Antara Mali

Daughter of ace-photographer Jagdish Maali, Antara is the new sensation of tinsel world with her natural and vivacious performance and the ability to fit into any role given to her. Antara Mali made her debut in a small budget film called Doondte Reh Jaonge, which went unnoticed. Her second film, Dum Dum Diga Diga was shelved halfway through. Her next break came with a Telugu film, Prem Katha that did average business but she was spotted by Ram Gopal Verma who is the 'miracle man of Bollywood' and from there her career went steaming ahead. She got a small role in Mast but she became a star overnight after her performance in Company. She is now cast in Ram Gopal Verma's 'Road', which is to be released on 27th Sept, 2002. Antara talked with Seasonsindia correspondent Shobhana Arora about her career, her experience with Ram Gopal Verma and her future plans.

Excerpts from the interview.

Why did you want to join the film industry? Is it because of the glamour associated with it or was it that you were always interested in acting?

Well, to be frank yes glamour is definitely one thing that has attracted me but it isn't the most important thing. You see acting is in my blood. When I was in school at that time itself I had made up my mind to be an actress but I kept it to myself and didn't disclose it to anyone. When I finally did, dad did all he could to dissuade me. I thought he would be supportive of my decision, but he was totally against it. It took me months to convince him and finally I got him to shoot my portfolio.

Why do you think he agreed and let you pursue your dreams?
Well at the shoot he must have seen my potentials and realised that I can do it. I was very comfortable in front of the camera and dad could see that. He has over the years photographed so many models and stars that he knew that the camera wasn't lying.

And what was his reaction when he saw you on the big screen?

I will never forget the day. He completely put me off and was my biggest critic. The entire length of time that I was with him watching the film he kept on a running commentary. According to him everything about me was wrong. My body language, costumes, make-up, dialogue delivery and performance. I was so offended that I just got up and came home.

After 'Mast' you completely disappeared and went into hiding for about a year.
Yes, actually I was not sure about the way my career was heading and I just wanted to re-think. I had actually given up on my career coz the only offers that came my way were second leads, but then a miracle happened. Out of the blue Ramuji offered me a South film followed by Company. I was delighted because it's a pleasure working with him.

Did you ever think that Ramuji would offer you the lead role in 'Company'?

To be frank, NO. I hadn't even dreamt about such a break and as I said I had completely given up but still something in me kept telling me to be patient. There were endless offers from big banners for supporting roles, from television and also from stage. But I wanted to be the lead heroine. Today cinema has changed and it's a revolutionary stage where looks don't really matter much….what matters is talent. An actor like Manoj Bajpai got to do Satya, Shool and later Zubeida. Today an actress like Urmila Matondkar gets to act in films as diverse as Rangeela, Daud and Kaun. So why can't the rules break for me too? And fortunately it did.

Tell me what's the best thing about working with Ram Gopal Verma?
Well Ramuji is very supportive and understanding. He is open to criticism and suggestions. I haven't done all that many films hence I can't compare him with other directors. He gives a lot of space to his actors. In fact, he's almost like a counsellor. It's all very reassuring and the actor feels confident when finally facing the camera.

Many stories are being cooked up regarding your relationship with Ram Gopal Verma. It is said that you are the next-Ramu-girl. What do you have to say?
Nonsense. People say many things, but all the things can't be true and can't be believed. Ramuji is a producer and I am an actress. I love working with him and its really an honour to work with a director of his calibre. He picked Urmila and brought out all the amazing qualities and acting skills in her. If now he has picked me and I know that I will grow and I am talented then what's wrong. I don't care what people say. I am only interested in my work.

Can you tell us something about your character in 'Road'?
Well my character is very interesting. Apparently, I romance both Manoj Bajpai and Vivek in the film while on a journey by road. It's a very high paced thriller and I am sure the audience will love it.

What do you say about the sexy and hot numbers of you with Vivek in the film? Where you comfortable shooting those scenes?
Well I have worked with Vivek before so I am very comfortable with him. And to be frank while doing those numbers I didn't actually shoot with him. I just had to do my part and look as sexy as was needed for the particular song. So there was no question of feeling awkward. Its good the song turned out to be good.

So what is your future plans?
Well I am getting many offers but I can't disclose anything at this stage. One thing is for sure I will only do versatile roles and will not be stereotyped.

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