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July 10, 1999
Fresh 'n' friendly
Whatever you expect her to be, Rinke Khanna isn't. The daughter of a legendary superstar father, an acclaimed actress mother, a star sister, she's everything your typical filmi brat is not. She's down-to-earth, direct, sensitive, determined, loves reading, doesn't care much for music, doesn't wear make-up or try to glamourise herself, doesn't chew gum and put out major attitude either, can go insane over a lost hair clip but not pull her hair out if her debut film flops.
My first view of her happened to be on her first night as an actor. Her role in Satyadev Dubey's Hindi play Inshallah was a small one, but it left a big impression. I met her backstage after that first night, and she was flushed but calm, excited but perfectly in control.
The next time I saw her, it was in Dubey's English play The Magic Pill. A bigger role, and an even bigger impression. She carried off a key part in a difficult ensemble performance with great ease and enjoyment. There was one moment when her character's back was turned to the audience, and she was expected to react to the wild shenanigans going on around her. Even with her back turned, her body language conveyed exactly what was going on in her head.
Now, the promos for her debut film have been ruling the airwaves for weeks. You've probably heard the Mushu-mushu hai-yeh, dil malai-lai song already from Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi, directed by a debutant director Raj Kaushal. And it's not your typical star daughter launch vehicle. A fun ensemble film. with a whole pack of youthful newcomers, it's not a Barsaat (sister Twinkle's debut) or even a Bobby (mother Dimple's debut).
But as I said, if that's what you expected from her, that's your problem, not hers.
She doesn't stun you at first sight. But you don't look away either. She doesn't slop on tons of make-up and try to glam up like most young women her age. But she doesn't chew gum and slouch and give you major attitude either. Rinke is a 3D person: Direct, Determined, and Down to earth. She's really real, this woman. Not an empty-headed filmi brat with starry airs and hang-ups. Not the girl-next-door either, although she looks it in the best way possible.
What Rinke has is a refreshing straightforwardness, a clearly defined personality, immaculate manners, a well-equipped brain and the necessary technical skill to operate it. She speaks very well, speaks her mind and most important, she has a mind to speak of. She's attractive in the way that few young actresses are --she has major T&A. Talent & Attitude. Not attitude in the usual don't-give-a-damn sense, but attitude as in This-is-what-I-want-and-I'm-going-for-it.
"I'm absolutely eccentric. Just in the way I do things. I'm so hyper all the time. Sometimes I can be the most unreasonable person to deal with. But I get okay in five minutes. I'm very sensitive when it comes to my family, I can't take anyone saying anything about them. And I'm sentimental about the stupidest things. Like a hair clip, if I lose a particular hair clip, I go crazy, I just have to find it. It's like I get attached to these little things and I feel like a part of me is lost."
She had a completely normal childhood, not the starry fantasy world you'd expect.
"It was so simple. I had no problems at all. I had my toys, my books. Had a room full of books. I loved Enid Blyton, the Noddy books, the Ladybird series. I went for fancy dress competitions, did my own thing, went swimming and cycling. Birthdays were very special."
She didn't really grow up as a filmi kid because her mother wasn't acting during that time, and her father was hardly at home. "He was always away shooting or on outdoor schedules, so we never really got to spend much time with him. I never had any exposure to the film world. The only time we had any contact with film folk was when we went for film birthday parties."
In fact, unlike some other film folk's households, Rinke's was a "very disciplined house. My dad was very, very strict. We always had to mind our manners, behave perfectly. We had to keep strict hours, follow the routine."
After schooling in Bombay, she went to the University of Massachusetts, USA, to get a degree in communications. As higher education abroad often tends to do, the experience turned her around and inside out.
"I was there for two and a half years. It completely changed me for the better. It exposed me to a totally new way of life, gave me a lot of confidence. I think it prepared me for the world. Everybody's so competitive there, you can't be laid back."
She wanted to produce television programmes there, and with her qualifications, she would have had no problem getting a job. But she decided to take a break and come back to India before deciding what to do next.
"I looked at my options. I knew I had to make a decision. Acting had always been at the back of her mind, but it was a question that I really didn't have an answer to. It wasn't the obvious choice. I did a lot of thinking. Why would I choose to take on that kind of insecurity? Also, the question was could I deal with the other things that come with it -- fame, the lack of privacy, the struggle to stay on top, the other problems?
She made one very good decision: She joined Satyadev Dubey's theatre group. Renowned for his ability to groom young talent, Dubey exposed her to the magic of theatre, the thrill of a good performance. And she was hooked.
"Theatre is amazing. Before going on, you go to hell and come back. And it's not just the first time, I realized, it happens every night. You hope your nervousness won't take over. But once you're on, it's wonderful. If you do it well, you can claim the stage for your own, you feel you're alive, you just freak out, have a ball. You just go for it.
"In movies, you don't have that... I have a one-take mentality. I like to give a shot the way it happens naturally, spontaneously. But when you have to go on doing the same thing again and again, that's really frustrating. But on the other hand, movies give you definite satisfaction too. At least on this film it's been a great experience. It was a great cast and crew. We were all enjoying ourselves, having a ball, I was entertained throughout. Raj would tell me what he needed and I would deliver it."
Much of the credit for this smooth entry into a difficult profession goes to her mentor and guru Dubey. "Dubeyji tells you basics, how to walk, how to project, how to deliver lines. But he doesn't like to tell you every little thing. He always says, 'I know what I want, but I want you to bring it out and show me.' It's very hard work, very tough. Some people can't see the point. But if you're hungry to learn, you stick around, and you learn so much."
Surprisingly, she isn't afraid of the possibility that the first film might flop and she might sink into oblivion. "So many actors started with insignificant roles and made it big later. I just believed in this project. I liked the script, the role, everything about it. It sounded like something I had to do. There were choices. I could have asked for the best launch. Big banner, big production. But it just wasn't clicking. You have to be mentally prepared before you can throw yourself whole-heartedly into something."
She also believes in the importance of timing.
"The time has to be right for something. It just has to click." So she signed on. And it's also why she hasn't signed anything else after that -- not yet, that is. She's waiting for the right project, and the right time.
Favourite author/book: "Roald Dahl is my favourite. I have this collection of all his stories, and I don't read too many at one time, because I love them so much, I want it to last my whole life. I also liked Catcher In The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Memoirs of a Geisha andOf Human Bondage, which I'm reading right now."
Favourite movie: "When Harry Met Sally. Love that movie. Love that scene when Meg Ryan talks about how happy she is, how she and her boyfriend are so free, because they have no children, nothing to tie them down, they can do whatever they like, fly off to Rome at a moment's notice. Then she says, 'But we never do fly to Rome. And then she sees her friend married with children and she starts to cry."
Also loves: "Hrishikesh Mukherjee's earlier films, not only the ones with my dad, but all of them. Mani Ratnam's films. Ram Gopal Verma's films."
Favourite music/song: "I'm not really into music."
Best Thing She's Ever Done: "God. I haven't done anything yet, I'm too young! But someday, I'd like to be a part of the solution to someone's problems. If I can make just one person smile, I'll feel I've done something."
Worst Thing She's Ever Done: "I'm a very good girl. Can't think of a single bad thing."
What Does She Hate Most: "Being misunderstood."
What Does She Love Most: "Food. I love it. Except red meat. And pork. Red meat because I saw this silly film, you'll laugh when I tell you the name, but it's true -- City Slickers. And I felt so sorry for the cows because they were going to be shipped off and turned into meat, that I stopped eating red meat. And pork because a friend once saw me eating it and said I can't believe you like pigs and still you eat them. I realized that was true. I love pigs. They're so cute. Yes, I loved Babe too. So I stopped eating pork. But I love eating good food."
Favourite Film Her Mother Starred In: "She was so very effective in Rudaali, I remember seeing the film and seeing her as the character, not as my mother. And I'd love to see her again in films like that. There's so much more that she has to give as an actor."
Believes In: "A better tomorrow. I'm just starting out, I'm at the bottom of the ladder, but I'd like to climb up one step at a time. And get to the top. And stay there a long, long time."
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