June 12, 2001


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'I'd rather be selective like Aamir'

Dr Rajiv Vijayakar

Dev Anand Four years ago, Mohini Sharma came to Bombay from Jaipur with her elder brother. Children of a prosperous businessman-exporter of Rajasthani items, they came seeking a better quality of life.

Mohini was to work in Germany, where her fluency in Sanskrit was to fetch her a job.

Then one day, she accompanied a friend to Anand, Dev Anand's office-cum-studio. Dev took one look and made her a spot offer.

Mohini had never acted in her life, not even in a school skit. But she took less than five minutes to answer the call of destiny.

Her parents, reluctant at first, relented only because it was Dev Anand's film, a star they admired for years. Her brother supported her histrionic plans, but opposed the idea of a break with a film-maker who hadn't delivered a hit in 20 years. But Mohini's perseverance won the day.

She was to be the heroine and Govinda her hero. After what seemed ages, the film took off with three other newcomers, a bevy of stars in guest appearances -- and Mohini's role reduced to that of the heroine's friend.

She found herself unable to sign outside films because, apparently, Dev Anand disapproved. When she rebelled, her mentor fumed and separated her from the publicity of the film. Mohini neither adorned the music inlay nor was she invited for the press meets and premieres.

The film collapsed. Mohini looked ghastly in the film. Her friends commented on her atrocious costumes. Even so, of the four newcomers, she was the only one to make an impression.

From the aborted Govinda film, she moved on to Rajkumar Kohli's multistarrer, a second lead in Cinevista's maiden film, Yeh Hai Mohabbat, two Tamil films, one of which will have Prabhu Deva as her hero, and a hot special appearance in the song, Apni yaadon ko chhod na jaana in Rajiv Rai's Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat.

At her Versova apartment, Dr Rajiv Vijayakar met a cheerful but rather hassled girl seemingly out of high school. Hassled because an indifferent secretary had messed up her dates.

A trophy sits at a corner of her living room. It is a memento she received at a function she attended abroad for being, what the trophy says, The Sexiest Thing On This Planet. Mohini waves it off, as we settle down to chat:

You signed some films before Censor was released. If Devsaab disapproved of you signing outside films, how did producers see your work and approach you?

Making of Censor None of them saw any rushes from the film. Some good offers never reached me because of Devsaab's formidable reputation -- he is known to be against his protégés signing outside films till his films release. But I guess word got around somehow.

In fact, Rajiv Rai even called me up from London and asked me to do a special appearance in a song in Pyar Ishq Aur Mohabbat because of the exposure it would get me. I shot in Scotland for that song.

Devsaab has never openly spoken against you. What actually went wrong ?

Look, I don't want to rake up a controversy. I am a nobody, and I have kept quiet because no one will accept my word against a man who has given so much to the industry.

But I am hurt because of his unfairness. Deep down, I still respect the man -- even though he wasn't good to me, he has been good to so many people.

By the grace of God, I have signed four good projects and there are others on the anvil. But he could have called me to the premiere and press screening and included me in the publicity.

Devsaab didn't even congratulate me for signing new films.

After all, I am the only newcomer from the film who has signed films on my own merit.

Devsaab was directing a girl with absolutely no experience at acting...

If you are hard-working and have a natural flair for acting, you can do anything. I have learnt Bharata Natyam, which teaches you to display emotions, disciplines you and adds grace to your movements. In fact, I strongly feel that every Indian girl should learn at least one form of classical dance.

Devsaab taught me the basics of dialogue delivery. I was a bit loud in terms of volume. He told me, Dil se bolna, dheere bolna, and advised me to speak clearly.

Initially, I thought it was difficult to act. But when the camera rolls, you have to emote spontaneously.

Tell us about your experience with Rajkumar Kohli and Umesh Mehra.

Every director has his style. Umeshji is very casual and allows you to interpret a scene in your way. But Rajji is so meticulous that he will come to your house a day before the shoot and go through every little detail.

If you were unhappy with Censor, and knew it would get you nowhere, why did you accept these films? In Rajji's film, you are one of five or six heroines. In Yeh Hai Mohabbat, you are the second lead to the debutante daughter of a big-time television producer.

At this stage I cannot be choosy. My criteria for signing a film today are, in that specific order, the director, the banner, the hero and the script. Moreover, I have been promised a fair deal in Yeh Hai Mohabbat, and the role is good.

Akanksha will be projected, but I don't think they will be unfair to me. In fact, she's sweet and has become a friend. Making of Censor

Will you concentrate on the South if you become the next sensation?

I will have to play my cards well. In the South, the pay is good and there is much to learn. But I want to work mostly in Bombay. I don't intend to slog and do umpteen films, however successful I become.

Stars should live luxurious lives and enjoy stardom. I admire Aamir Khan and Govinda immensely, but I would rather be selective like Aamir.

I would also like to experiment and not be tied down to any image, because I want to be a good actress and keep growing. An image may extend your career but restrict your growth.

Why didn't you join any acting classes?

I do not think it is feasible to take an acting course because I certainly cannot spare six whole months now. As it is, my dates are giving me tension. Thanks to my secretary, I had a lot of trouble managing both Umeshji's and Rajkumarji's films last month -- both had coordinated dates with several big lead and character artistes and my dates clashed with theirs.

Have you experienced the sleazier aspects of this industry, like the casting couch?

That's a ridiculous question. Because if you have come in through the casting couch, you are not going to say, 'Yes, it exists!'

As for handling such a situation, I can manage. I travel alone, even for foreign shoots. My family members don't accompany me.

You are also a natural interior designer, rather than a trained one. Tell us more.

(laughs) I have designed this apartment. I used to do up my friends' homes, but I stopped because I am showered with too many questions about films and stardom.

Now I am working on my neighbour's apartment which I have purchased recently. And we are joining these two apartments.

After it's ready, I will invite you for lunch because I cook excellent Italian food!

Any other ambitions?

I want to be known as a popular actress. I want to launch my home production in about three or four years. And I want to make my body!

Make your body...?

Well, I think I should look better and look my age, which is 19.

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