CPD FOOTBALL | THE BLOG | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Exclusive Interview: AMRITA RAO

Amrita Rao

Bollywood has been always the place to find all the stars and glamour. The top actresses and actors have been idols for generations of Indians and we love to watch the movies. The likes of Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Preity Zinta and others have made it even big on an international stage nowadays.

Amrita Rao is one of these successful Bollywood beauties. The 29-year old actress cum model is well-known for her movies and her social responsibility.

I had the opportunity to interview Amrita on several interesting topics. Enjoy the interview…

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Chris: Amrita, it has been a very long journey from your early days as a newcomer to one of the most desired actresses in Bollywood. How does it feel to be part of this successful film industry for almost a decade?

Amrita: Quite entertaining and honoured. It has been quite a tough journey with so many people to please constantly. My stardom and success has not affected my individuality and I still the very simple down to earth girl who respects her elders and helps her friends and enjoys street shopping. As a newcomer you are always underestimated and pushed around and once you are settled you call the shots. That’s the only difference.

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Chris: “Ab Ke Baras” was your debut movie, while “Vivaah” was the one, which could be called your biggest blockbuster. How would you rate your career so far? Are you happy with all the decisions made in the past or would you say that things could have been ever better, if you did make other decisions?

Amrita: I am very content when I go down memory lane. I was offered roles for Aa Dekhen Zara and Bachna Ae Haseeno but I refused them for personal reasons. Today Vivaah still lives in the minds of the common man and wherever I go people call me Poonam instead of Amrita. My pairing with Shahid Kapur has also been a memorable one and fans just want to keep seeing us together. However I am looking forward to working with Ranbir Kapoor, Abhay Deol and Prateik Babbar in the future. My career is not over and I think it takes anyone over 40 films to be a star as Shahrukh Khan once told me.

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Chris: You started as a model before turning your focus to acting. Did your experiences in the model business help you to succeed in Bollywood?

Amrita: Modelling was more a fun activity for me that helped directors to spot me from the rest of the budding contenders. I was less of a ramp model and more of an advertisements girl. Bollywood happened too quick after modelling and so I wouldn’t count my experience as a model at all.

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Chris: Is it right that you refused a few offers from Bollywood directors during your college times, as you wanted to complete your education?

Amrita: Yes I got lucky at a very ripe age. I bagged maximum endorsements when I was in college and became a leading model of my times. That’s when Ken Ghosh spotted me and asked me to play a role in his film. My parents were dead against the fact that I gave up education for films so after acing my psychology course I joint Bollywood. Education is very vital in this day and age and the lure of fame, money and glamour shouldn’t want anyone to give up studies. Bollywood is as short lived as modelling and one should always be well equipped to consider an alternative option.

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Chris: Do you set any personal goals or targets that you’d like to see achieved, while shooting a movie?

Amrita: I am very choosy about my roles and don’t want to make the mistakes I have made in the past by doing people favours. I am not desperate to make a point and since acting happened by chance, success will also happen by chance. It is also destined in my opinion.

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Chris: You are already filming “Love U… Mr. Kalakaar!”… What new movies are in the planning?

Amrita: I will answer this question in early January 2011…

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Chris: How much does a director matter to you, while saying “YES” or “NO” to act in a new movie? And does the cast have any influence on your decision?

Amrita: The director always matters to any actor/ actress as he monitors the making of an entire film. My co-star would matter to me as he needs to complement my capabilities. The script is also essential to me before I consider a film.

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Chris: You’re always labelled to be the girl-next-door? Does the “good girl image” handicap your career as you might lose out the chance to play characters of “bad girls” or “hot and sexy vamps”?

Amrita: Today I can confidently say that I own the girl next door simple tag for Bollywood heroines. But this again doesn’t mean that I can’t be multi-faceted. Being a sexy vamp just requires lots of skin show and attitude which most actresses in Bollywood can do with élan. Welcome To Sajjanpur saw me as a village girl, Main Hoon Na saw me as a teenager, Vivaah saw me as a bride and Shortkut saw me as wane be sexy actress. I have won awards for most of my roles and I’m happy that my critics and fans hold me in high regard.

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Chris: The importance of Bollywood has been increasing rapidly in the US and Europe over the last couple of years. How do you rate the interest over there in Bollywood and the Indian culture? Would you say that the interest is just a passing fad?

Amrita:Not at all. US and Europe have many NRI’s who love Bollywood. Most of these Indians try to follow their own culture and custom while staying in these countries. Bollywood movies are the vital source of entertainment for them. Hindi films are viewed from an American perspective to help U.S. fans explore India’s fascinating cinema. Besides these countries are the favourite holiday destination and shopping spots for the filmstars. A frequent visit to these countries helps the filmstars to become popular among the local people.

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Chris: Could be a virtual collaboration between Bollywood and Hollywood the future of international cinema and the bridge to a new era for the global film industry?

Amrita: Bollywood could offer their dance and music while Hollywood could offer their scripts and technical knowledge. But I doubt this is going to happen anytime soon as they are competing specialisations and Hollywood stars wouldn’t be comfortable doing what Bollywood stars do and visa versa. Not to forget revenue generation and state profits.

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Chris: Would you be interested to act in a Hollywood movie, if you were offered a chance to do so?

Amrita: Yes why not. It is always good to be experimental and prove your ability worldwide. There are a few international directors who are already in touch with me.

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Chris: Ok, I would like to turn the focus from the public star Amrita to the private Amrita now… What music do you listen to in private? Do you have any favourite artists or music genres?

Amrita: Amrita in public and private is not very different. I prefer not being too much of a fake hypocrite… (smiles) Getting back to the question I enjoy instrumental and all time classics. I am not much of a party hopper so enjoy slow numbers.

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Chris: What movies and serials do you watch?

Amrita: I am not glued to the idiot box too much but if I do get a chance to catch a movie at a theatre it would have to be a romantic comedy, intense action or family drama. I prefer watching serials on God and faith with my mother.

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Chris: Do you have any favourite actors or actresses?

Amrita: I have many favourites so I can’t do full justice by naming just one but I am a fan of yesteryear actress Smita Patil and Rekha and present day’s actress Madhuri Dixit and Kajol. Actors would be Ranbir Kapoor, Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan.

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Chris: Please tell us more about your other hobbies and interest! What things do you do to relax?

Amrita: I like to believe that I am multi-faceted. Although I don’t get much time to unwind I enjoy power yoga, meditation, reading and dance in my free time. Relaxation for me comes from a healthy mind, soul and body so I watch what I eat, do and say as I also believe in the karma theory. Family and friends also bring a smile to my face at the end of a hectic schedule.

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Chris: Do you personally follow or support any sports in private? And do you exercise any sports?

Amrita: I acted in Victory which was a sport about cricket and shared screen space with some of the leading cricketers of the time. I am passionate about the subject of sports but don’t find enough time to engage in them. Sometimes we do play impromptu cricket on the sets when the unit is taking a break but I wouldn’t consider myself a pro although I have researched well of the sport before acting in my film. The last time I also endorsed Neo Sports Cricket with Harbhajan Singh.

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Chris: What do you think about the standard of Indian sports and the importance of it to the society?

Amrita:When I think Indian sport, chess, cricket, tennis, badminton, hockey, football and athletics comes to my mind. The land of Arjuna and Ekalavya, the greatest sports men of epic age is certainly now not a force to reckon with in the world of sport. However, the disparaging performance of Indian sports in international events and the concern and criticism surrounding it is nothing new. But what disturbs many sports lovers and planners is the fact that this performance has either declined or not improved over a period of time. The reasons for such a sad state of affairs lie in the nature of sports planning, administration, culture and policy premises. The decline in performance is evident from the medals. Though the medals tally is not the only indicator, it is certainly a signal for declining standards of Indian Sports. The medals tally over a relatively longer time frame of nearly one and a half decade suggests a deepening crisis plaguing Indian Sport. Barring a few miracles here and there, the standards of Indian sports are far from satisfactory.

Bureaucratic rigmarole, administrative ambiguity, political intervention, corruption, gladiatorial approach, emphasis on extravagance, failure to universalize sports and absence of a healthy sports culture etc are some of the pertinent reasons for this state of affairs. Physical education and sports are yet to become an integral part of modern child’s life, despite several pronouncements that physical education will be a mandatory part of syllabi in Indian educational instructions.

There is a potential which is not being exploited. Unless, there is an impressive performance, sports will not become a priority sector. Indian sport is stewing in its own juice. Only a healthy sports culture can bail out the country from this situation. Such a task can not be fulfilled by only government. The corporate participation in sports is marginal. In an era of economic liberalization the corporate sector should actively involve in the development of sports. Apart from this, several policy initiatives are also vital for bringing glory to Indian sports. A comprehensive sports policy should replace the present fire-fighting exercise approach.

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Chris: What about football? Do you follow football?

Amrita:I am enthusiastic about sports as much as I am about films. However I don’t get the time to indulge in sports especially when it is the second best sport in India after cricket. I don’t play the game professionally but I could try a few kicks on the field on the weekends. One fact that I find hilarious is that in 1950 India withdrew from the World Cup because FIFA refused to let their team play barefoot.

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Chris: I’ve heard that you are a big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo? Is it true? What’s so special about him?

Amrita: Yes, not because he is one of the highest paid or a ladies man but because he plays well… (smiles) Undoubtedly the three best footballers in the world today are Real Madrid stars Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo and FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. They all have phenomal talent, with all the skill and technique that dazzle almost a billion football fans across the world. Messi could potentially be even greater than Diego Maradona himself, whilst both Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo have held world record transfer fees and both have also been crowned with the greatest honour in football, the FIFA World Player of the Year accolade.

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Chris: Well, as someone closely involved in the world of football, I can’t leave you without asking about your opinion on Indian football!? Do you follow Indian football and do you know any Indian stars of the game?

Amrita:India is terrible at football and this question crops up every time a World Cup comes around. One, Indians are physically ill-equipped for the rigours of the game and two, we ignore football in our love of cricket. The rising popularity of cricket and poor sponsorship has led to a lack of quality players in the National Team. With proper training, working on physical education and passing on tactical knowledge of the game state teams and the national team could do much better. I must say we have improved during the past few years. We have talent, but lack in proper guidance and a scientific training regimen towards attaining international standards of physical strength, mental toughness and skills. We can do a lot better if we have a proper grassroots training system and facilities. In the international arena, the training programme is much more scientific. The stress should also be on quality coaching and international exposure that will throw open the Indian players to aggression. But to say that Indian football attracts no attention in India would be wrong. The game has not been marketed the way, say, cricket has been. It’s about marketing a brand; football as a brand. That has not happened. But I feel things are changing and so is the Indian attitude to Indian football.

Between cricket and football, Indians, quite unambiguously, choose the gentleman’s game. But soccer remains the sport that most Indians love to watch, so long as India is not playing. However, one man, who hit the Indian soccer scene about a decade ago, is changing the queer indifference with which the game is viewed in the country. He has himself attained star status and is taking football to new heights of popularity. I have interacted with Baichung Bhutia, the Scorpion‘ Bhutia, the face of modern Indian football on many occasions and love his enthusiasm and positivity. I enjoyed his game against Manchester United where he was given a chance to play in about 40 matches.

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Chris: John Abraham has committed himself to promote Indian football. Would you be interested to support the cause of Indian football, if given the chance to do so? Maybe even as an ambassador for women’s football in the country?

Amrita: Yes why not. I believe I represent the youth of India and also have fair knowledge about the sport. I think our women’s team requires an immense boost and who else but a well known social figure can do that so that the common man and industry bodies take the cause of women footballers in India more seriously. I can connect well with my youth audiences and inspire them to join womens football. Unlike USA, China and Germany, in India we can see good women footballers from Manipur, Kolkata, Bengal, Goa, Kerala, Orissa and Punjab. Up to now football, like other sports in India is very job oriented. The job options for women footballers in India are extremely limited, as women footballers cannot make a living from football.

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Chris: Finally I would like to give you a chance to send out a message to everyone reading this interview!

Amrita: Follow your inner voice and never feel too small or too big to do anything in life as things come your way as pre-destined by the Almighty.