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Exploring new vistas as an actor

Madhur Tankha

Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

‘Only meaningful roles':Veteran Bollywood actor Juhi Chawla in Delhi on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI: Having completed 25 years in the film industry, Juhi Chawla has decided that henceforth she will play only meaningful characters in off-beat or commercial films.

And she does not feel she is suitable any longer to play the love interest of Aamir Khan or Shah Rukh Khan given the stereotypes that exist in Bollywood regarding female actors.

Describing her innings in Bollywood so far as an unbelievably wonderful journey, Juhi admits there have been ups and downs but she has done all kinds of films. “I learnt how to work in front of the camera...Now I want to explore new vistas as an actor. Playing meaningful parts is my endeavour but I do not want to grab every product that comes my way. I will soon be appearing in a part-animation film, Main Krishna Hoon, in which I run an orphanage. It is an adventure, emotional film. I will also host a show, Badmash Company, which is an amusing children's show.”

For her last film, I Am, in which she acted and was also one of the producers, Juhi says such films are not watched by families in theatre but at homes on DVD. “If there is a choice between mindless dhamaka and an intelligent film then the audience will prefer the latter. But I don't expect them to shell out Rs.1,000 in a theatre. It takes time for such films to earn profit. You cannot expect weekend rush. But the critical appreciation I have received for this film I have not for any of my previous films. I will continue to support such good projects.”

To essay a Kashmiri character with conviction, Juhi interacted with co-actor Sanjay Suri, whose father was a victim of militancy in Kashmir. “Sanjay narrated me his story and I was also in touch with one of my uncles who got displaced from his home in the State after the rise of militancy. So drawing from their experiences I played the character. There are so many displaced persons. Film-maker Onir himself got displaced from his home in Bhutan.”

Noting that Bhootnath was a mix of fun, drama and emotions, the effervescent actor says the film becomes interesting when Amitabh Bachchan, who plays a ghost, narrates his sad story. “Amitji played a friendly ghost. Such films have life beyond the box office. Even Bhootnath was ridiculed but it became so popular that nowadays children refer to me as Banku's mother!”

Turning producer has not been a fruitful experience for the actor. “In any business venture you learn. But you cannot expect to reap dividends in the initial stage. There is a gestation period. I was a producer for six years but had to discontinue. For Dreamz Unlimited we made fantastic films like Ashoka but production is a different ball game. As actors we do not realise how many stages a film-maker goes through before every shot,” says Juhi.

The actor admits that Nasir Hussain's epoch-making film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak gave her a dream launch in the industry. “It was my second film after Sultanat but had it not been for QSQT I would not have been where I am standing today in the industry…Another special film is Hum Hai Rahi Pyaar Ke which is a wholesome family entertainment. Even my children can watch it.”

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