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Home > Movies > Interviews

The Rediff Interview

'I am not aching to pursue acting'

February 15, 2003

She is like an excited little bird, wallowing in the excitement of her debut film.Anoushka Shankar

Anoushka Shankar, dressed in a slim-fitting black dress with spaghetti straps, laughs delightedly as she perches on a chair, tucking into rotis and sabzi. Her hair is pinned back to display shell-like ear lobes pierced thrice each. She puts her plate away and walks up for an interview, looking every bit the character she plays in the film, a perfect combination of a traditional Bharata Natyam dancer and a modern young woman.

She was picked by Pamela Rooks to play the female lead in the film version of Mahesh Dattani's play Dance Like A Man. Rooks, who knew Anoushka and her famous sitar maestro father Pandit Ravi Shankar for years, thought she would be the best choice as she is a trained Bharata Natyam dancer. She only had to get Anoushka to tone down her strong American accent and speak more like a young Indian city-slicker.

M D Riti chats up the debutante.

How are you enjoying your first film?

At first, I was a little bewildered by the whole thing. But after the first day or two, it has been a lot of fun. It has been different for me so far, being on stage where you give one hundred per cent of yourself in a concentrated manner at a concert for two hours and then it is all over. Here, you keep waiting and waiting, and then just give one shot of one line. (laughs)

What made you do this film?

Pam offered me this role last August. I was in India to release my book. She got me to do a reading. By October, I decided to do the role. I have had other offers before but for my first film, I did not want to do anything too big. This was a smaller film with a smaller cast. The others were big Bollywood films.

I do not know how I would be as an actress and whether I want to be one or not. This was comfortable for me. Besides, I have known Pam and [actress] Shobhana akka for many years. The dance helped me decide. I loved the idea of dancing and acting for the movie. It has been fun.

Did you find it hard to emote in front of a camera?

I have been in public for a long time, so the camera was never an issue for me. I am very comfortable in front of a camera.

The only change is being someone else in front of the camera. Saying someone else's lines was hard.

The character I play is Indian. I had to have a proper Indian accent. To remember that and be consistent and still think about acting was hard work.

Did you manage to get your accent right for the film finally?

I did, but I don't know how successful I have been! (laughs) Everyone helped me.

Have you either read or seen productions of the play?

No, and I am glad I didn't. The script is fresh, and I just play the character the way I see and react to her. If I had seen someone else play it on stage, I am sure that would have influenced me in some way. Anoushka Shankar

Do you see anything of yourself in her?

Not much. She is a person who has been raised in a family of dance and her parents trained her to be what they are. She is under pressure to do well because her mother has put a lot into her. All of that is there. But the way in which she deals with all this is just her. It is not me at all (laughs).

How do you like working with your costars?

They have been so lovely. Shobhana akka helped me a lot. Samir, who plays my fiancé, and I play off each other very well. He is so sweet.

There are a lot of intimate mother-daughter scenes that have been very comfortable. I think we come across like we are -- really close and love each other a lot.

Are your parents happy about your doing this film?

Oh, they are excited and happy. I speak to them every day about the shooting. They will come here for a few days to have a look. I have family in Bangalore as well. I met them two days ago.

Tell us about your Bollywood offers. Will you get into movies in a big way after this?

There were two from the Rajashri banner, one for a film they already had written and another they wanted to write about a musician, just for me. I was also offered a small role by MGM in Hollywood. I will consider any offer I get but this is not a character I am aching to pursue. I would not want to do anything that would take away from my career in music. I will always be a musician first.

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