Model Masumi Makhija is on cloud nine.
The niece of late filmmaker Gul Anand (Khatta Meetha, Chashme Buddoor, Jalwa, Hero Hiralal) is back in India after shooting for a German film.
She has three more films in her kitty. "I am having a dream start," she says, beaming. "I could not have asked for anything better.
"I have wanted to be an actress ever since I turned 13, maybe because of the environment [I grew up in]. My mother [Gul Anand's sister] belonged to the PLA Entertainment group. I did a workshop with Satyadev Dubey, who took one look at me and said I wanted to be an actress for just fun. To convince himself I was really serious about this profession, he gave me a long passage to memorise. I was supposed to deliver it after a week with the correct diction and expression. I complied.
"My mom did not discourage me from chasing my dream, but she would not allow me to neglect my studies. Thanks to her, I completed my degree in commerce from Pune. I came to Mumbai later."
Theatre called. She played Maria, the lead in Dil Ka Haal Sune Dilwala, a three-hour Hindi play directed by Nikhil Sharma, based on Westside Story. The play did 30 shows. She then worked in Serai Ki Malkin, a comedy in which she interchanged roles between a crass, promiscuous woman and her introverted friend.
Continues Masumi, "Bappi Soni's Prem was my television break. The serial did not see the light of day, but I was not discouraged. While shooting for the pilot, I realised I was born to be an actress. Then came another offer, Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zaroorat Hai, for Sony. I was noticed, touchwood."
Masumi also appeared in Saturday Suspense, Banegi Apni Baat, and many advertisements -- Rexona Deo, Kingfisher Water and Johnson's Facewash & Moisturiser.
Films had to wait, though. She says, "I didn't want to get overexposed." Then came Tor Zum Himmel [Gateway To Heaven], directed by Veit Helmer [Tour d'Amour, Die Raeuber, Within Grasp, The Window Cleaner, Tour Eiffel], which is likely to enter the Cannes Film Festival next month.
"The film will first release on the festival circuit in July," she says. "The European market is our prime target. They are likely to get it to India by 2005."
Masumi's co-star in the film is Valera Nikolaev (Val Kilmer's nemesis in The Saint). "The local casting agent put me on to the makers and I was selected. It was as easy as that," she says.
Tor Zun Himmel, she says, is a love story between an Indian girl and a Russian boy, set against Frankfurt airport. She explains, "The whole economy of Frankfurt depends on its airport. At any given instant, there are 1,00,000 people at the airport. Lots of things happen there every day. The highlight of the film is how officials kill a person and avoid talking about it since it happened on their base. It has a political backdrop with actors from all over the globe -- Zimbabwe, New Zealand, China, etc. The film is in English and the cast speak in their own accents."
Masumi now wants to concentrate on Bollywood. Her second film, Chupke Se, is directed by her sister Shona Urvashi. The film releases mid-July. She says, "I play a Mulund-based Marathi girl who is so restless and mischievous that she cannot sit in one place without harassing someone. At the same time, she aspires for fame. In a way, the film is my home production and will mark the revival of PLA Entertainment."
She admits that shooting for the two films was as different as chalk and cheese. "But I am equally, if not more, excited about my Hindi debut. I want filmmakers to sit up and take note of me. I don't want to get lost in a crowd."
Masumi also features in ace cameraman Madhu Ambat's directoral debut 1:1.6 -- An Ode To Lost Love produced by the National Film Development Corporation. The film stars Atul Kulkarni, Gulshan Grover and Rati Agnihotri.
She says, "It is a fantastic role -- the story of an actress [Masumi] through a cameraman's [Atul] eyes. The actress is in love with her director [Grover], but her mom [Agnihotri] sleeps with him! My father in the film has committed suicide, and because of all the ups and downs in my life, I have a gamut of emotions to portray."
She will also be seen in Vishal Bharadwaj's Mian Maqbool, which stars Naseeruddin Shah, Tabu and Irfan Khan. "A lot remains to be shot on Mian Maqbool and I am looking forward to my scenes with Tabu," she says. "There is a lot I can learn from this fine actress. We are shooting mainly in Bhopal [Madhya Pradesh]. I play a quiet, overprotected girl from a conservative background."
Would she be ready to don suggestive outfits and dance around trees? "No problem! That would be fun," she responds.
Would she go to producers for roles? Pat comes the reply: "If I knew the producer and am certain I fit his requirement, why not?"