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Balancing act

Jayaprada on the choices she’s made — in politics and films



Role play Jayaprada

It’s easy to scoff at actors who get enticed into the whirlpool of Indian politics. It’s easier still to give them the “glamour-doll-drawing-votes” tag when the actor in question is a woman. But there must be something Jayaprada is doing right. She was elected a second time as Lok Sabha MP from Rampur in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh. An admirable feat for a woman who couldn’t initially get roles in Bollywood because she couldn’t speak Hindi. Even more admirable considering the dirty games many colleagues played during the election to humiliate her.

One wonders what really drove her away from Bollywood into far-off Rampur; not even back to home turf Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh. “It wasn’t my decision really to enter politics,” says Jayaprada, more than a decade after she first became a Rajya Sabha MP in 1996 from the Telugu Desam Party.

“I love to be in films. My passion is music and dance. But when you think of reality… that’s what made me turn to politics,” explains Jayaprada, still gorgeous at 47.

Taking the plunge

“Everyone asks me why I joined the dirty world of politics… but there’s always both meaningful and dirty politics. My experience in these last elections was a challenge — when dirty politics really hit me. But women supported me and the credit of my winning goes to good politics,” she says.

But, any questions about the Azam Khan incident (the senior SP leader, now expelled, had allegedly distributed morphed nude photographs of her during the election campaign) make Jayaprada emotional. After all, she considered him her political mentor and brother. “It was a harrowing sequence of events. But it has made me strong,” she says, even as tears form an obvious film on her lovely, large eyes. But what’s dirtier — the world of politics or films? “It’s how you look at it. If you have a dirty mind, you’ll find it dirty. If you have a good mind, you’ll find it beautiful.”

Focussed politician

Bollywood and politics don’t really gel well, she says. “Dharamji and Govinda were not so successful (in their political careers)…At first, the people of Rampur thought of me like that — ‘Bollywood mein rehne waali hai. She’ll just take votes and go back’. But, I’ve gone slow on my Bollywood career. If you mingle politics and profession, you can’t be successful.”

She talks at length of her projects in Rampur to provide education, connectivity, and employment. This year, she plans to open a cricket academy and a paramedical school in her mother Neelaveni Krishna’s name.

Says the queen of multi-tasking: “I’m lucky to have everything. I live in Mumbai, my mother is in Hyderabad, my politics is in UP and my business is in Chennai (she and her brothers own two theatres here). It’s difficult to manage, but I’ve gotten used to it and given everything my best.”

But, what took her all the to Rampur? “God has decided this route for me. Otherwise, there’s no connection anywhere.” When she entered Bollywood, Southern heroines were chastised for not knowing Hindi. Today, actresses from the North do well in Southern films. Jayaprada doesn’t go easy on them.

“Today’s heroines can hardly speak their dialogues. In our time, the demands were more, and that’s why people remember the characters we played.”

She’s just wrapped up the Bengali “Shesh Sangat”, which she’s also co-produced. There’s the Hindi-English bilingual “Desire”, and two films with Buddhadeb Das Gupta and K.C. Bokadia. Doesn’t she miss the world of films, which she ruled in the 1980s? “I do miss films. But I’ve come midway in politics. And, I never leave anything midway.”

BHUMIKA K.

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