In the driver's seat
SANGEETHA DEVI K
Sonali Kulkarni's roster is a potpourri of theatre, international, national and regional cinema.
`I don't want to confine myself to art house films and feel proud that my showcase is full of awards.'
ROLL CALL Sonali wants the best of commercial and parallel films Satish.H
A film that rests on the shoulders of two men, John Abraham and Nana Patekar, who come from diametrically opposite worlds, claims to take you on the craziest taxi ride you've ever had. What, then, is the scope for the female actors in the film? "The taxi is the hero of the movie and I am, well, the taxi owner," laughs Sonali Kulkarni. The actress, who was in Hyderabad for the premiere of Taxi no.9211, spoke exclusively to Friday Review on her tryst with international cinema and her new innings in mainstream Hindi films.
The experience of working in Taxi no.9211 is poles apart from walking down the red carpet at the Venice International Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival for the screening of her Italian film, Fuoco Su Di Me (Fire in My Heart), but Sonali is genuinely elated. Sipping a hot cup of chai, she reasons, "I don't look down upon commercial cinema because I've done a number of art house films. Mainstream films like Mission Kashmir, Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya and Dil Chahta Hai have done wonders for me. When Rohan Sippy and Milan Luthria approached me for Taxi, I was taken in by the narration. I have a few scenes with both Nana and John, and I get to be the winner."
A rendezvous with Italy
Next on Sonali's agenda is the worldwide release of Fuoco Su Di Me, for which she will be leaving to Italy. A release in India, she says, is unlikely.
"The film draws from Italy's history and politics. It's not something that people here can relate to." Being the only Indian in the team, she recollects with pride how she managed to learn Italian within a few weeks. "We had eight weeks of rehearsals, which helped. My training in theatre also helped me take up this challenge of doing something new. Today, Italians write to me as Kara Graziella (Dear Graziella), after the character I portrayed."
When she returns to India, she will have her hands full. Lined up are a number of projects - M.F.Husain's next co-starring Shreyas Thalpade, Ram Gopal Varma's Darna Zaroori Hai, two Marathi films and a Deepti Naval co-starrer, Kaaran. Amidst all this, Sonali still finds time for theatre.
Where have the films gone?
After a decade in cinema, Sonali has become more assertive than ever. "Earlier, I'd hesitate to ask how a producer raises money to complete a film. But nowadays, I insist on knowing the bigger picture. It's disappointing to note that nine of my films have got a raw deal. Either there were problems with the censor board, or the producers ran out of money, or the films were never released," shrugs Sonali.
She admits that her approach towards cinema has also changed. "After Dil Chahta Hai, I should have cashed in on the popularity. I didn't. Today, I am more in control. I don't want to confine myself to art house films and be glad that my showcase is full of awards."
In a lighter vein, she hopes that her culinary skills might come in handy if film offers dry up. "I am a good cook and my friends tell me that I can cook to earn a living. I'll soon be able to put those skills to use, for a forthcoming film called Restaurant."
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