Friday, April 23, 2010

Everybody loves Genelia

GENELIA D’ SOUZA is ecstatic about going home after a 45-day schedule in Australia for the Telugu film ‘Orange’. But she is equally unhappy about bidding adieu to her “fabulous unit.” A day later, she tweets: “A part of me was really sad to leave my unit.
Went through the strangest of feelings while I said my goodbyes...’’ Well, the young actor’s (she is 23) Melbourne experience has since been played out by the media,
including her stance on the continent being safe for both Indian students and tourists. During her visit, she also met Bronwyn Pike, the education minister of the state of Victoria.
When we meet in her hotel room, she begins, ‘‘When we go for shootings abroad, we generally go to the most secluded places the hills and picturesque areas but ‘Orange’ is a city film and so we have been on the bridges, in trams, etc.
The interaction with people was fun.’’Unofficially known as the current ‘endorsement’ queen - she is the face of more than nine major brands - D’ Souza is in high spirits even if the year didn’t start with a bang for her. Her two much-awaited films - ‘Chance Pe Dance’ (with Shahid Kapoor) and ‘Katha’ in Telugu didn’t create ripples at the box-office. She has been busy as a showstopper at the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai.
She also has three major films lined up- David Dhawan’s ‘Hook Ya Crook’ with John Abraham, ‘It’s my Life’, a remake of her Telugu super hit ‘Bommarillu’, co-starring Harman Baweja, and ‘Uthama Puthiran’, yet another remake of her Telugu superhit ‘Ready’, with Dhanush.
Pan-Asian impact
In person, there is very little to distinguish D’Souza from the energetic Aditi Mahant (“except for the fact that I don’t abuse like her in real life,’’ she clarifies) in ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’. Like Aditi, she displays a level of maturity as the talk veers towards her life and career. She says she is the bridge between the North and South, having acted in Bollywood as well as the Telugu, Tamil and Kannada industries. “I am as much a part of Bollywood as I am of Tollywood.
I am a part of Kannada films too. There is hardly any time to rest,’’ she begins. But she quickly adds that she loves this pace. ‘‘Sometimes, while shooting, I crib for an off and after two days I don’t know what to do. So I am back on my feet.’’ But becoming a popular actor in Bollywood is a lot of hard work, she insists. ‘‘We are up at 4 a.m. when the whole world is asleep.’’
From bridesmaid to star
Perhaps due to her choice of films or her slight frame, D’Souza is often perceived to be a tomboy. She admits that with such an image, it was initially tough to make an impact in Bollywood. Incidentally, much before she joined the “glamour industry’’, her priority was sports.
This state-level athlete, sprinter and national level football player (school) adds that she “wasn’t even thinking about (films) as a career option as there was no one in my family even remotely connected to films. And it wasn’t really that I grew up loving films.’’
She was discovered at a wedding, where she was one of six bridesmaids. She was asked to show up at an agency with her portfolio the next day. As she didn’t have a portfolio, she took her birthday pictures along instead. The next thing she knew, she had bagged the Parker pen ad with Amitabh Bachchan.
The Khan factor
In films, what worked in her favour was her perky attitude. She struck gold with two Southern hits- Shankar’s ‘Boys’ in Tamil and the Telugu ‘Bommarillu’. In 2008, she made her Bollywood re-entry with ‘Jaane Tu Yaa Jaane Na’ and she hasn’t looked back since.
‘‘Those without godfathers don’t get a second chance. I did. Because I’m God’s favourite child,’’ she chortles. ‘Bommarillu’ (2006) won her a Filmfare award and was later remade in Tamil, Kannada and now in Hindi, with D’Souza in the lead.
‘I’ll continue to do Southern films. It’s a huge market. Right now it’s great to know people in the South write roles keeping Genelia in mind,’’ she grins. What’s more- she reveals that Anupam Chopra, the Australia-based producer of ‘Orange’ who teaches filmmaking there, is making her character, Hasini Rao, in ‘Bommarillu’ one of his case studies. ‘‘I thought it was a huge compliment,’’ she says.
As for being part of the new crop of young and talented stars, D’Souza believes that there is no competition, just a lot of ‘‘positivity around.’’ ‘‘I have worked with Shahid (Kapoor), Imran (Khan), John (Abraham), Charan (Teja) and with pretty much all the young actors in Bollywood (except Ranbir Kapoor) and each one is unique in their own space.
The one thing they all have is the drive. There is healthy competition. It’s not about ‘oh you are doing well, let me see how I can manipulate your career.’ It’s about trying to better oneself. I have had a great time with each one of them,’’ she insists.
Mention her big Bollywood break and she is all praise for Aamir Khan. She calls her experience in Khan’s production, ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’, a lesson for life. ‘‘You come out of it a confident actor. You are not treated as someone who doesn’t know her job because you are tested enough for it. I had four screen tests before I was selected and there were some 400 girls.
So you go there as an actor who wants to do her job and that is something that Aamir instils in you.’’But how does she rate herself against the other young actresses in Bollywood? ‘‘Someone once told me, ‘you have this cute, bubbly tag.’ But I think I have the girl next-door tag,’’ says D’Souza. ‘‘One of my directors pointed out to me that one of my major advantages down south is that I find favour among both genders.’’
Up close and personal
Contrary to her public image, D’Souza admits to feeling lonely at times. ‘‘As much as I’m attached, I’m detached. I’m a very friendly kid but I choose my friends very carefully. I’m very closed. I can’t let people know what I feel. It takes me a lot of time to open up,’’ she admits.

She is traditional yet modern, makes her own decisions, yet is rarely seen on the sets without her mom. She loves Kenny Rogers, hates techno, and her two favourite actors are Dimple Kapadia and Neetu Singh. ‘‘I’m not someone who’ll go topless or backless. I have certain values. As Indian women we just can’t take our clothes off and be so blatant,’’ she insists.

Just when I begin digesting this, she adds that success has not gone to her head as her family keeps her grounded. She points out that she still takes her dogs for a walk in Mumbai and no one bothers her. ‘‘But I will be lying if I say I don’t get excited when someone recognises me. Even in Australia I was not spared,’’ she smiles.

A bit like her screen characters, D’Souza loves to talk and eat. She confides that the yumcha, or Chinese brunch experience, in Australia is now on her list of favourites. ‘‘I don’t believe in dieting because it makes you look rigid. It’s strange how we women like to look scrawny and thin when men actually like meat not bones. I binge on home-made food and my mom does not cook the heavy, oily stuff. As much as I enjoy chips, I have salmon and the steamed stuff ­ a fair mix,’’ she admits.

With plans to start a blog soon, D’Souza admits that the other things on her to-do list include settling down and having a family. But not right now. She says she might as well work hard for it to happen someday. Her idea of Mr Right is someone who is also a good conversationalist.
‘‘There are good looking boys but when they open their mouth all my affection just flies out the window,’’ she pouts, adding that looks are secondary. ‘‘I am a control freak and I prefer someone on a similar basis. I like someone who has a zest for life,’’ she explains, hotly denying all the gossip that she is currently in a relationship. ‘‘I am looking and searching,’’ is all she allows. Now, that won’t break any hearts.

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