Rediff Logo Movies Find/Feedback/Site Index
November 22, 1999


Send this interview to a friend

'It's unfair to have just one goal in life'

Amisha Patel Another one is bitten by the bug. We are talking about Amisha Patel, who is all set to debut opposite Hrithik Roshan in Rakesh Roshan's dream production, Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai.

One bright morning met Amisha at her tastefully done-up apartment. She took us to her beautiful bedroom, which is every little girl's dream come true. The room is full of stuffed toys, including seven stuffed dwarfs. As for Snow White, it has to be the pretty and petite Amisha herself.

Here she is, in conversation with Sukanya Verma.

Were you always interested in films?

Let me start at the beginning. I started learning Bharatnatyam when I was five and have given many live performances. Dancing is in my blood, it just comes from my soul. So, I never had any camera or stage fright.

But I do not belong to a filmi family. My grandfather Rajni Patel was a famous lawyer -- his statue will be unveiled on the 25th of this month (November). My grandmother has done up the Mani Bhavan museum while my dad is a businessman.

So you see, I come from an illustrious family where education plays an important role. Our parents saw to it that we ranked among the top five, at least in our class. After schooling, I went to the US for further studies and did two years of Biogenetic engineering. After a while, I switched to Economics because I didn't want to stay there much longer.

I graduated in economics with a gold medal and minored in dance, drama and religion. Later, I did some modelling, just for fun. Even when I was in the US, I did some shows. One of my friends even suggested that I should be in Bombay, giving Madhuri Dixit a run for her money! And since Madhuri is my favourite, I was thrilled to be compared to her.

So what actually prompted you to take the plunge?

It is during my last month at university that I realised I cannot run away from what I really want to do. I could no longer ignore the fact that I wanted to do films. So I wrote to my parents, saying that I need to do something creative, something like the performing arts.

They just dismissed it off as my latest obsession. I came back to India and started working with my dad in his office, but it was a disaster (laughs). Even though I was good at work, my heart wasn't in it. Then I worked for a finance company, but I wasn't really happy. I wanted to do something which would have my heart, soul and mind in it.

I told my parents I wanted to act in films. And there was World War III in the house! We just fought and fought on this issue for an entire year. Ultimately, they relented when they realised that I was not going to budge.

But my dad made me promise that I shall do quality films and not go on a signing spree. My bread and butter don't come from films. It is something I do because I enjoy it. I have the option to reject films.

How did Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai happen?

Amisha Patel One day, Rakesh uncle (Rakesh Roshan) called my family over for lunch. That wasn't unusual as he has known my dad right from his school days. At that time, I had no clue that Kareena (Kapoor) was not doing the film. I remember it was July 6. For the first five minutes, we were talking in general, and then suddenly he asked me, 'Amisha, would you like to do my film?' I said, 'But Kareena is already in the film.'

He then said she was not doing the film and that he was offering me the lead role. I just died (smiles). This is what I had been waiting for. I was so lucky to get this break. I did not have to go and break my head at any producer's office. I was so happy and excited that I kept jumping up and down throughout the lunch, much to everyone's amusement.

That was it -- there was no formal contract, just an agreement letter that I am doing his film. I've not looked back since then.

Tell us about the film.

It's an out-and-out love story. It has all the ingredients of a mirch masala film, because Rakesh Roshan knows how to keep the public glued to the seats. It's got action, beautiful songs, exotic locales, amazing choreography (by Farah Khan) and the Rakesh Roshan brand of comedy. There's nothing missing in it, not glamour, simplicity, tears or smiles. I won't call it different, rather it's a wholesome film. I must add that Rakesh uncle did not compromise anywhere. He has looked at every detail and made a very sensible film. You will fall in love with the characters. The film has a very classy, young and fresh feel to it.

How was it working with Rakesh Roshan?

It was a dream. No doubt he is a strict disciplinarian, but he is also so organised. He used to be the first to come on the sets -- before the light boys or anyone else.He would complete a 10-day schedule in seven days. When you work with someone like that, you learn a lot.

He did scream at me at times, but not too often. My dad told him to treat me exactly the way he would treat his son or daughter, and toughen me up since my family has always protected me.

The film is completely balanced. Both Hrithik and I have been presented in equal light. It is not like the other star-son launches where the heroine is completely sidelined. Rakeshji believes in making a good film first and foremost. His logic -- which makes a lot of sense -- is that if the film’s a hit, so is my son.

Were you nervous when you shot for the first scene?

It was a dance sequence. Since I love dancing, I was comfortable. Everyone in the unit was helpful and they encouraged me to give my best. Rakesh uncle never made it seem like it was his film and I was working in it. He always said, 'this is our film.' I am still learning and I hope to get better and better with each passing film.

How did you and Hrithik get along?

Hrithik is a gem of a person to work with. He was extremely helpful. Whenever I had problems with costumes or something like that, I would go crying to him. We became good friends during the making of the film. His girlfriend Suzanne is my best friend. I've known her since I was 16. Hrithik was never my co-star, he was more like my buddy. The environment we worked in was healthy and friendly.

Did you have any problems accepting a role rejected by Kareena Kapoor?

Amisha Patel Not at all. I don't think I will be the first choice for every film so early in my career. That doesn't mean that I should let go of such a good offer. Had I been stubborn about not doing a film rejected by someone, I wouldn’t have been in such a wonderful film and that would have been entirely my loss. I do not like my ego coming in the way; for me it's the final product that counts.

There are constant comparisons made between you, Kareena and Rinke Khanna -- how do you react to that?

I think this happens to every newcomer. There is an invisible rivalry created by the media. The audience too, is curious to find out who is better. Honestly, I feel that Kareena, Rinke and I have nothing against each other. If we were to bump into each other, I am sure we will be able to have a polite conversation. I would be game to act in a project with either of them. In any case, there is so much work for everyone in the industry that one girl can't do all the films. It has to be distributed. So, we need more and more youngsters in the industry.

Does it make a difference that you are not a star child?

It is different. If you are a star kid, everything comes to you on a platter. You are declared a star even without a single release. But if you are not from a filmi background, things are very different. Whether it is publicity, hype or film offers, the star children always have an upperhand. But there are disadvantages too. If they don’t do well, they receive a lot of flak.

What has the industry response to you been like?

It has been excellent. All those who have seen the film in parts have appreciated Hrithik and me. They feel he and I look good on screen and make a good pair. Everyone has been saying that Rakeshji has not only launched his son but also a newcomer with a lot of potential.

How do you deal with gossip and false link-ups written about you?

Initially, it irritated me. I used to try and defend myself, but now I turn a deaf ear. It is very silly of the media to badmouth stars who are the idols of millions. When false items are published in a magazine, it may have an adverse effect on a fan who is at an impressionable age. I feel really sad to see when the media, which is such a powerful tool, has a negative effect instead of a positive one on the public.

But I don't lose sleep over such lies because it is part and parcel of the industry. I have told my parents not to get affected by whatever is published. I am better off ignoring gossip rather than fighting it.

What are the other films you are doing?

There is one Telugu film. The South Indian film industry is very organised and disciplined -- their technicians are good and the films wrap up fast. It is a good exposure. I have decided to do one film in the South every year.

I am also doing Vikram Bhatt's Armaan, again with Hrithik. One film that I am really excited about is Gadar opposite Sunny Deol. It is a period film set in the '40s. I play a Muslim girl and Sunny is a Sikh in the film. It's a beautiful love story which requires strong performances. I am excited about this not only because my second film is with a superstar like Sunny, but also because unlike a whole lot of movies, I have a substantial role. In fact, the story revolves around the girl here.

Does being educated make a difference in Bollywood?

Amisha Patel It sure does. Because you know you don't have to sign the wrong films. People know that you come from a respectable home, with sound education, so they automatically tend to respect you. They can't take you for a ride. You don't have to be desperate for films.

Which films do you enjoy watching?

At times, I enjoy a crazy comedy by David Dhawan. Then there are times when I watch serious films. I would love to do an Umrao Jaan, a Mrityudand or a Lamhe.

Who are the directors you would love to work with?

Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Raj Kumar Santoshi. They are excellent directors and it would be a privilege to work with them. Given a chance, I would love to work with Rakesh uncle again.

Your favourite actors and actresses are...

Madhuri is my all-time favourite. Rekha, Sridevi are also fabulous. Among the current stars, Kajol and Manisha Koirala are deadly performers. I have always admired Dilip Kumar's intensity and Shah Rukh's spontaneity. Govinda is another tremendous actor.

What is your ultimate dream?

I don't have a dream. I don't have an end. I want to enjoy everything in life to the fullest. Now it is films, tomorrow it may be marriage, kids, business or something else. It's unfair to have just one goal in life. I believe in having a good today, because if my today is good, tomorrow is bound to be great.

Tell us what you think of this interview