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April 2, 2002
Sophiya, so good
"I know I'm cutting it fine, but there just wasn't any other way. I fly to Kolkata for a gig and then to London. Reheasals begin on April 8, at 10 am. My plane touches London that morning at 7.30 am. So I'll have to go to rehearsal directly. It will be hectic," sighs ballerina-tuned-model-turned-VJ-turned-singer-turned-actress Sophiya Haque.
Sophiya is part of Andrew Lloyd Webber's theatrical Bombay Dreams --- the legendary composer's musical tribute to Mumbai city and Bollywood.
"I play Rani. She's a Hindi film actress, a prima donna who is past her prime. She still collects awards. She's a specimen of the lovey-dovey, click-click flash-flash variety," Sophiya grins.
"I heard about Bombay Dreams from a number of people and was interested. But I had no idea about how to go about it. I needed someone to tell the Bombay Dreams team they needed to audition me. That was [choreographer] Farah Khan who, besides bing a close friend, has also worked with me often. She called me from London and said I needed to get there. Not quite sure about what I was doing, I flew to London and auditioned.
"I didn't know how many people would be there. I really hadn't been to too many auditions before," Sophiya says, recalling the experience. "Only three of us were auditioning then. I realised then that they were in the final stages of casting.
"The dance audition went off well. I was keen to show off the Westernized style of dance, which I've trained in. But they wanted it to be more Indian, so I played along. I have absorbed so much of Bollywood in the last 10 years that I have lived in Mumbai that I managed. If I were given the same steps 10 years ago, I wouldn't have known where to turn my head," she laughs.
"The song audition was a disaster. I wasn't sure what I ought to have sung. I asked (theatre personality and advertising professional ) Alyque Padamsee whether I needed to do a Webber number or something from a musical. He said I should opt for something I loved.
"So I chose a piece from the soundtrack of The Color Purple called Miss Celie's Blues which I love, and which I head learnt for my sister's birthday.
"After the dance routine, I handed the sheet music to the pianist. When I began to sing, I sounded awful. After the first verse, I even stopped, but the casting directors urged me on. They were very sweet. But it was so embarrassing," she says sheepishly. "The next try was about 50 per cent better. Thank God Lord Webber walked in when I was auditioning the dialogues."
Theatre, Sophiya admits, is completely new territory for her. "I have done television and film and stage, but that was mostly ballet recitals." The former VJ says she's hoping to learn a lot from actress Ayesha Dharker, who also shares the role of Rani with her.
"[Actor] Dalip Tahil and I were the only two cast members in Mumbai when director Steven Pimlott and choreographer Anthony van Laast were here in March. It was great fun to see them work out the dance sequences of the hijras (eunuchs), with all the guys clapping."
What of her Bollywood aspirations, I ask. "I have become an 'item number' specialist," she retorts, before busting into giggles. "Another dream of mine came true when I danced with Prabu Deva for a Telugu film called Santosham." The film is expected to relase later this year.
"We just wrapped up a shoot in Goa, where I completed a number for Jackie Shroff's home production Sandhya. Here, I have a pretty decent role. I even speak in shuddh Hindi," she says, as she bursts into peals of laughter again.
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