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December 4, 2000


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'I was too dark, too tall, too thin. I never thought I would be an actress'

Tejaswini Kolhapure

Tejaswini Kolhapure never imagined she would follow big sister Padmini onto the marquee. She did enroll in an acting school, only to quit midway and shift to modelling instead.

Modelling has proved the first step towards an acting career for many -- and so it was with Tejaswini as well. Only, it was television and the stage that drew her in.

Her foray into movies didn't happen till much later, when brother-in-law 'Tutu' Sharma, seeking a fresh face for his project Paanch, decided to look no further than home.

Ronjita Das caught up with the debutante at her Juhu home.

Given your background, was your entry into films inevitable?

Actually, no, I never wanted to get into films. I was very self-conscious, I thought I was very tall and too thin. All I wanted was to settle down in a nice nine to five job.

As for the background, I wasn't brought up in a filmi atmosphere, because the age difference between myself and my big sister is quite large. I was very young when she was in films, I don't even remember when she quit.

While in college, I used to get a lot of offers, probably because of the 'Kolhapure' surname. It was then that my family suggested I should get a portfolio done, and we went to Gautam Rajadhyaksha.

Tejaswini Kolhapure in Paanch Frankly, I never expected the pictures to turn out well -- I am on the dark side, very thin, and I never even did my eyebrows before the shoot! But my pictures came out very well. Gautam was impressed and asked me to do a screen test. But I refused.

No one expected me to join films, I never showed any inclination. I never took part in elocution and drama contests, I was more into models. And you know how everyone thinks models are still, and cannot act.

My aim was to complete my studies, to graduate, since in our family, only my mom is a graduate. So I turned down the film offers that came my way, and I have no regrets -- I am very happy to be a graduate!

As for my parents, they never expected me to do anything at all -- I was always the confused, mixed up one. I would start things, then quit midway. I even joined Jet Airways, and then quit. So they, my parents, never thought I would ever really do anything -- in fact, now that I have been working on this film for quite some time, they are really surprised.

They must have seen rushes of Paanch, so what do they feel about you now?

I must tell you, they are really shocked! They kept saying 'Wow, you can act!'. They never believed I could, actually, that is because Padmini was always the extrovert. When she was young, she would at any excuse dance in front of our family, our relatives, at family functions... But I am the other extreme, a complete introvert -- I can't even perform in front of my parents.

Given that, how and why did you finally decide to act?

Modelling is not the kind of thing you can do for long, after a while you get bored, you tend to get distracted and want to do something else. I couldn't relate to it after some time -- I loved to walk the ramp, sure, but there came a time when I felt I needed to quit. Besides, I found I couldn't gel with people around me, I felt very out of place.

That is when I thought seriously about acting. Also, in modelling, I wasn't getting any appreciation for my work, and that bothered me. So I spoke to my brother-in-law, and he thought it was a good idea for me to try acting.

Tejaswini Kolhapure with Tutu Sharma Actually, it was a coincidence that around the same time, Satish Kaushik had spoken to him, about getting me to act in a television serial. That is how I did Mujhe Chand Chahiye.

So how did Paanch happen?

Like with most things, I found acting in the serial too monotonous, after a while. I found I didn't want to get stuck in television -- after a while, you get drained, both physically and mentally. I didn't know where it was leading me.

But as it happened, television opened doors for me. For starters, I realised I could act quite well. I got interested, and started doing theatre, I did Satyadev Dubey's English play, The Magic Pill.

For his part, Tutu has for long wanted to cast me in a film, but never got the right subject. Meanwhile, Anurag (Kashyap) wanted to make Paanch, he had written the script even before doing Satya. Anurag narrated the story to Tutu, who agreed to make the film.

It was Anurag who suggested to Tutu that I might suit the role. So Tutu asked me to read the script, and I found I liked it. The next thing you know, I was signed on.

What is the film about?

Very basically, it is about a band of musicians trying to make it big. I am the only girl in the band and, in fact, I am not even part of the band, I just hang out with them. I play Shiulu, a tomboy, a flirt, a very aggressive kind of person, trying to make a name for myself. Then one of the guys commits a crime, and I get stuck in the middle, and the rest of the film is about how we try to get out of the mess. It is a thriller, not a love story.

So how did it feel, facing the camera for the first shot?

Thankfully, I didn't have any dialogues for my first scene! That first day, I was so nervous, terrified of facing the camera. My first scene was in fact my entry shot in the film, it shows me in a lift. I am going to meet the band-members, who live in the building, and I am holding on to this guy, flirting with him. My back is to the camera, then I turn, and walk out of the lift. That was it, that was my first shot.

How did it feel? I must confess to mixed feelings -- I was excited and nervous all at the same time. But once that first shot was canned, I got used to facing the camera and the nervousness went away.

And your first song-dance sequence?

What I remember most about it was that I didn't sleep the night before, I was so pent up and nervous, determined to do it well.

Actually, the first song I shot for wasn't so bad because I didn't have to do any dancing, just sing. But it was a very rigorous schedule. And as it happened, I got food poisoning, but I had to continue because the song was picturised on me. I was very weak at the time, living on Electral, I was so worried about how I would look, whether I would come across looking ill and washed out.

Tejaswini Kolhapure The really bad part was the portion of that song that was shot at Razzberry Rhinoceros (An 'in' Mumbai disco). For that bit, I was the focus of the camera, I had to dance, move around, emote, all this while I was unwell. I managed, I don't know how, to get through that night.

Mein Khuda is the last song in the film -- a very fast number, very energetic, where I am dancing throughout. It meant a lot of rehearsals, a lot of hard work, but it turned out very well in the end.

So now it is all over, how does it feel?

Great! I feel very satisfied, happy that things turned out well.

How did it feel to be working in your brother-in-law's production?

Very comfortable, since I knew most of the people. It is not like I was given any special treatment, but it was still comfortable, very good.

You spoke of not being able to gel with your peers while modelling -- how about on the sets? What was the interaction with your co-stars like?

I knew most of them from my theatre days, so it was much easier. They were all very helpful, we exchanged ideas and suggestions about making each scene better, enhancing our performances. If I went wrong somewhere, one of the others would come up with suggestions. All of us are young, and that also helped.

Any incidents that stood out, that you remember?

There was this scene where we have left Mumbai, and are going to a resort. We were required to look very tired, since we had neither eaten nor slept for several days. We shot in a tunnel on the Mumbai-Pune Express Highway.

At that time, the highway was under construction, and we had to shoot in secret. The camera was in the car. While shooting, the highway security people kept coming up to us and asking us what we were up to, and we kept stalling. That entire scene was shot in a car, with the cops right behind us -- the minute it was over, we fled!

The second incident was rather funny, Joy will probably kill me for telling you this! Kay Kay, one of the main characters, is a very moody, violent person. Joy, for his part, carries a magnifying glass, throughout the film. There is this bit where Kay Kay gets upset, grabs the glass, stamps on it, then picks it up and flings it at Joy. Actually, he was supposed to throw it at the wall, but it ended up hitting Joy between his legs, you know, in his groin.

Joy fell down, and was rolling on the floor in agony -- but we didn't realise that. So I kept encouraging him from the sidelines, telling him how realistically he was acting -- until Joy finally roared that he was really hurt! That was when we realised he was hurt -- but anyway, we managed to get his entire 'acting' on camera!

Tejaswini Kolhapure Do you realise that when the film is released, comparisons with your big sister are inevitable? Does that worry you?

Frankly, no, I am not worried. I know there will be comparisons, but after all, it is my sister I am being compared with, I don't mind that. In fact, I take that as a compliment, because my sister was a fabulous actress.

Has she influenced your acting?

In the sense that I keep asking her for advice, and she gives me tips, tells me if I have over-acted or under-played in certain scenes.

Finally, what are your expectations from your debut film?

I have a lot of expectations, frankly. I know that is not a good thing, but I can't help it -- I am very excited. Paanch is very different from the typical Hindi film.

I haven't seen the film in its entirety yet. But those who have, are raving about it. Now, I am hoping that when the film is released, the audiences respond with equal enthusiasm.

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