandung Sonata as your next film after Bollywood Calling? Would it not have more sense to move to mainstream Hindi cinema? Are you only looking at English projects?

My career was never planned. Bollywood Calling just happened. As did my second film Namaste which released in the US on March 15.

Bandung Sonata was just another of those things. All I want is work that I enjoy. These projects appealed to me tremendously, so I took them on.

No, I don't want to be stereotyped to doing English films only. Hindi cinema is very appealing, too. When I return [from China], I hope to commence work on a mainstream film. I am in the process of signing one. But I will be able to talk about it only when everything is in place.

What research did the project involve?

I had a lot of reading to do, especially on Indira Gandhi. I also spoke to tons of people who told me what she was like. It was imperative for me to understand what people thought of her. The interesting part is, I play the young Indira. The world really doesn't know what she was like then. It is a challenge to portray her thus, when she showed great potential. I also learnt that Nehru was very close to his daughter and thought of her very highly. He consulted her and she was his pillar of strength.

I think the role has now become a personal responsibility, because I need to show her as innocent, yet smart, savvy woman of the world.

You also starred in another international project Namaste. Tell us what working with that film unit was like.

Perizaad plays Ria in Namaste Namaste was an absolute blast. The entire unit was like family. The film was shot entirely in the US, it's a sweet love story.

I play the vivacious Ria. It was a great change from the Kajal of Bollywood Calling. I am taking a chance and not sticking to formula. I'm going with my heart and making sure I enjoy what I do.

How different is shooting for an international project in China or in Chicago from a Hindi flick?

Each has been a totally different experience.Bollywood Calling was shot in a month's schedule in Hyderabad's Ramoji Rao Studios. It was hard work, but Om Puri and Navin Nischol are the best costars in the world. Nagesh is a through professional, so it was shot like an American film and we had to stick to our callsheets.

Namaste was also a one-month, start-to-finish affair. The crew was American. Impeccable organisation; everything was planned and rehearsed. And fun.

Bandung Sonata takes professionalism to another level. The Chinese are extremely hardworking and this film works on a three-month schedule.

The great part about these start-to-finish schedules is that you are disciplined. Once you understand how they function, it is fun. No one gets special treatment. It doesn't matter who you are --- actor, director or makeup artist. Working here has made me realise that even acting is just like another job. No glorification.

What are the other projects you are currently working on?

There is one mainstream Hindi film in the pipeline. Let's see how that goes.

An MBA, dancer and a Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute graduate --- you won't find too many people with those credentials. What was it that motivated you to pursue acting?

Perizaad Zorabian I went to the US to pursue an MBA degree, to come back and take care of my father's business. Then I figured that I had to make the most of my stay in New York and decided to live it up, make the most of the opportunity and experience tons of different things.

I had trained in Western classical ballet for 12 years and have always loved the stage. I heard about the Lee Strasberg Institute from a friend and so I went and interviewed. I got selected and I did Strasberg just for the experience. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I wanted to be a full-time actress. Now, however, I've decided to pursue it seriously, give it my best.

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