With her all-new glamorous avatar and reworked career strategy, Sameera Reddy is making up for her insipid debut in Maine Dil Tujhko Diya (Sohail Khan).
The dusky beauty, who has now caught filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma's attention, will feature in his next production -- the forthcoming supernatural thriller, Darna Mana Hai (Saif Ali Khan, Nana Patekar, Revathy, Vivek Oberoi, Shilpa Shetty, Antara Mali).
"I just lucked out. Ram Gopal Varma is the best thing to happen to me," she exclaims.
Reddy was recently in Goa to recover from MDTD's debacle. She returned with a great tan and a go-getter attitude to match and walked right into Sanjay Gupta's office.
"I immediately signed her as one of the leading ladies in Plan [The Sanjay Gupta-Sanjay Dutt production stars Dutt, Dino Morea, Sanjay Suri, Bikram Saluja, Priyanka Chopra and is being directed by Gupta's former assistant, Hriday Shetty]. I have also signed her as the pivotal character in my next directorial venture," says Gupta.
The Kaante director had initially signed Isha Koppikar opposite Dino Morea. "When I signed Priyanka Chopra opposite Sanjay Dutt, Isha threw a fit. She wanted to be paired with Sanju. That is when Sameera entered the picture," he says.
Calling her Mumbai's answer to Latin sensation Jennifer Lopez, Gupta gushes, "With her chiselled face and new tan, she is looking awesome. So far, I have been known as a guys' director. For the first time, I am going to present a heroine with so much style."
Clearly, Reddy is enjoying the attention "It is like a new beginning. I won't disown my launch film just because it didn't do well. Since it was director Sohail Khan's debut as an actor, he and producer Bunty Walia went all out to ensure everything went right. Maybe, the timing [of its release] wasn't right. Two years ago, love stories with newcomers were most welcome."
The upcoming star has no regrets." I did get some offers after MDTD. But they were run-of-the-mill stuff. I stepped back despite warnings from all my friends, including journalists. I was adamant about the kind of impact I wanted to make. I couldn't allow myself to get carried away by offers and the pressure around me. One has to be clear-headed and positive before getting anywhere in life. I took a long break to reinvent myself."
The path to reinvention involved rigorous exercise and creating a sensual new look that would set her apart from her contemporaries. As Reddy points out, "You know how this industry is! After Raaz, everyone launched a supernatural thriller. I didn't want to go by what was trendy. I wanted to opt for a look that suited my personality. I worked on my physique and opted for a Latin look because it suits me. Girls [in the film industry] want to look fair on screen even if they are dark-complexioned. I have opted for a completely tanned look. I am a dusky girl. When I go abroad, foreigners ask me whether I am Latin American or Spanish."
Fortunately for her, the response has been encouraging. "To get Ramuji and then Sanjay Gupta to direct me is better than anything I could hope for."
Although Varma's Darna Mana Hai is crowded with stars, Sameera is confident of making an impact. "I narrate five of the stories [Darna Mana Hai has six parallel stories with a common ending]. It is an exciting role. I am very happy with it."
Varma has also signed her for another film that is scheduled to go on the floors in August. Talks are also on with Pooja Bhatt for her directorial debut, Paap. "It is supposed to be the role of pahadi [mountain] girl opposite John Abraham," says Reddy.
In complete contrast to her innocent girl-next-door act in MDTD, Sameera is playing saucy characters in Darna Mana Hai and Plan.
"In Darna Mana Hai, I play a fearless femme fatale in leather boots and jeans, who is full of attitude. She is a hip girl who maintains her cool, while the rest of the characters are freaking out. In Plan, I am a spunky aspiring actress. She is very confident and shares starry dreams with Dino, who also wants to be a star," she grins.
Reddy went through a seesaw of emotions after the abysmal performance of her debut film at the box office. "I was constantly scrutinised and criticised. The change in people's attitude was too much to take. On my last birthday, when I was shooting for Maine Dil Tujhko Diya, I got bouquets from so many producers and colleagues. This year it was just my five friends and me."
But Reddy is not bitter; instead, she is "thankful for this period. It made me re-examine my priorities as a human being and an actress. If I had got success easily, maybe I wouldn't have been able to handle it. Today I can handle anything."