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November 26, 1998


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The eyes have it

Syed Firdaus Ashraf

Jyotika. Click for bigger pic!
You'd think novelty is a big thing in Bollywood the way every director stresses on how his or her film is different. You will almost invariably be informed that this is a new concept never before tried in Hindi cinema; so just step into the theatres for the experience of your life. And what do you get? The hero and heroine prancing around some foreign species of tree. Different, you see.

And when we asked the question you have to about her role, you mentally say Jyotika's lines along her. But if there's one thing new about the film, Priyadarshan's Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, it's the presence of the nymphet, who is making her debut here. You give her the doubtful eye, and she defends herself.

"I know that's a standard line. But if you see the film, you will see it is quite a different love story. It has a moral. And there's a great twist in the story and people will really like it," she says. Okay, we know it doesn't sound all that different but then, give the girl a chance, we thought.

According to her, she plays a very subdued girl, one who only talks through her eyes -- and let us assure you that those are great eyes to chat with. Her role completely depends on performance and there's none of the glamour doll looks. Hey, this is a Priyadarshan film -- so there's be landscapes, decorously clad women and lots of long shots with the subject kept just the right bit off centre.

"Actually, my first break was in a south Indian film produced by K P Kunjomon. It was a very big budget film in which Kunjomon was launching his son. But somehow, the project didn't take off," she says.

With Akshaye Khanna. Click for bigger pic!
It was just good fortune that Jyotika had dropped her pictures off at Anupam Kher's office. And they caught the eye of Priyadarshan who was visiting Anupam's office. He called her for a screen test.

"After that, he called me to Madras. His first sentence there was that I had been selected for the film. I was speechless and look at him for two minutes. I just couldn't believe it," she says.

Thereafter, other roles came to her but Jyotika decided to wait for this film to be released.

Unlike her sister Nagma Jyotika has no plans to move south at this juncture, and the decision is more personal than professional -- she has no intention to spend 20 days a month down there.

"But yes, I am doing one film in South with Mani Ratnam. It is a very beautiful subject. I don't know the name. Ek dam long Tamil title hai," she laughs.

"But it's difficult for me to learn Tamil. My sister can learn all the languages there are, but I'm unable to cope with it. I don't know a word of it. But I am planning to learn...

"It is not that I don't like the south. But if I get a good subject, I will surely do it. I feel the girls really don't have much scope in south Indian films unless there are good roles written especially for them."

Click for bigger pic!
But she could not take up the Kunjomon project when it was dusted and taken off the shelf.

"I don't know why the project got shelved. But when the film finally got going, I could not accept it; I'd already signed a contract that Doli Saja Ke Rakhna would be my first release," she says.

Though she is influenced by her sister in acting, Jyotika felt Priyadarshan was like a teacher during the shooting of the film. And she had support from all the other senior artists, including Anupam Kher, Amrish Puri... If this seems like an Oscar presentation, this vote of thanks, humour her. She's got to do it since she's new.

"My father Chander Sadannah was a producer. So I've always had a film background. And that's why I never felt uncomfortable during the shooting."

Jyotika is still a second year student at Mithibai college at Bombay and her short-term ambition in life is to see her debut being successful.

"Working with Priyadarshan was comfortable. Most shots were okayed in the first take... He understands my psychology very well but the best thing about him is that he knows what he wants. He is never confused, never makes a compromise. He is a very comfortable person to work with."

Click for bigger pic!
"As far as acting is concerned, I did a three-month crash course with Kumar privately. And, I've done two years of dancing with Saroj Khan.

And yes, of course, she hates the numbers game.

"Yes, there are lots of heroines coming in the market. But I feel that all kinds of actresses fit in their own kind of slot and that nobody can be compared. I'm confident that I've done a good job and that my work will be appreciated." And just to affirm it isn't doubt on display, she goes on to discuss other things that move her.

So, she tells you, she like computers, the Net and every kind of music there is. On the net, she goes for the jokes though it's sister Roshni who's more Net-savvy.

We gently draw her back to cinema and inquire how it feels to have a sibling in the business.

"To a certain extent it is a plus point... In the industry you get contacts. I think it's very nice to be identified as Nagma's sister. I don't have any problems when people call me that." And the family. How did they react to the fact she was entering cinema?

"Luckily for me, there were no objection. By my time, my dad was used to the idea of his daughters in films." Before we wrap up, we inquire if there's any role she'd particularly love to do.

"As a newcomer, I will take any role that comes in my way. Only after three-four years can I be choosy."

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