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January 15, 1998


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Sexy Sakshi

V S Srinivasan

Sakshi Shivananda. Click for bigger pic!
The story goes that southern wizard Bharatan had come to Bombay to sign on Aishwarya Rai opposite Vineeth for his Telugu film, Priyalu. Rai, because he wanted a fresh and beautiful face. And then he walked onto the sets of Shah Rukh Mirza's Sanjay where he saw Sakshi Shivananda. That was it. Bharatan forgot Rai and signed on Sakshi.

Who, we wondered, was this nymphet who could upstage a Ms World? More important, one who bagged a role from someone whose earlier offer she actually had had the gall to refuse.

We caught Shivananda at her house soon after she returned from a stint at the beauty parlour. After some cursory talk, she points at a small scar on her cheek. Nice, we thought appreciatively -- the cheek, of course.

With Chiranjeevi in Master. Click for bigger pic!
"It still hurts a little," she said. She's still on about the scar. Happened a few weeks ago when she went to the beauty parlour. The hairdresser accidentally jabbed her in the cheek with something sharp, she says. Ah, the jealous type, we thought. But Shivananda's almost immediately forgotten about it. Chirpily she sets down to talk about her role in Priyalu..

"It was just luck that I refused a film six months ago, starring Arvind Swamy and Sridevi. I was to be the third, insignificant (vertex) of the triangle. That too was to be directed by Bharatan."

Anyway, Priyalu has changed things for her, doing in the south for her what a stint in Bollywood -- in forgettables Sanjay, Jiyo Shaan Se and Janam Kundli -- hadn't.

Soon after the first success came a second role, in Pudhayal, opposite Arvind Swamy and Mammotty.

Personal details

Birthday: April 15
Star sign: Aries
Colour of choice: Black
Favourite actor: Amitabh Bachchan
And the rest: Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Aamir, Shah Rukh
Favourite actress: Julia Roberts
And the rest: Goldie Hawn, Meg Ryan, Madhuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala
"It was a great experience." She corrects herself. "It was an excellent experience. Arvind Swamy is very down-to-earth. He is very considerate and has a mature outlook. He does not talk to you for the sake of it. He makes sense. He even used to sort out all my problems. Like when I was stuck on the Tamil dialogues..." In short, staccato sentences, she describes how he even used to patiently tell her what others were saying in Tamil. She also liked Mammotty.

Shivananda is even more enthusiastic, if that were possible, about her role in Master.

For, you see, "it started off as a triangle, but then they changed the script and my role stronger." That was primarily because her stocks had gone up once Bharatan signed her on.

In Master, she plays the college girl who falls for the professor who has no time for romance after his early, bitter experience with love. It was the kind of role she'd earlier refused in a Bharatan film her then secretary had got her. He quit when she refused, telling her she was mad. Ah well, at least she got back her job.

With Chiranjeevi in Master. Click for bigger pic!
Her career may be getting on, but Shivananda is still doing her Second Year B Com in Bombay, and wants to hang on at least till her graduation. Asked details about her education, she sets off at top speed:

"I was in Nigeria for the first 12 years of my life... I even learnt kathak. Initially, I wanted to become a doctor since most of my other family members are doctors (not dad -- a CA, not mum -- a school teacher who gave it all up to become her secretary). Then I went to the United States for a few months. When I returned, I wanted to go in for computer engineering. But after my SSC, I decided I wanted to become a chartered accountant. So I joined a commerce college..." All this said in one uninterrupted breath. Beautiful lung power. Just beautiful.

"I still want to do my CA but I know it's not possible at this face." Rueful face. Oh, so very sad. Till she perks up again. "My younger sister is on her way to becoming one. I hope she does what I did not do." So, you see, no real plans to do her CA. But then, she is too pretty to waste behind a desk...

Click for bigger pic!
In college she was offered umpteen modelling assignments. " A few people asked me if I'd like to walk the ramp." She didn't. "I felt acting was more creative, so I joined the dramatics team in college." Despite efforts, even by teachers, to dragoon her into modelling and personality contests. She did some elocution though.

And then came the big break, in Shah Rukh Mirza's Sanjay. "Since he is a good film-maker and since I had liked his first film Salaami, I agreed." But despite his earlier enthusiasm, differences with his cameraman spoilt the film, she says. But it was on the sets of that film that Bharatan first caught sight of her.

She had some problem juggling academics with work. As when she found she could not match dates with Arvind Swamy for Allu Arvind's Pudhayal because it overlapped with her exams. "Arvind Swamy was kind enough to change his dates for me. But it can't happen every time."

Sakshi Shivananda. Click for bigger pic!
Arvind Swamy, of course, is all right. For hadn't he helped her through her first shoot, a dance sequence. She was actually so tense that she mouthed his lines instead of her own. "After they shot the scene and looked at the rushes, they realised I had it all wrong. We shot it all over again," she laughs.

Now she's got the hang of it and has got into a very hectic schedule, shuttling between shoots in the south and in Bombay, making time for the odd visit to college. Of course, an athletic sprite like her has to keep fit too -- basketball, table tennis, swimming, horse-riding...

At work, she's been extremely choosy, rejecting roles by the dozen, even those from top banners. "I want to do a few good films and be recognised as a good actress," she says.

Haven't we heard that one before? But, of course, never from someone as pretty.

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