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Take Two

It's a homecoming, says Jaya Prada, who is set for her second shot at stardom. T.KRITHIKA REDDY chats with the actress-politician

She's walked the earth for four full decades. Yet, Jaya Prada radiates the appeal of a sizzling 17-year-old. No frown lines creasing her brows. Only laugh lines marking her peaches-and-cream cheeks. Yes, she has enough reason to smile. For, she is all set for her second shot at stardom. And hopeful of a second take in Parliament as well.

"It's a homecoming of sorts," Jaya Prada says, in an interview during her visit to Chennai, this week. "I'm back where I belong after a hiatus of about five years. And that is a huge gap in showbiz parlance. So much has changed." Nevertheless, her camaraderie with the camera will continue with films such as "Sipahi", "Deh" and N. Chandra's untitled film, besides the Bengali "Swapne Dekha Raj Kanya".

But wait. First things first. "Khakee", her comeback film slated for release this month-end, has Jaya Prada paired with none other than the Big B. "Though it's just a brief appearance, I couldn't resist the offer to act with Amitji. He's proved lucky for me. All our films together have clicked."

Jaya Prada's name unspools a montage of stereotyped images on the screen. But now, she's keen on moving beyond the confines of clichés. "I don't want to be associated with any one histrionic adjective. I want to play roles that are relevant to our times. Not the stereotyped darling daughters, doormat daughters-in-law, magnanimous moms or slit-eyed moms-in-law. I want to play powerful characters - maybe even the Indira Gandhi type," she says stroking her aquiline nose.

That she's on a different octave is evident as she continues, "Politics has hardened me. I'm no longer that introvert who did what others wanted me to do. I'm ready to face challenges head-on. Politics has given me the confidence to move on, undaunted by setbacks. And that's precisely why I want to do meaty roles in films that express social concerns." From what she says, it's clear that Jaya Prada is determined to perch herself on the same pedestal that she guarded during her "Sargam", "Tohfa", "Mawaali" and "Sanjog" days. Having entered films at the age of 13, she jostled for space with the likes of Sridevi in Bollywood after making a mark for herself in Telugu. Looking back on a career spanning more than two decades and 283 films in seven languages, she says, "I learnt the ropes the hard way and with perseverance managed to be of consequence. I consider it fortunate to have been associated with N. T. Rama Rao — as an admirer, co-star and political leader." Yes, it was at NTR's will that Jaya Prada joined the Telugu Desam Party. But little did she know that a slight departure from her showbiz routine would end up in a serious pursuit. "Politics is a different ball game. I'm happy that people have taken me seriously as a politician." And that's a claim you'd not dispute given the fact there are "positive vibes" from the TDP leadership at a time when elections are round the corner. "My commitment was total. That's paid off. I look forward to another chance," says the ex-MP, who was known for her now-on, now-off relationship with Chandrababu Naidu.

Films and politics are not just the two things in Jaya Prada's mind. "It's time I took my passion for dance seriously. February will see the unveiling of my dance ballet `Amrapali'. The show, which will tour India and abroad, will see me in the lead role, supported by a host of models. The two-and-a-half-hour performance will cover a gamut of dance forms. Twenty per cent of the show proceeds will go to a home that I plan to establish for destitute women in Hyderabad."

The coming months are going to be hectic. But Jaya Prada is cool. "I've learnt to switch on and off like the arclights," she says. And this, coming from someone driven to the brink several times when happiness played hide-and-seek with her, you leave kind of relieved!

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