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'Newcomers don't have that oomph factor'

By Jahnavi Patel
Last updated on: October 26, 2017 17:38 IST
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'Talent is very important. It's a mix of everything -- you need to be a great dancer, you need to have good looks, you need to be glamorous...

'Newcomers these days rarely have all these qualities. It's been a while; no one has that oomph factor yet.

'Either someone is sexy but okay when it comes to performance or somebody is extremely good at performing and okay (looking).'

Raai Laxmi turns on the heat for Julie 2. 

IMAGE: Throwback to a calendar shoot. Photograph: Kind courtesy Raai Laxmi/Instagram

From punctuality to the way interviews are conducted, we can easily spot the difference between the way the entertainment industry works down south and in Bollywood.

While Bollywood actors, even the newer lot, know how to field questions expertly, actors from the south haven't reached there yet.

Take Raai Laxmi, who has done 50 films down south and is now making her Bollywood debut with Julie 2.

When she enters the room and settles down on a sofa for an interview with five reporters, she looks at our recorders placed in front of her and asks, 'Is everyone going to ask the same questions?'

Yes, there's a lot of difference.


Raai Laxmi comes from a non-film background. She got noticed by a director, thanks to her modelling career.

"It was an easy entry for me but, after that, I had to struggle a bit," she confesses.

"The south is a different place to sustain," she adds. "If they don't rate you as a good performer, you cannot be there, especially the Malayalam film industry."

The actress is calm and composed through the interview.

She is a big star in the south but enjoys her relative anonymity in Mumbai.

"I am so happy roaming around in Mumbai. I can walk on the streets," she says.

Raai Laxmi tells us what to expect from Julie 2. Jahnavi Patel/ listens in.

How did Julie 2 happen?

The cameraman of Julie 2, Sameer Reddy, brought this project to me.

I met Deepakji keeping in mind that Julie had created a different impression. So, as my 50th film, would this be the right film for me?

I wanted to give it some thought and not go with the perception that it would be something like Julie. But when I heard the narration, it was absolutely different from what I expected.

Julie 2 is a franchise, it's not a sequel.

I was relieved when I heard the script.

Of course, it has the glamour and all that but it connects with the film.

When I heard this film, I kind of connected it with the reality of a woman. It's something I always wanted to do.

I wanted to give a message, which comes across strongly in the film. It is not seen in the trailer but it's there in the film.

It gave me courage to do this script.

Also, Julie has varied facets in the film -- from glam to deglam to a superstar. This is a film that will allow me to show my talent.

IMAGE: Raai Laxmi in Julie 2

Your character goes through various phases in the film. Could you relate to the character at any point?

Yes. A lot of people are highlighting the casting couch but that's not the only thing that the story says.

It's basically about how a girl struggles in her life and how it's not easy for her to stand on her feet.

By showing her as an actress, they have used a filmi base so that people can easily connect to the story.

There are so many incidents in the film where every girl will feel, 'Yes, this has happened to me.'

Girls go through tough times in every field but they don't talk about it because they don't have a voice.

I feel a girl will be very touched by Julie 2. For the guys, it's all about the glamour and the songs.

IMAGE: Raai Laxmi introduces her Julie 2 co-star, Sahil Salathi. Photograph: Kind courtesy Raai Laxmi/Instagram

Hindi movies are being dubbed and released in the south. You are already a star there; do you think it will help the film reach a bigger audience?

It will be an extra advantage for this film.

Usually, when Hindi movies are released (in the south), you need to dub them. If you do a straight release, it will have a very restricted audience.

By the time I came on board, they had already decided to dub the film and make it in five languages.

Also, I think when the trailer released, it created so much buzz because of the kind of fan following I have.

Besides, in the north also, a lot of people are watching dubbed films on television.

The kind of money we have spent on this film makes it quite an expensive one for a newcomer.

IMAGE: Raai Laxmi poses with co-producer and director Deepak Shivdasani and producer Pahlaj Nihalani. Photograph: Kind courtesy Raai Laxmi/Instagram

How different is the working atmosphere here?

It's absolutely different.

I find it far easier here (in Bollywood) because everything is relaxed -- one scene a day or one-and-a-half scenes a day.

Down south, it's back-to-back. You start working at 6 and then you don't know where it's going.

IMAGE: Jayam Ravi and Raai Laxmi in Dhaam Dhoom.

Which film was the game changer for you?

A film called Dhaam Dhoom.

Director Jeeva, who made Run, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Bhumika Chawla, portrayed me in an absolute deglam role and that became a successful film.

Till then, people were looking at me differently but that character was a game changer for me. Ever since, I haven't had the time to look back.

IMAGE: 'I am the Queen of my own little world'. Photograph: Kind courtesy Raai Laxmi/Instagram 

You said that you can't sustain in the south if you don't have talent.

When I entered the industry (in 2005), the generation was different. Now, every year, audiences are changing and they want someone new to look at.

When I was launched, people were expecting something else.

Talent is very important. It's a mix of everything -- you need to be a great dancer, you need to have good looks, you need to be glamorous...

I look up to Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi, who have a mix of everything and hence, till today, people look forward to their films.

The newcomers these days rarely have all these qualities. It's been a while; no one has that oomph factor yet. Either someone is sexy but okay when it comes to performance or somebody is extremely good at performing and okay (looking).

The right combination is very important.

Heroines are needed for glamour in a film. You don't see a lot of films which are only hero-oriented. There are heroines in every film.

It depends on how you use glamour. Sridevi used it in a beautiful manner; she worked through her facial expressions.

Back then, actresses had curves.

Now the trend has changed. Size zero came and faded off.

Now, everybody is lean.

A lot of men down south like voluptuous women, not skinny ones.

IMAGE: Raai Laxmi obliges fans with selfies in Singapore. Photograph: Kind courtesy Raai Laxmi/Instagram

Fans down south are crazy about their idols. Have you experienced that?

All my life!

We cannot roam around easily down south.

I am so happy roaming around in Mumbai; I can walk on the streets and all.

Even if people recognise you, they treat you in a different way. At the most, they will take a picture or an autograph.

But in the south, they will kind of pick you up or pinch you -- you don't know what they will do!

It's dangerous and, at the same time, you feel special that they put you up there.

Any crazy fan encounters?

One fan turned out to be really crazy -- he wanted to prove that he was my fan and could do anything for me. I somehow could not pay attention to him so, to grab attention, he took a blade and cut his hand.

When such things happen, we can't ignore them. That gets difficult.

IMAGE: 'God if u can't make me thin make my friends fat'. Photograph: Kind courtesy Raai Laxmi/Instagram

Do you miss leading a normal life in the south?

Absolutely! That's why I say I love Mumbai.

Even after being someone known here, people don't disturb you. In Mumbai, I don't see anyone coming and attacking you, they don't scare you.

In the south, we have only been in star hotels. I can't go and have a tapriwala chai or anything, which I love to do.

I love to have street food but, there, I have to order for it and by the time it comes, it gets soggy.

But that's okay; it's a part and parcel of your life. You need to sacrifice certain things. I am lucky and blessed to have such a fan following.

IMAGE: Posing by the pool. Photograph: Kind courtesy Raai Laxmi/Instagram

Have you signed any other film?

I have been in the process of listening to scripts but they are in the same genre and I am not keen on doing something similar.

After a bold film, everybody wants to sign you for something similar. I don't want to do that.

I don't want to be typecast.

Will you work simultaneously in both industries?

Yes, I have to. There is no other way, or else people there will literally rip me off. They are more sentimental there, very attached.

Once you become someone there, you can't just leave the industry.

I love working in the south industry.

So far, Bollywood has received me well. It's been a great welcome, so let's see how my career here goes.

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Jahnavi Patel / in Mumbai