'I see myself holding an Oscar'
Being director Mohit Suri's sister and Pooja Bhatt's niece would have been a cakewalk for this young girl. But Smilie begs to differ. She tells Nithya Ramani why. Excerpts:
Where did you disappear after Kalyug?
I was shooting. Eight months after Kalyug happened, I did a film called Yeh Mera India for director N Chandra. I play Asha Ambedkar, a very simple Mumbai girl who is sexually abused by her boss in a call centre. I am cast opposite Purab Kohli in the film. It is about 24 hours of her life in Mumbai.
I then did another film called Down Town for director Andalip Sultanpuri. There again I have a very interesting character. I play Anushka, a small town girl from Nashik, who comes to Mumbai. She is very bubbly, charming and bindaas girl. I am cast opposite newcomer Akhil Rajendra. It is a very sweet story which again is about the 24 hours of their lives.
Image: Smile Suri
'I was a slightly dyslexic child'
That was the intention -- to do films that were not from my home production. It was very important for me to do different and better roles after Kalyug.
N Chandra saw me in Kalyug and wanted to cast me in his next film. He narrated the script to me and even before I could say yes, he said he could see his Asha in me. I liked the script and my role in the film, so I agreed to do it.
Similarly for Down Town, a DOP who knew me, told Andalip [Sultanpuri, the director] that I would suit Anushka's role. He was earlier apprehensive as he has seen me only in salwar kameez in Kalyug and wondered if I could pull off Anushka's character. I met Andalip, who saw me and immediately decided that I was his Anushka.
Since the whole family is into showbiz, did you want to join films too? It must have been a cakewalk...
I beg to differ. It wasn't a cakewalk at all. I was always interested in acting. As a child I wasn't too much into academics. I was a slightly dyslexic child so my mother would always encourage me to indulge in curricular activities.
I did a lot of dancing with Shaimak Davar [choreographer]. Performing arts was the only thing I could think of to sharpen my skills.
I was so interested in acting that I auditioned for Kalyug, despite being my home production and my brother directing it. I met Bhatt saab and gave my auditions. He liked me and told Mohit that I could be Renuka.
As far as the whole family being in showbiz is concerned, I was very well informed about the industry. Mohit told me the pros and cons of being a celebrity and being in the industry.
My father wasn't too fond of me getting into acting but since I was interested, he let me be. We lost our mother at a very young age and since then it has been my grandmother [Purnima Verma] the only other lady in my life. Otherwise I am surrounded by only men.
Image: Smile Suri
'People know me as Renuka despite seeing me in jeans and t-shirt'
Though everyone in film was family, I still felt like an outsider. They say, ghar ki murgi daal barabar. Nobody would listen to me. The crew would treat me with respect but wouldn't talk or interact with me.
I too felt very shy as there was this zeal to perform and impress. I felt like this for the first few days but those feelings passed.
How has life changed after Kalyug? Though your performance was appreciated, you still didn't make it to the list of toppers in the industry.
Life has pretty much been the same but now people have started recognising me. They know me as Renuka despite seeing me in jeans and t-shirt.
I have been loved and cherished. As long as I have made that impression on their minds, making it to the top is not too far behind. I see myself holding an Oscar. I know I can act and I will one day win an Oscar.
How was it working with Mohit on Kalyug? Did the brother in him come out while directing you? Do you discuss projects with him?
Mohit knows how to be objective. On the sets, he is just a director. We all are very professional. We go on the sets, do our job and wrap up and then be family again.
As far as discussing work goes, Mohit has always told me that it is ethically not right to discuss each other's profession. Ultimately he is a director and will not want me to discuss his script with others or discuss other's scripts with him.
So the decision making is completely mine. He doesn't interfere. But he is always there to support me and so is Bhatt saab.
How was it working with Mahesh Bhatt? How is he professionally?
I respect Bhatt saab. I used to call him Mahesh mama but since everyone calls him Bhatt saab, I started calling him by that name too.
He has an eye for talent. He can catch the right character in the right person. There is a lot to learn from him. Even if you spend 10 minutes with him you will learn a lot.
Image: Smile Suri
'I wasn't comfortable doing the kissing scene in Kalyug'
It is both an advantage and a disadvantage. I may get a foot-hold into the industry with Vishesh Films, but to stick around and get more offers will have to be based on my capabilities. I feel the market has opened up and there is a lot of scope for me.
You had a kissing scene in Kalyug. How comfortable are you with these love-making scenes?
Initially, I wasn't comfortable doing the scene in Kalyug, though it wasn't too bold or anything. Knowing that Mohit was shooting the scene put me at ease, though.
I remember when we shot that scene, I was nervous and wondered if everyone was going to be there. But then Mohit explained that we are professionals and it was a very mechanical thing. We just wanted to get it over and done with. Kunal [Khemu] and I finished the scene in no time and we all went out for ice cream after that.
There was a kissing scene in Yeh Mera India too. But here the boss is forcing himself on me and I wasn't comfortable doing the scene. I told Chandraji and he was very accommodative. He used a double instead for the kiss. If you have a good rapport with the director, no one will force you to do anything you don't want to.
Do you think skin show, being glamourous and agreeing to do bold scenes on screen is necessary?
It all matters but what matters above all is talent. These days the audience is very smart and intelligent. They can easily tell a good actor from a bad one. Body, beauty and talent together make a complete performer. Take Konkana Sen Sharma for example, she doesn't do any skin show but she is wonderful actor. Everyone likes her. People should be able to relate to the actor.
Image: Smile Suri