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August 1, 1997



Asad Ahmed meets Mahima Chowdhury, Subhash Ghai's latest discovery.

Mahima (Click for bigger pic!)
She is the chosen one. Picked by none other than the sultan of showbiz, Subhash Ghai himself. Groomed, re-packaged and presented to the audiences as the new star on the horizon.

Most girls would give their right arm, leg and false eyelashes to be in her position. For Ghai is known never to take such trouble if the heroine is not worth it, his earlier proteges being Meenakshi Seshadri, Madhuri Dixit and Manisha Koirala. And we all know where they went from there.

Now along with the renamed Ritu Chowdhary opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Pardes, Ghai hopes to recreate his old mystique, the one that he lost when Trimurti blew away.

Some say the young actress has it made, others say this is just the beginning of a struggle of live up to unrealistic expectations.

(Click for bigger pic!)
Who don't we start with the obvious? Pardesis quite a prestigious launch. How did you manage to bag the film?

I was going about my life, doing ads and VJing when I got a call from Subhash Ghai's office. The funny part was, nobody knew that Subhashji was making Pardes, everybody thought he was casting for Shikhar.

Not that I was very particular. I mean it's not everyday that a girl gets a call from a film-maker of his repute. Anyway, they wanted to meet me the very next day. But as I was busy I asked them if I could make it another day. But they were in a hurry to finalise a girl for their film. Naturally, I cancelled my other plans and went over.

So what transpired at the meeting?

Mahima with Shahrukh in Pardes. (Click for bigger pic!)
It wasn't exactly like what I had imagined. I was quite nervous about it, never having done a thing like this before. But it was cool, not formal at all. It was more of a casual conversation. Subhashji asked me about my background and things like that. He also spoke to my sister and asked her about me. She told him that I was a big mimic and that I would mimic him later when we went home.

I thought he would be upset about that but thankfully he wasn't. He said that I'd have to go through a screen test and I agreed. Subhashji then explained the girl's character to me and told me what I was expected to do. He put on some music, it was one of those old ghazals and asked me to react. By then I was quite comfortable with the entire setting.

Subhashji was also very helpful. He told me that I was a girl thinking pleasant thoughts and feeling nice about life in general. Then there was a tear-jerker and a couple of emotional scenes. But the best was yet to come. For the final shot I was supposed to talk on the phone to an imaginary friend.

Subhashji was play-acting as my friend. He told me not to think too much about it and react straight from the heart. He told me that there was a letter from Subhash Ghai's office and should he open it. I said yes and he said that the letter was a confirmation that I was in Subhash Ghai's next film. I instinctively squealed in delight. But I didn't know whether he was serious or only enacting the scene.

He simply laughed and told me that he'd let me know later. But I was too excited to wait. I pleaded that I couldn't possibly go through another day without knowing whether I was in the film or not. Subhashji put me at rest and assured me that I was. You can't imagine how I felt at the moment. Two weeks later I was in Agra giving the mahurat shot ofPardes.

'Even if your film is a hit and you're not appreciated, you're dropped like a hot brick'