Sushmita Sen Talks About Daughter Renne

Renne Looking Pretty in a Red Frock with Mom Sushmita Sen

Renee is a special child...
"Renee understands her mother has to work. We share quality time together. The good thing is that I don't make her claustrophobic - I believe to be a good mother, you don't need to be hovering around your child round-the-clock. There will soon come a time that your child will start hoping you were not around. I want my child to be happy when she sees me come back home, and Renee is thrilled to have me home. Being close to my daughter physically and emotionally is most important to me."

On Mother's Day ...
"Once Renne made a lovely card for me with 'Renee' signed at the bottom.The card had stars, moons skies and all complicated things beautifully drawn on it. Her masi got this beautiful heart shaped pendant with Allah written on it and space for two small pictures. I am so blessed that she understood the concept so beautifully."

When I am with Renee...
"When we are together, we spend time making figures and cartoons of clay, narrate stories or watch video films that we've shot together. She loves repeating her set of favourite stories and poems. Of late, she's also developed a knack for opposites -ask her what's the opposite of flamboyant or biological, and she'll rattle it off in a jiffy."

Renee loves watching films...
"She watches television like any other child; she loves the songs and the promos they keep airing. She keenly watches the steps, time and again, and loves telling me all about it."

Renee, my best critic...
"She's bursting with excitement on seeing me on television. She gathers everyone in the household, all the domestic helpers and anyone else she finds around when she spots me on the television. And when the promo or the song they are showing is over, she screams for more. She wonders why I come and go and can't stay on the screen throughout. "My mamma, my mamma", she goes on and on! If she is too insistent, I have to play a tape of my movie for her to sit and enjoy. Renee is my biggest fan."

Dreamscapes & the Common Journey

A little while back, I found myself -- rather through the invention of necessity -- exploring the surreal in a clown performance I created and performed. Lately I've been wondering if that experience might have opened up a new avenue or two in my creativity, as I fantasize about more and more bizarre images on the stage of my mind. This is new-found. You could always describe me as a bit weird, but outright "surreality" has never been a thing I've been interested in creating, much less for the sake of itself. I love the absurd, the sublime, and am just as psyched for the opening of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus as the next guy, but using it in theatre is a terribly delicate balance. And I have been burned, many, many times before, my friends.

And yet. Yet I find myself dreaming of some particular world that's more a dreamscape than anything specific to history or the here-and-now. It's influenced by a lot of things, and may prove easily categorical, but for now it seems to me to be unique. This is not my idiom, and so I feel a little at-sea. Delighted, too, of course; otherwise why would I be returning to it again and again? I'm challenged by it. I keep looking for a story in its midst, something on which to hang my hat. Surreal or no, I can't bring myself to stick with something creatively unless I'm somehow meeting an audience halfway. So, you know: no worries there, O my vasty Audience.

The surreal or fantastic really is just an idiom, not a goal or even a path. It's become a bit elusive in recent years, as fiction in every genre has accepted everything from "science fiction" to "magical realism" into its official ranks. Things that used to be sublime are given categories and named. And I love those domesticated notions, don't get me wrong. It just makes it a bit trickier to make something to a surreal effect.

The trick, I think to making a successful yet surreal bit of art is to aim not for the "surreality." Rather, aim for a pure connection with the audience. Maybe there are glowing eyeballs replacing your old ones (to take an example from my little piece) and maybe that is really interesting to think about in an allegorical way, but what the audience is there for is a connection that allows them to identify with you and be reminded of themselves. So it's not about how cool glowing eyes are, but how they make you feel and function, and what then you do with them. Actually, more immediately and most importantly, it's about your instinctive response to them. This I think might be my favorite part of Terry Gilliam's movies -- amidst all this strange, inexplicable stuff is a continuum of watching people respond in specific ways, emotionally, instinctively. That's the scalpel of the sublime, after all. There's little-to-nothing of a cultural commonality, so you damn well better have a human one there.

How shocking that a born-and-raised U.U. like myself would find that situation appealing.

This is part of why the silent comedians were so successful within the idiom of the surreal. (And if you disagree with me about that, shut up, you're stupid.) The formula -- if you can call it that with all the pioneering they were so busy doing -- is of a low-status, accessible character getting into big trouble and struggling to win out over it all whilst incident after incident happens to her, and she has to react. We have to react, instinctively, no matter how little sense may apply to what we perceive. Heck: How much sense could it make to be watching projected shadow and light and be having a hysterical response to it? (Just as much sense as it did to have the same reaction to performers on a stage, or Plato's cave shadows, to answer my own rhetoric.) The supposedly surreal surrounds, and it's a fool's game to try and create it from nothingness. All it takes is a little nudge of people's perspective.

I may be nudging soon. We'll see. It's what my brain wants, anyway. Come along?

Introducing the New Kid on the Block, Shraddha Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor's Daughter

WHO: Shraddha Kapoor
WHAT: Talking about her Bollywood experience so far
WHERE: On the sets of Teen Patti

Shraddha Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor's little girl

She's a celebrity kid, all of 20 and set to make her big screen debut in Leena Yadav's next film, Teen Patti early next year 9 (and no, she's not been paid Rs one crore for the film as has been rumoured!). She has a lot of things going for her and she's terribly excited about her first media interview with CS. Here's introducing the new kid on the block, Shraddha Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor's little girl

Filmi fundas
Although I've only worked on one film so far, I feel I have already grown as an artiste. Teen Patti has helped me broaden my vision and has been a great source of learning. Directed by Leena Yadav, it stars Amitji (Bachchan), R Madhavan and three other new guys -- I'm sorry I can't talk more about the project just yet. But I can say that I am not charging Rs 1 crore for the film!

Bollywood dreams
I want to make a special place for myself, not only in the hearts of the audience, but also in their lives. I want to be remembered by the roles I play. Movies have always been a very important part of my life, ever since I was a little kid. I used to devour my dad and aunt's (Padmini Kolhapure) films. I also love foreign cinema. I watch a mixed bag of films -- my all time favourites would be Pyaasa, The Shawshank Redemption and Central Station, which is a Portuguese film.

Papa the great
I'm not sure if I've inherited a comic streak from my dad. I'll only find that out when I'm playing a role like that. But, I do love to laugh and be a part of a funny moment. I also thrive on comedies. My dad not only rocks as a funnyman, but he is also an awesome father to me. I value his advice since he's such a seasoned actor. But, he always leaves the decision-making to me. One advice that he's given me is to always stay true to my craft and let go of my inhibitions. After observing him I've learnt that there is no substitute for hard work. I can't wait to put these lessons into practice!

Source: Mid-day

Nyuck Nyuck OOF! Bleaah...

One of the things I find interesting about the silly season is how miraculously it makes me multi-task to the point of forgetting really basic priorities. It's a little bit like how I remember skiing to be, back in my gilded youth when I skied somewhat regularly. I would get going on the up-and-down of it all, five o'clock would roll around and I'd begin to wonder why I felt dizzy and my eyes had dried up in my head. I don't forget to eat and drink around Christmas, but it's close. I was fortunate enough last week, however, to have a nice, centering ACTion Collective event to anchor me in spot for a bit. Just long enough to plant a cream pie in my merry face.

This, our third event -- ACT III: Nyuck Nyuck Nyuck -- was an intimate and rather relaxed affair. The "cocktail hour" period was spent with all in a single, spontaneous circle of chairs, which was a first. We had a total of about nine there, including Andrew and myself, partly a result of three last-minute cancellations due to holiday complications. None of this was surprising, of course. We wondered in planning ACT III whether it made sense to adhere to our not-yet-a-schedule in the face of everyone's holiday, and decided we should, for a variety of reasons. Several of the people who did attend last Thursday's event specifically scheduled their holiday plans to make time for it, and we learned a lot as a result of the smaller group.

The goal of the evening was to play comic two-hander scenes as well as possible when they are selected at random. We emailed the scenes in advance, save a couple that Friend Nat brought in that evening, and asked everyone to have a passing familiarity with them so they wouldn't be handed a scene with absolutely no context. Of course, how much of those attachments people chose to read was out of our control, and it seemed that some were more familiar than others. Nevertheless, no one was quite out to sea, and some people really brought on some interesting work . . . both intentionally, and accidentally. Nat himself chose a scene from Moliere's Tartuffe that, for reasons of an error in transcription, switched the roles midway. He and his scene partner rolled with it, though, and it was a very nearly seamless transition -- it became practically a deconstruction of the scene. Moreover, with the smaller group everyone had a moment or more to really shine and create something memorable.

Our game mechanics did not function quite as well as I had hoped they might, and it's difficult to identify exactly why that might be. Certainly part of it was that very few people were willing to repeat a scene that had gone before, which led to a deflation of a big part of our idea: that actors would build on one another's work. I had every title in the hat twice, to safeguard against this possibility, but it quickly became evident to me that there was in our group no enthusiasm for repetition. I think we'll return to this idea with a different (and stronger) structure, because I'm excited by the possibilities in collaborative character-building and scene-work. When it is the focus of an event, I think we'll have some very interesting results.

The exercises were bookended by a set-up and a payoff (though I muffed the timing of the set-up a bit by brazenly forgetting to mention it until we had already started). We started (almost) out by mentioning that, by the end of the evening, someone would be hit in the face with a pie. This was Andrew's idea at some stage of brainstorming, but I was 100% behind it. Zuppa del Giorno has been trying to incorporate pie fights into our shows for years, and I was eager to see it in action. Fortunately for me, I was eager to see it from any perspective. What we did not reveal until later in the evening was that it was a choice between myself and Andrew as victim of the pie toss, and that everyone was going to vote. It would seem I was a little too expressive of my enthusiasm for this idea, however, because the decision to have me picking shaving cream out of my nostrils 60 seconds later was in fact unanimous. Pow. Right in the kisser.

Ba-Dum. Ching...?

Comedy is profitable. It's true. Everyone wants something different from their entertainment, and everyone's sense of humor is uniquely calibrated to some extent, but I think we can all agree that everyone feels better after a good laugh, and few people actively seek to avoid a situation in which they might be tempted toward laughter. It is possibly the most socially acceptable form of catharsis, ranking right up there with the sneeze as a fairly uncontrollable expression of release. Sure, there are "inappropriate" laughs galore, but we're generally pretty forgiving even of these . . . especially in situations in which social pressure to be moral is at a minimum. As a result, comedy is very bankable.

I have mainstream comedy (Define my terms? Heck no -- let's keep this as subjective as possible.) on my mind lately owing to several factors, not the least of which is that the next ACTion Collective event is devoted to comic two-hander scenes. You better hang on with both hands: It's going to be a crazy one. As a result, I've been gathering one-liners and dialogue-based comic scenes from a variety of different traditions, and it's got me thinking both about how important comedy is to business, and how much the two have intrinsically in common. Don't agree? How many major television studios have banked on trained actors for sitcoms, and how many have banked on up-and-coming stand-up comedians? Your honor, the defense rests. Bitterly.

Both comedy and business are modeled on a fairly direct interchange, one related to profit. For one it's money and the other, laughs, and in both cases if you're not growing then you're in trouble. As I read through comic dialogue from the recent past all the way back to the 17th century, I'm struck by how little has changed in all that time. The individual lines have gotten shorter (unless part of the joke is about how long someone speaks) and of course the phrasing has changed, but the rhythms and effects are frankly standard. Particularly looking at two-person scenes, in which communication is really broken down to some pretty basic, ping-pong dynamics. (Hacky-sack would be a better analogy [parenthetically].) A couple of people bat something around until a certain synergy is reached, which results, we hope, in some payoff.

Is this all that different from tragedy and non-profit organizations? (Not that I'm relating the one to the other, mind. [That's for a separate 'blog post {parenthetically}.]) Is tragedy not interested in profit of a different tender, and organizations in payoff in less materialistic ways? Certainly. And then again, no. It's less accountable with these forms, more subjective, and the structures are more complex. We can tie all sorts of genres and business models into this, but there's something about commercial business and comedy that goes naturally hand-in-hand. If for no other reason than because funny makes money.

Certainly that proves true in my own life, because I'm outrageously wealthy. Wait . . .. It does relate, in some way. I just had it. Damn. Oh well . . .

OH RIGHT. I mean to say, in terms of the jobs I've attained. See, in this context, the work is its own payment; which may be why I'm not - parenthetically - outrageously wealthy. Huh. Oh well, I'll figure that all out tomorrow. The point is, I think that the comedies I've been in outweigh anything else by a ratio of something like 5:1. It's what the people want, and I am more marketable as someone who can repeatedly fall on my ass than I am as someone who can make you think of your mother/father/first girl-and-or-boyfriend with a twinge of heretofore unacknowledged regret. Them's the breaks, kid.

Fortunately for us, comedy is a hell of a lot of fun to do, usually. Business, too, if you can get in the right mindset. Lately I've been trying to perceive my money-making as a night of comedy. Thus far "farce" might be a better term, but I'm slowly edging toward"parody," in hopes of eventually hitting "satire" and am confident that -- someday -- I'll have them rolling in the aisles over pure, profitable comedy.

Farah Khan and Her Triplets Anya, Diva and Czar Spotted at a Suburban Mall

Farah Khan and her children Anya, Diva and Czar along with three maids were spotted in the games area of a suburban mall on Saturday.

The choreographer-director was playing mommy to the hilt making them sit on every ride and indulge in the games.

Picture: Farah Khan With her daughters Anya, Diva

Farah Khan With her Son Czar (R) and daughters Anya and Diva (L)


Whenever Farah Khan is seen in public places, young girls come up to her hoping for an audition for her next film, Tees Maar Khan.

As she has announced that a nationwide hunt is on to find a new face opposite Akshay Kumar, aspiring girls are giving her their portfolios.

Farah jokes, "I have been telling these young girls not to approach me and that my hero will decide on the casting!"

Zuppa: The Next Course

Traditionally, we know what our Zuppa del Giorno show is going to be at least a year in advance, if not more. That seems funny to write, especially with how much I write about the process starting from nothing at the beginning of the rehearsal process. Yet both are true. We never start out with a show, and we always end up with a show, yet at least a year in advance we know what the show is going to be "about." The first would be about updated commedia traditions, the second about the Marx brothers, the third about silent film comedians, etc. One needs to know that much in advance so one can research, and plan, and gather materials for the horrifying moment when one finds oneself in an empty space without a single indication of where to go next, surrounded by folk who have as little clue (and at least as much anxiety) as you do.

In effect, Zuppa has officially now skipped a year. Owing to the ambitious nature of our last original work, and a focus on advancing our study abroad program, In Bocca al Lupo, we took a little break. Recently, however, David Zarko asked us to pool some ideas for the next endeavor into wholly original (or at least creatively stolen) show material. Here is what I emailed him, off the top of my head and verbatim:
  • Mummer's (or guiser's) Play: adaptable to public spaces, most characters performed in disguise or with mask - Wikipedia link. They usually have to do with good versus evil, and involve some element of resurrection. Prepare an original show utilizing style elements; perform in a different space every time. If at ETC, in ballroom, second stage, shop, lobby, abandoned rooms, etc. Scranton, all over, including weirdness like bowling alleys. In Italy, piazzas, but also tourist spots and museums.
  • Show set in a circus. I've resisted this for some time, but we really should attempt it some time. Doesn't have to be circus intensive, but can include stilt-walking and other street-theatre conducive elements.
  • The Great Zuppa Murder Mystery. Classic isolated scenario, names after Scranton locales and exit signs (Lord Dunmore Throop). Either played straight, or played a la coarse theatre -- more a play about players trying to put on a murder-mystery play, but not having their act together. OR, totally meta-: a real murder is supposed to have happened during a performance of a murder-mystery play that is being put on by coarse actors who are incapable of getting anything right.
  • A play about religion. I don't know -- religion is funny. Maybe a play about mythos and superstition, as well, or instead of. Zuppa's vampire play.
  • Another silent show, but based in something besides silent movies. This isn't really an idea. Sorry.
  • Collaborations with mixed media: visual artists, musicians, writers, dancers. The idea being that we highlight the ways in which everyone uses improvisation by performing alongside folks, united by some storytelling commonality.
  • Oh and also: A really real vaudeville show (There were some plans to incorporate a significant vaudeville presence into Prohibitive Standards, but they never crystallized. - ed.). With guest artists.
I'll probably have more ideas over time and, as is perhaps evident, I'm not especially sold on any of these in particular. Zuppa's mission statement when it comes to our original shows (in as much as we have one) is to illustrate the living traditions of the commedia dell'arte that permeate our culture, and inspire our audiences to learn more about that interconnected culture. Hence ideas that hearken to older forms, or hang on the twin cousins of homage and parody.

So what do you think, Gentle Reader? Seriously -- Which of these ideas would you like to see our merry, rotating band of "creactors" make a whole new show of? Or, better yet: What are your ideas...?

Chunkey Pandey With his Wife and Daughter.

Chunkey Pandey seen with his wife and daughter during the premiere of movie 'Paa' at Imax, Mumbai. Also seen in the photograph is Mehr Rampal, wife of Arjun Rampal.

Jackie and Ayesha Shroff's Son Tiger to Make Movie Debut in 2012

Jai 'Tiger' Shroff is getting ready for a filmi debut. Jackie and Ayesha's 19-year-old son has already been getting lot of attention. A sport enthusiast presently training in martial arts, Tiger has already recieved several film offers. However, mom Ayesha thinks he's too young and wants to wait another two years before he debuts.


Describing him as an all- rounder Ayesha says, "Tiger is an outdoor guy and an extrovert. He loves his sports and has played everything from basketball to golf. At the moment, he's taken to parkour and is busy getting in his best shape. Right from his school days, he's been attracted to sports, so fitness is in his blood."

Better options

Is being an actor a natural progression for him? "Actually we had sent him to the US to try and be a professional basketball player. But he got homesick and wanted to come back. All his friends are here, and he didn't want to be away from them. Now, he wants to get into acting, but it's going to take a while before that happens. The advantage is that since the industry is like family, he will have better options and avenues than someone else."

Manager in place

Ayesha has already got a manager for her son. "We want to go the professional way and make sure he gets it right. Since we get so many inquiries for him, I have got a manager to handle his work. Today's style of working is very different from the time Jackie started off." He is also taking diction classes. She continues, "His style of speaking Hindi is very like his father, so we need to polish it a bit. Besides that I also want him to come on the sets of my under-production films so he gets a first hand account of what it's like to work in the indu
stry. It's not as hunky dory as it seems."

Narmmadaa Ahuja, Govinda’s Daughter says "I Want to Start As a Glamour Doll"

‘Actors are born, not made’. Keeping this phrase in mind, there are many of course, who harp about how they were ‘born to act’, though the lesser said the better about their acting skills. This is what makes me cynical about newcomers, especially, with filmi backgrounds. But one evening, when in a not-so-pessimistic mood, I met up with a newcomer who’s waiting to exhale in the land of films.

Waiting, because she’s yet to give her first shot in front of the camera, though she’s got some impressive stills shot as part of her portfolio (see the images to believe). But that doesn’t mean she’s not well-versed with fame. There are rumours that she’s going to make her debut opposite Shahid Kapoor. Reportedly, big filmmakers like David Dhawan, Abbas Mustan and few other big names are keen to launch her; sources believe that even Salman Khan has taken the responsibility.

All this superficiality is tempting enough to know what lies beneath. And this is what makes her the kind to be interviewed even before she’s through with her debut project. Narmmadaa, daughter of Entertainer No.1 Govinda, is confidence personified when I meet her at a five-star hotel in suburban Mumbai. We sip icy colas as the tape rolls to capture Narmmadaa talking the talk in her first-ever full-fledged interview.

Some speak of their desire in flowery words. Many never say it. Maybe because they feel they can never live their dream. And there are others who go on running after their goal, heads down, without any grand declarations. When other star kids stepped into tinselville with a lot of gung-ho, fervour and hyped-up hullabaloo, one girl quietly went about her work and is almost all set for a stunning debut.

Self-admittedly an introvert, this girl says, “You will have to really get things out of me since it’s my first proper interview.” I accept the challenge as I hand over my dictaphone to the talented and enigmatic Narmmadaa.

“I always wanted to become an actor,” Narmmadaa reveals. “At 17, I was through with the fact that I wanted to become an actor. When the time came to actually tell my parents, I was very much sure and put it across to them. And they were pretty cool about it. They said, ‘No problem. First finish your studies and at the same time, start getting ready to be trained as an actor’. My father (Govinda) informed me about the pros and cons of the profession. He told me that I have to be very patient.”

Does Narmmadaa feel that somewhere her parents’ expectations from her were different? “I’m really blessed that they always gave me my space. They never forced me to do anything. Even if I wanted to become a fashion designer or an actor or any profession of my choice, they were with me.

If I want to get into films tomorrow, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop enjoying. I think it’s not good to stress yourself. One should enjoy life also. It’s my age to be with friends, go for holidays and parties and have fun. At the same time, I’m equally focused and working on all the necessary aspects that would qualify my standing as an actor. It’s always good to be a slow learner than just trying to take everything in one day,” she reveals her thoughts.

Narmmadaa’s upbringing was like any other star kid. “I was never treated as a normal kid,” she says feeling very privileged. “My friends and teachers used to treat me as Govinda’s daughter. And I used to take full advantage of that and run away from school in lunch breaks. My dad never forced me to study. In that sense, he was a very good dad,” she laughs out loud. “I never used to get tensed thinking about the results simply because I knew that I didn’t want to become a doctor or an engineer. I did my 12th and I did a basic fashion designing course because I was very much into fashion. But my father didn’t want me to become a fashion designer.”

Narmmadaa has learnt film-making abroad. Did she do well in her years of studying film direction? “Oh yes. It was dad who suggested that I go abroad to learn film-making. I went to London and America, and learned lighting and few other aspects of filmmaking. I also did a make-up course.” But why didn’t she learn proper filmmaking? “That’s because the institutes abroad are quite different from Bollywood. I mean their method of teaching and the syllabus is different. It’s better to assist a good filmmaker first rather going abroad and doing it theoretically. It’s always good to have an experience than just going to a school,” she explains.

Does that mean she would begin her career by assisting a big film-maker? “I don’t mind doing it because most of the debutants actually assist first to understand the behind-the-scenes world better. But my father would never ever let me assist any film-maker. I asked him once but he strictly refused because he knows what kind of work the assistants have to do. Frankly speaking, I won’t be able to do it. Sometime back, there were stories that I was going to assist some film-maker. My father would prefer to take me to his shooting locations. He would rather make me sit in one corner to observe what’s happening. He didn’t want me to work as a labourer.”

Being a concerned father that Govinda is, doesn’t she think that at times, his over-protectiveness could also hamper her decision-making process? “It could be and it couldn’t be also,” Narmmadaa thinks for a while and answers. “He’s protective like every other father. Being in the industry for so long, he knows what is right and what is wrong. That’s why he guides me a lot. It always happens when a star kid is coming, especially a girl. People always take star kids for granted considering that it’s an easy game. I really don’t like this thought. I have to break this norm. I want people to take me as a normal girl. My dad is quite chilled out with me going for parties, or going out with friends. People make a big issue in the industry, I don’t know why,” says the doting daughter.

Which director would Narmmadaa love to debut with? “He should be a good film-maker, somebody who knows his job. I don’t expect him to make a blockbuster. I don’t even mind starting with a new film-maker. Among the veteran film-makers, I would love to work with Rakesh Roshan, Ashutosh Gowariker, Mani Ratnam, Priyadarshan, Abbas Mustan, Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap, Madhur Bhandarkar, Karan Johar, Rajkumar Hirani, Aamir Khan and David Dhawan.”

That’s quite an impressive list. “Hmmm…wait, not David uncle,” she rectifies and laughs. “Not that I don’t respect him as a film-maker. It’s just that I don’t want to start with him; I’ll work with him after my debut film. I know David uncle since I was a child. He’s like a family member.” And what about the king of romance Yash Chopra? “Oh yes, Yash uncle too,” grins Narmmadaa. “How can I forget him? In today’s times, we see film-makers diverting from the beaten path to venture into newer script ideas and subjects, which wasn’t the case a few years ago. I don’t really need an option to choose because everybody comes up with their own unique style and different school of film-making. As an actor, I’m open to working with all of them.”

Usually, newcomers start off with love stories; the recent examples being Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. But Narmmadaa disagrees, “Most of the newcomers in the recent times have achieved success because they debuted with different scripts and not just romantic films. You could find the romantic angle in almost all the films, whether action, comedy or thrillers. Asin debuted as a sweet girl-next-door in ‘Ghajini’ but then that’s an Aamir Khan film,” she informs.

“At least for the starting three or four years, I won’t be doing something that is de-glam. See, I’m not doing films to make money or to prove a point. It’s wrong if you go ahead with that intention. I’m doing it because I like cinema. So initially, when I start, I would prefer to be choosy and go slow. I want to do films that would make me happy. Besides the subject, the movie should have good songs.” Just like her dad’s films? She smilingly agrees, “Yes, I would love to do something like that because I want to enjoy the entire process.”

What if a film came up where she’s needed to act with her father? Would she be inhibited to perform in front of him? “Of course yes, because in that case he’ll be the actor Govinda first. And for a newcomer, it’s certainly a big deal. He’s such a senior artiste. Frankly speaking, I consider and respect him as a teacher more than a father. When I was young, half the time he would be busy shooting. We couldn’t spend time with each other. So he’s more like an actor to me in that case. Whatever little time we get for each other, he would teach me. Many people have asked me this question. I have always told them that I would love to work with him only after I’m two or three films old.”

Does Narmmadaa think that her dad could launch her, though he’ll always be there as a father? “I wouldn’t mind if he launches me,” she laughs. “For a debutant, it’s very important for everything to fall in place. Even if I get launched by any small director or in a small-budget film, the subject has to be really good. Agar Daddy nahi bhi launch karte toh bhi I don’t mind.”

So what does it take to be an actress? After a long pause, she says, “You always have to be very plastic,” she laughs. “Besides, you need to be size-zero and you should always be in the news for link-ups and controversies.” Bigger the controversy, bigger the star? “As long as you know what the truth is,” she makes it clear.

Does Narmmadaa know her assets and limitations? “Yeah, I’m still working on them. I work very hard on my diction, because I believe good diction enhances your performance. I have discussed it with my father. He helps me. But at the end of the day, it’s always good to know your strengths and weaknesses yourself and work it out. So the process is all going on,” she nods her head giving me a feeling that she’s leaving no stone unturned to appear as a good actor on screen.

Criticism can be a scary word in the dictionary of a newcomer. Had Govinda inculcated in her the repercussions of coping with the bouquets and brickbats? “Yeah, I’m well prepared for that. But I really don’t care about these things because I have seen ups and downs in my father’s career.

When I was young, there was a time when my father’s films weren’t doing well. It used to hurt me a lot. I don’t really care now because I’ve learned to overcome all that during my growing-up years and learn to move on in life. He taught me how to take things as and when they come. In fact, if somebody criticises you, you should think about it and work on that,” says Narmmadaa.

Has it ever happened that her father narrated a scene to her and asked to enact it? “I have asked him but whatever he teaches me, I just can’t do it. He’s too perfect. If you explain a scene to him, he’ll do it exactly the way you want him to or maybe better. I really don’t understand his kind of cinema because it’s very different. He keeps on doing new things every time. The good thing about dad is that he’s a very good observer.

He observes people, their way of talking, mannerisms, behaviour and if he comes across any funny character, he tries to incorporate that in his film. Once, he had given me a dialogue, which was like ‘Maine toh kabhi aisa socha hi nahi tha ki tum mere saath aisa karoge. Main tumhe kitna pyaar karti thi.’ He asked me to do it. So I tried my bit. But the dialogue was too filmi that I couldn’t stop giggling, and my mother was staring at me from far. Even she started laughing. Eventually, it turned out to be a big comedy scene,” Narmmadaa recollects.

Now that she’s getting into films, does she pay attention to how her father deals with people and manage things? “I do observe and try to learn. But he’s quite a senior actor and has been doing all this for a long time. It might help me when I reach that position,” says Narmmadaa.

Govinda is known as a versatile actor. But Narmmadaa would soon be embarking in a different league altogether. So who would she look up for advice? “I can talk to my parents; besides that there are friends also.

It’s always good to take advice from as many people as you can,” she says it diplomatically. That means she has a lot of friends from the industry. “I don’t want my friends to be disclosed,” she grins. No female actor friend? “No,” she adds. Govinda and his wife Sunita are known to be quite conservative. Will he be open to her doing glamorous and intimate scenes? “I wouldn’t do something that would hurt him or I’m not comfortable in. If something is making him upset why would I do that? He’s quite open in that case,” she clears.

Govinda is mostly known for his unique comedy films. Can she do comedy too? “I would love to do comedy and it’s not just because my father is very good at it. I think it’s very easy for an actress to do a comedy film because such films don’t have enough scope for an actress. The male actors take away the cake. Girls are only there for dancing or maybe a few scenes here and there.” I’m surprised as she gets into technicalities. But what if she’s given a lead comedy role like her dad? “Well, I don’t mind but after one or two films. I want to start of as a glamour doll,” reveals Narmmadaa.

Does Narmmadaa think it’s the right time to debut, because somewhere her father is also working hard in his second innings? “I’m doing my part. I won’t be upset or get worried even if I take more time to sign my first film. My father has become very cautious. He takes decisions after thinking twice. So I can’t do something wrong myself,” she elucidates.

Does she think it’s an added advantage being a star daughter or a drawback? “It’s actually both. People go by the feeling that we don’t need to struggle as much as other girls. But then there are more people to criticise. You come with a lot of expectations and responsibilities to prove when you’re a star kid. There’s a lot of pressure,” states Narmmadaa.

Govinda has always been a controversy child. During her growing up years, how did she cope with her father’s various link-ups? She says, “Sometimes it does hurt because you feel it’s enough, and sometimes you feel like taking it with a pinch of salt. I ignored it in most of the cases and moved on, because I was aware of the truth. None of us in our house gave a damn. I was quite okay with such ridiculous news because I know that’s a part of an actor’s life. I have seen that, all my life. So I never over-reacted. He’s not a man who would hide things from his family or children because he’s a true gentleman,” says the daddy’s girl.

Now that she’s all set to face the arc-lights, what is the
image she’d like to portray? She gives me a few examples of actresses she would love to be like. “Actresses like Sharmila Tagore, Hema Malini, Saira Banu and Nutan amongst others. I always liked such high-glam and beautiful actresses.”

Last year, Narmmadaa accompanied Salman Khan to an awards function and that’s when the media even linked her with the actor. How did she take this? “I didn’t pay much attention because it’s not true,” she strikes back. “The media can create any story. All this has also happened with my father. So I am used to it,” Narmmadaa clarifies. Did Salman react? Did he call her after the incident? “No, we met the same night for his movie screening and just laughed about it.”

Unfortunately, Narmmadaa met with an accident five years ago, which was a major turning point in her life. How did she cope with it? “I wasn’t traumatized as such. Fortunately, when the accident happened, I was sleeping. So I didn’t realize what it was. But when my father got me to Mumbai, he informed what I had gone through, which really scared the daylights out of me. I’ll always be very grateful to him because without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to come out of it. He helped me to move on in life. It was a turning point because I had to start fresh,” she informs.

In the world of the Deepikas and Sonams, how does she think she’s going to survive? How would she stand different in the race and what does she have to offer to the viewers? “People would get to see that in my first film. I can’t say anything beyond that now,” she states decisively.

There is a lot of speculation about her debut film. “Such things are happening since the time I expressed my wish to become an actor. When I did my acting course, the media also reported that. But that time people didn’t consider the fact that I was very young and the process is still on. And they made a huge buzz about it. Now that I’m prepared, I’m meeting people. I’m reading scripts. I don’t want to rush into it just because I want to get into films. Everything is changing now. It’s just up to destiny where it takes me.” Luck favours the brave, as I assure her and prepare to leave.

By the time the interview ends, I see Narmmadaa as her own person. The confidence and enthusiasm remains intact. Though it’s still some time before we can see what Narmmadaa can do, it doesn’t diminish the potential she promises with her sincerity. With a zealous smile, she promises confidently, “It will be certainly worth the wait.”

*Courtesy: Stardust

La Commedia e l'Aula

Dear God, do I ever hope I've written that title right.

Day the last, I taught once again for one of Suzi Takahashi's classes at City College -- a "Movement for Actors" class that consisted of actors and non-actors alike, and I had less than a couple of hours in which to introduce them to the commedia dell'arte, in particular about how it can apply to physical characterization and character archetypes. I type a sentence such as that and it occurs to me that it must sounds dreadfully boring to the average Joe or Jane, one unaccustomed to seeing this work. That's a danger of "studying" commedia -- it all starts to seem academic at best, irrelevant and inaccessible at worst, and these are not adjectives that should ever have anything to do with the form, ever. So I try to avoid study, and focus instead on practice, which is an effective strategy in general for getting young men and women fresh from four days of eating and loafing to be involved.

I love guesting into Suzi's classes, and yesterday was no exception. The students were willing, focused and fun to be around (after a bit of a gradual warm-up period) and I found several applications that will be useful in future workshops. For example, I gave a generic pose for the three basic status types -- a deep stance for zanni, a lifted straight one for innamorati and a bent one for vecchi -- and periodically shouted out one of these types, for which they'd rush to assume the pose. It worked great for keeping them alert, teaching them the classes and getting them thinking physically (in particular because the Italian names had no literal meaning yet, so they could just be immediately associated). Having to abridge my usual material to make good use of time led to some interesting discoveries as well. A quicker pace kept the students from getting too wrapped up in right and wrong, so when it came to creating their own Capitano character they were more apt to drop the form elements they had already learned in favor of observed behavior.

There is something about teaching workshops that really fulfills me, and I often wonder if I would lose some of that feeling if the occasions to teach were more frequent, less special. Certainly there's a lot about regular teaching that a workshop instructor gets to be exempted from: long-term lesson plans, getting to know the students well (by which I mean, by name) and dealing with any amount of administrative concerns. The consequences, too, are mitigated by the brevity, which can also cast a bit of a glow on a workshop teacher as something new and fleeting, to be valued somehow more intensely than the teacher one sees day after day. Yeah, jeez: there's a lot of liberty in being a workshop leader. Yet the thing that gives me a sense of fulfillment more than any tricks I figure out or insights I have has more to do with the students than the class.

What's really amazing about sharing the commedia dell'arte perspective with people is watching them take it in their own way, at their own individual paces, and then suddenly run with it. That's got little to nothing to do with me, or even the material, and everything in the world to do with an individual person finding through the process a spark that lights them up. Maybe it's a moment of "I get it!", or perhaps it's one of "I give myself permission...", but whatever it may be for a given person, you can watch it happen around the classroom like popcorn. Here's where the commedia workshops and the acrobalance ones converge, in this infectious energy that spreads around in different patterns every time, but always results in more trust and bravery, and somehow, a new sense of community. It's really inspiring.

I've had a lot of experiences in the past year that have been seeming to say to me something literal and specific: Make community. That's it. There's a whole lot of different ways to do that, and I'm actively involved in a few of them, from starting up The ACTion Collective with Friend Andrew to working to stay better connected with all my friends, far and wide. Soon there'll be directing a show to add to the community-building pile, with a little luck. From the rehearsal studio to the Internet to visiting home (and other homes) it's a bit of ground to cover. I'm grateful that the small space of a couple of hours in a classroom can be part of that, too.
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