'There is something about Akshaye Khanna'
Neha Dhupia has ambitious plans in Bollywood
Here is another girl who joins the Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai, Diya Mirza, Priyanka Chopra league. Miss India-Universe 2002 Neha Dhupia now appears in Harry Baweja's film Qayamat, opposite Ajay Devgan.
The film also stars Suniel Shetty, Arbaaz Khan, Sanjay Kapoor and Isha Kopikkar.
Apart from a few modelling assignments, including Reebok, National, Pepsi, LG, Gillet, Maruti and Mitsubishi Lancer, the 22-year-old has featured in the television serial Rajdhani and Sshh... Koi Hai as well as anchoring the travel show Moosafir Hoon Yaaron. She also featured in Euphoria's music video, Shanana.
Excerpts from a conversation with Vickey Lalwani:
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Cochin August 27, 1980. Since my father is in the Navy, he was often transferred to other cities. When I was nine years old, we moved on to New Delhi. I remember I would always study at the eleventh hour, but still manage to get good marks. I was very active in sports, and I was an extrovert.
What made you enter the Femina Miss India contest?
Ever since Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai made headlines, every other girl in India wants to be a beauty queen. I was no exception. I thought that if so many girls around me can do it, why can't I? Since a year or two, I wanted to fill the entry form, but could not gather myself to do so. Then I decided to be firm and just do it! My uncle pushed me quite hard, and I think without him I would have backed out again!
How did you go about it?
I cut off myself off from everyone. I conditioned myself to see only the Miss India crown. I started working on my mind and body vigorously. It was extremely stressful. So I joined yoga and meditation too.
After every round, I would pinch myself. I was getting closer to realising my dream. In the few last rounds I realised how badly I wanted the title. I vowed to myself that I will not let it go. Courtesy my yoga and meditation, I was totally at ease during the crucial question round.
A lot of people played a substantial role in making me what I am today --- Rhea Pillai, who taught me the Art of Living, Anjali Mukherjee who looked after my diet, Sabira Merchant who trained me in speech and diction, Namit Kishor who inculcated personality development and stage presence in me and Bharat Thakur who imparted the training in yoga. I will never forget January 19, 2002, when I was crowned.
How did films happen?
A coordinator told me that [filmmaker] Harry Baweja was looking out for a new face for his film Qayamat. I met Harry, he took my screen test, and thereafter I was out of the country for ten days. When I came back, I was told that I had been chosen.
There are many shades to my character in the film. I happen to fall in and out of love [with the character of Ajay Devgan]. I am forced by circumstances to believe contrary to reality. Qayamat is an action thriller and will hit the marquee by April 2003.
I may be a part of Madhur Bhandarkar's Police Force. I may also be a part of Rajat Mukherjee and Feroz Nadiawala's projects. My classes for formal training in acting begin next week. I hope to loosen up a bit. I do not want to look like an amateur.
Why did you accept a role which was rejected by Gracy Singh for having to don undersized and revealing outfits?
I do not know if my role was to be done by Gracy. There are two female leads in the film. The girl opposite Suniel Shetty has not been finalised yet. Gracy may have been cast opposite Suniel. But I don't think she rejected the role. There was some miscalculation on her secretary's part about the dates.
Besides, I do not have to wear undersized and revealing outfits. I have had a sitting with my dress designer and he has updated me on all the attires.
Heroines don outrageous costumes nowadays. Are you comfortable with this?
If my body can carry something well, I have no objection. But if I feel uncomfortable and conscious, I will put my foot down.
Do you go to producers and directors for roles?
Never! I am ambitious but not desperate. I will never throw myself at any filmmaker. I don't think the industry is as bad as it is made out to be. Today's young filmmakers who belong to the third generation, are entirely focused in their work and have no time for cheap activities. Coordinators carry my pictures around.
Are you nervous about film critics?
No. I will take all the criticism constructively. It will help me to learn and improve with every film. I am here to stay.
Any heroes you are dying to work with?
Yes, I am dying to work with Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. I have been crazy about them since childhood. There is something about Akshaye Khanna too.