Who Says Every Movie Needs To Be Successful

Updated: Jan 26 2003, 05:30am hrs
Dusky, not so make-up friendly, not exactly the kind to break into a danceAyesha Dharker is not your usual heroine. And that is exactly what her work isnot so usual. Be it her award winning performance in The Terrorist, or a small but powerful role in Split Wide Open, Ms Dharker does it with conviction. With Anita & Me, her latest offering, already having done well in the UK and all set to release in India, she is getting ready for more plum roles. Ayesha Dharker speaks to Prachi Raturi about Anita & Me and a lot more. Excerpts:

What made you choose Anita & Me
I read the book, Anita & Me, by Meera Syal few years before. Meera has been in the news for her books and performances in the UK, so she wasnt exactly a stranger to me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book and mentioned it to her. I was delighted when Meera narrated the story and offered me the role of Mama to the main protagonist, Meena, or the Me in Anita & Me. Meera is such an amazing person and she is so funny. She is such a great narrator and is so full of life. There are many aspects to my character in the film that I found very interesting and challenging to bring out, especially when it came to acting out insecurities about ones own children in a foreign land. Also, I had never played mom to a 12-year-old earlier. The story appealed to me because it was original and funny, but at the same time, it includes important cross-cultural messages.

How difficult or easy is to work on a movie based on a novel
This is a question you should ask Meera because she is the one who wrote the book and the screenplay and also acted in the movie. I guess certain alterations were made in the script to suit the movie because everything that works in a book cannot necessarily work in a movie. It was relatively easy because I had read the book earlier and the characters fell into place in my mind instantly. I knew what was expected of my role and what typical characteristics Meenas mother would have to have.

How do you relate to the character in the movie
Personally speaking, I am not a mother of a young girl to know exactly what my character goes through during the movie, but I have a relatively good idea of what it feels. My own mother grew up in Glasgow, England, and after marriage, moved to Mumbai. I recognise the whole tension between generations of a family in another country. The bonds in an Indian family are especially strong, and the parents dont want to let go of the children. I give full credit to Chandeep, my screen daughter. I began acting as a child, with no formal training. Both Chandeep and Anna are very natural. They are very different in real life from their characters, so they are not just playing themselves on screen. When children believe in what they are playing, that makes them believable on screen, and that is all down to the script and the director.

How was your experience of Broadway and how would you rate it against other media
Broadway and Bombay Dreams was an exhilarating adventure. It has been a once in a lifetime experience so far with Andrew Lloyd Webber and the entire cast of Bombay Dreams. I think stage is a wonderful medium, a definite yes-yes for all those willing to explore their acting skills. One really cannot compare it to cinema theoretically, but the feeling is definitely much better. Once you start rolling, then things just fall into place and you have the audience right in front of you, judging your every move. I think a thunderous applause from them is much greater than piles of money put together for a movie. I still get goose bumps every time I go on stage, and during the course of the musical, there is utter chaos and people wearing half their make-up and roaming around semi-nude looking for their costumes. It is so ridiculous to talk about now, but when you are actually in it, you are just fighting time. Its an amazing feeling. I enjoyed every moment of it. It has been wonderful so far.

The Terrorist won you wide acclaim. Would you call it your best performance
The Terrorist was an extremely important movie for me. It gave me recognition as an actress for the first time. I wouldnt call it my best performance, but I would certainly believe it to be one of my most memorable ones. I think Santosh Sivan is a great phenomenon in Indian cinema and I am happy that I did The Terrorist because he directed the movie. Mr Sivan has been a great mentor and taught me a lot during the making of the film. I certainly think I have a long way to go and there might be better performances coming from me in the future. I will be in a better position to answer to your question when I am ready to retire.

City of Joy, Star Wars, Mystic Masseur, Manika, Split Wide Openwhich has been your favourite among them
I know this may sound cliched, but its really difficult to choose from among these movies. Each movie was in a different league altogether and I played drastically different roles in them. I took them up because they were different from each other and I wasnt repeating my performance. After The Terrorist, I didnt want to get branded as a typical arty actress. When I was offered Anita & Me, it was comedy, something I had never tried before and I knew I wanted to do it. What is however common is that all these movies have had strong scripts in them, which is something that I look for before I choose to be a part of a film. It really doesnt matter whether one works for a big production house or under well-known names. I think it is all up to the script and the director to bring out the best in the actor and, therefore, do justice to the story.

What do you think of Bollywood movies and do you have plans of working in them
I dont really identify myself as a typical Bollywood type actress running around trees and breaking into a dance at the drop of a hat. The Terrorist was a Hindi movie, but it had great substance in it. It was very evidently different from other movies. Honestly, I am not interested in the typical masala movies at all. They are not something I could ever identify with nor do they have any meaning for me. I dont completely rule out being in a Hindi movie, but it has to appeal me as a person first.

Do you prefer movies to theatre
This ones a toughie... Well, I can say that theatre is just a great experience as I mentioned earlier, but one reaches out to many more with cinema. One cannot deny the colossal reach cinema has today. How many of us today have the time to watch plays, but with multiplexes and DVDs, one can be a part of the entire experience right at home. We have had a UK release of Anita & Me in November and now its coming to India. Its a great feeling. Every actor feels proud when his/her movie is watched and appreciated by others one knows or just strangers who come and say what a lovely movie it was. I think both have their advantages.

What do think of the new genre of movies and moviemakers in India
I think Indian cinema today has grown immensely. There is this one set that makes the typical Bollywoodish style of movies and there is another parallel stream that is constantly experimenting with the audiences. Also, I think the audiences have matured over the years. They can accept these so called arty movies as a part of what they would like to watch. Some of these movies have been extremely well accepted by audiences and some havent, but this doesnt deter this new genre. Who says every movie that has been ever made had to be successful I think I would give this genre of new filmmakers full credit.

Would you like to direct a movie some day
I think its too premature to think about directing now. I have a long way to go as an actress right now. Who knows about the future

What is your dream role
I really dont have a dream role as such. All my characters so far have been my dream roles. I have dreamt of them during my schedules and worked on my character.

What about your future plans
Right now, Bombay Dreams is keeping me extremely busy. Theres Anita & Me. Quite a handful, dont you think