My character has been fleshed out much more than in Emma
Amrita Puri tells Jyothi Venkatesh that if skin show is very intrinsic for a character and is not necessarily incorporated for voyeuristic delight, she would consider opting for it.
Aisha may be her maiden tryst as far as acting in films is concerned, but then the newbie Amrita Puri isn’t exactly new to acting. She had a stint with the modern English theatre. Qazad Padamsee’s Engliash play ‘Retellings View From The Stage’ was the first play of the 26 year old actress.
Though she is just a newcomer, the thin girl does show an attitude and does not even come forward to part with her cell number, even after I finished the interview. When I met the petite lass at the coffee shop in the J.W. Marriott, where she traipses with her entourage consisting of her two PR managers, she gave me a clichéd statement. “Right from the time I was just a tiny tot, I had always been interested in acting. I love the stage. I felt that it is quite tough to make it in films if you are not hailing from a filmi family. Moreover, the profession is full of uncertainties and hence I did my post graduation in Mass Communications.”
Though after her post graduation, Amrita worked as a copywriter at O and M, she says that she was not quite happy with the way her life was shaping up. Hence after talking it over with her parents, she got a portfolio done by Dilip Bhatia and started rounds of auditions for films as well as ad films. The attempts did pay off and her first ad was form Kotex. “After that I did an ad for People First and for a casual wear later. The ads continued while I was keeping myself open for films”, she quips.
When asked why she opted for a second or third lead in Aisha in which it is Sonam Kapoor who is playing the lead, Amrita shoots back. “Firstly it is tough to bag a leading role when you are a newcomer from nowhere and do not have anyone connected to the film industry. Secondly Rhea Kapoor, Sonam’s sister, who is the producer of the film, told me that it was a fabulous role that she was offering me. I grabbed it because my face does not have market value and I know for a fact that money rides on films. In terms of what I can do as an actor, knew that I was getting a fantastic role from an A-Class banner like Anil Kapoor Productions.”
Amrita plays the role of Shefali Thakur, who is from a small town called Bahadurgad. “I play a Punjabi girl who meets Aisha, who wants to give her a makeover and play a match maker. Shefali has busty eye brows and wears dowdy clothes. I should concede that it was quite a tough task for me to play the character, especially since my Hindi isn’t good. Manjushri taught me the nuances of the language and helped me work on my character with ease, down to every small detail. I made it a point to watch vintage films like Guddi, Mirch Masala etc. I had read the book Emma and also seen two different adaptations”.
Amrita hastens to add that in the film Aisha, her character has been fleshed out much more than what it is in Emma. “Shefali is very funny without trying to be funny and sets out to speak whatever is in her mind. My character in the film stands out because she belongs to the high society and also is a drama queen. I could relate to Shefali because she has simplicity and innocence, which are there in me too”, Amrita asserts, without a trace of modesty.
Talking about her director Rajshree Ojha, Amrita states that she was quite thorough in her research for the film. “It was fun working because Abhay Deol was easy to get along with. And I had to be by the side of Sonam most of the time and we could gel easily though she is younger to me by three years.”
To prepare for her part and get into the skin of the character, Amrita attended a reading workshop with actor M.K. Raina – who, by the way, plays the role of Aisha’s father in the film too – for three days. “I went to the sets with a blank page. It was comforting to now that like me, Ira Dubey and Liza Heyden also were newbies facing the camera for a Hindi film for the first time. I needed to be more dramatic because my character is quite loud. I made it a point to wear salwar kameez and speak in chaste Hindi for over a month.”
Though she is bound by a contract with Anil Kapoor Productions, Amrita says that she can take on any film, if she likes the script. Amrita’s favorite actors are Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Merryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, and Robert D’Nero. She also admires Sridevi though was upset watching her in films like Chandni and Chaalbaaz. Amrita says that though she is a film buff, she does not see each and every film and her favorite directors are Imtiaz Ali, Dibakar Banerjee, and Anurag Kashyap.
Amrita feels that her age is not at all her limitation and is of the opinion that it is not necessary to be old to get meaty roles. As far as the syndrome of the casting couch is concerned, she confesses that though she had heard about it, she did not experience it when she was modeling for two years. “You have to be careful about the banner which you choose or the people you interact with. I have been very careful. When I get an offer through a coordinator, I ask him or her lot of questions and only then do I decide to go in for the meeting with the producers”.
Amrita avers that she is not at all open to skin show. “If you wear something which is very skimpy, it will show. Though I am an extrovert, I am also a little shy. If skin show is very intrinsic for a character and is not necessarily incorporated for voyeuristic delight, then I would perhaps consider it. Thankfully for my character in Aisha, there was no need to wear anything vulgar.”
Amrita, who likes the magic of connecting with the live audiences on the stage, is now ready to put in all her emotions in one shot and go in for a proper build up in films. “I want to do interesting roles, which give me immense scope as an actor to perform. At this stage in my career, my only ambition is to be a good actress.”
— Sampurn Wire