'Slumdog Millionaire was an eye-opener'

In town to promote her latest release, Bollywood actress Amrita Rao discusses the roles she's played, her forthcoming films and her take on the 'slumdog' controversy.

By Davina Raisinghani?

Published: Sun 8 Feb 2009, 9:05 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:24 PM

"SHE LOOKS BORED right now," commented actor Harman Baweja with a mischievous glint in his eye. And sure enough Amrita Rao did indeed look like she would rather be anywhere but at the Victory press conference held in Dubai on Wednesday afternoon. However, in complete contrast, the twenty-seven year old (who honestly doesn't look a day older than twenty) seemed rather animated and friendly during her individual interviews. Rao claims that when she was informed of the pantheon of professional cricketers Ajit Pal Mangat, the director of Victory, was planning on approaching for the film, the first question she posed to him was: "will they agree to do it?" The actress has also blatantly declared how envious she is of Baweja for sharing screen space with the legendary sports figures. But, nevertheless, she seems excited to add the cricket-based feature as another feather to her cap.

What attracted you to Victory?

I am a huge cricket fan; I love the game and I know how passionate Indians are about it. This film truly serenades the sport. The whole canvas of it was attractive. So many cricket legends were willing to be a part of it; Brett Lee had agreed even before the script was narrated to me. That in itself was big news.

You've been acting for a few years now, while this is Harman Baweja's second film. What was it like working with him?

This may technically be Harman's second film but he's been around longer than I have because of the background he comes from. He's even assisted on a few films. In fact, he practically grew up on 'film dope'. So, he's more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. And when it came to performance, he was completely in the garb of the role.

Tell us a bit about your future projects.

I'm looking forward to Shortcut, a film produced by Anil Kapoor. My producer is really rocking it these days with Slumdog Millionaire doing so well (laughs).

And what did you think of the movie?

I loved the film. A lot of Indians out there had other things to say, but the way I see it, you cannot hide from the truth. They showed every aspect of India today, from the slums to the call centre culture, where the country scores and where it does not. It was amazing that a man from the other side of the planet just walked into Mumbai and showed us the harsh truth of the city. More than an entertainer, Slumdog Millionaire was an eye-opener. Also it promotes such a beautiful message: two brothers from the same background, and yet while one progresses, the other falls prey to the bad side. It shows how poor kids left all alone get street smart and learn what people with the best of education know.

But a lot of people have been upset by the use of the term 'slumdog'. What's your take on the issue?

I don't think it was meant to be condescending. The term was used to bring out the colloquial aspect of it. In Hindi, people tend to say galli ka kutta (street dog). Even in Hindi films, perhaps a kid in a chai (tea) stall would probably be shooed away with the use of such a colloquial statement.

Besides Shortcut is there any other movie that we'll be seeing you in?

I might be doing this film called The Legend of Kunal. It's going to be directed by Chandra Prakash Dwivedi who also made the film Pinjar. It will have Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu, Arjun Rampal and myself in it.

Welcome to Sajjanpur was a small film with a very niche audience. What made you take on that role?

It was purely because of the brand that Shyam Benegal represents. I watched his film Zubeidaa thrice in cinemas and absolutely loved it. I have always wanted to work with him. I have grown up in a community in which he is practically revered. It was just a matter of a phone call from him and I was ready to do Welcome to Sajjanpur. The role was amazing; I had to speak another dialect, learn pottery and wear Rs 50 saris. It was like living another life.

So, what's your dream role?

I've always been intrigued by costume drama. I would love to do a period film.

And which actor would you really like to work with?

I would love to work with Hrithik (Roshan) and Aamir Khan. Both are brilliant. It's inspiring how much they physically and mentally give to each role. Every time they surface as new people on screen.

Box:The gossip mills, as always, have been churning, and the latest rumour they've manufactured claims that Amrita Rao and Harman Baweja are dating. But Rao deftly dismisses any such speculations. "Around the release of a film, rumours invariably emerge that you're dating your co-star. Once, I did an advertisement with the Pakistani group Jal and I found myself being linked with two of the band members at the same time!" laughs Rao. In fact, the pretty actress figures that she probably won't settle down anytime soon.

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