The Woman Sunny Deol is PAGLA about!
From Russia, where she was born, to a role in the forthcoming Hindi film Yamla Pagla Deewan 2, Kristina Akheeva has come a long way.
When she was seven years old, her family migrated to Australia. She says she always knew she wanted to be an actress. "I learnt ballroom dancing and salsa. I was passionate about dancing. I even pursued it at the competitive level and went to championships."
The love of acting started with school plays. "I was making my own plays and directing them at school. When I was 12, I made a short film on a handy-camera with my friend."
Acting classes followed and then parts in television and on the big screen. For a Romanian play she acted in, in Melbourne, she learnt to speak the language.
At the age of 20, she started modelling and travelled to many countries on assignments.
"Like any parent, my mother would always tell me to concentrate on my studies, go to university and do a proper degree and give up acting and modelling. She would say that I should have back-up to fall back on if acting doesn't work out."
But Kristina stuck with it and told her mother to trust her. "This is what I really wanted to do. I did not want to waste three years on some course I had zero interest in doing," she says.
Eventually, she started getting results. She started to travel and make good money modelling. "Then my mom and everyone completely changed and my mom would say 'I wish I could have your life, you are living a dream life.' But I think my parents just wanted to make sure that I am not struggling and when they saw that I wasn't struggling but getting results, they were more than happy and very supportive."
Image: Kristina Akheeva
Photographs: Viaan Media
'I love parathas!'
She landed up in India six years ago. "I came to India back-packing in 2007. I was touring Asia and spent one month travelling around India -- Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra, Goa, Kerala and Chennai. I watched Hindi movies when I was here. I returned in 2010 on a one-year modelling contract. In 2012, I came back on a modelling contract."
She did a lot of television commercials and print campaigns -- for Vaseline, Sunsilk, Anmol jewellery, Avon, Holii bags etc.
Of India, she says appreciatively, "It is a place with diverse cultures. There is so much variety here, but you still make it work. I come from Australia which is a young country so we don't have a huge history like yours that is intriguing and interesting."
Indian food gets the thumbs down thanks to a delicate digestive system. "Unfortunately, I can't have spicy food. I can't eat dairy as I am lactose intolerant so I have limited choices while eating. But I love parathas. I recently had radish parathas and I loved them."
Her favourite places in India are Rajasthan, which she fortunately visited in December, and Goa. "I love Goa. I can live there as I am a hippy at heart."
Image: Kristina Akheeva
'I was not just rattling off my lines. I knew what I was saying'
She landed a role in Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, starring Dharmendra, Sunny and Bobby Deol, after being called for an audition. "I was given Hindi dialogues and was given two days to prepare. It was quite tough but somehow I managed. Then they asked me to dance. They wanted to see whether I could really pull off the character."
But how did she manage Hindi? "I read the lines over and over again to memorise them. It was challenging as I have the worst memory. But for the first time ever, my memory worked and I said all my lines perfectly!"
During the actual shooting of the film, the scriptwriter Jasvinder Bath would explain the dialogues to her in English. She would write down the meaning and dialogues in English and memorise them. "I was not just rattling off my lines. I knew what I was saying."
Even though she didn't understand the language she says she never felt out of place on the sets. "Everyone made me comfortable. I had a good rapport with all the cast and crew. The whole team helped me and never left me alone."
Image: Kristina Akheeva
'Sunny Deol is adorably shy with romance'
Kristina is often asked what it is like to work with Sunny Deol. "Any good actor, despite how they are in their day to day life, the moment they are in front of the camera they come out of their shell. Sunny is just the same. When he is in front of the camera he has this super energy, giving his all. It was nice to work with him during the scenes. He really came out of his shell and we had a really good rapport."
She adds, "He is a very disciplined person. He is very passionate about his work. I appreciate these qualities in a person. I really liked the way he is and therefore we had a very good working relationship."
Kristina plays the role of Reet, half British-half Indian, who is brought up in the UK. She comes from a well-to-do family, is highly educated, very much into the arts and works in an art gallery.
That's quite different to Sunny's character in the film, but a sweet romance develops between the two, Kristina says. "Sunny's character is tough in the fight sequences but when it comes to romance, he is adorably shy, especially about expressing the way he feels about me in the film. I am more confident and constantly trying to get him to express his emotions."
Image: Kristina Akheeva in Yamla Pagla Deewana
'Dharamji is an all-rounder, he can just do everything'
Kristina doesn't want to reveal too much about the film but she says she has many scenes with Bobby Deol as well and a couple of scenes with Dharmendra too.
"I got to work with everyone, which was really great. Everyone has different acting styles," she says.
Bobby Deol, she says, is very chilled out and has a natural style of acting whereas Sunny has this super energy and his presence is strong. "Dharamji is an all-rounder. He can just do everything. He has been in the industry for so many years. He is hilarious at doing comedy. He is a fantastic actor. I learned a lot from him."
Kristina has not signed any more films. "My main focus is on Yamla Pagla Deewana 2. I have read a few scripts but I haven't signed anything yet."
Image: Kristina Akheeva at the music launch
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar