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Chak De girl and her Aashayein!

Last updated on: August 23, 2010 16:56 IST

Image: Anaitha Nair
Nithya Ramani in Mumbai

Despite scoring high in Chak De! India, Anaitha Nair could not get another film release until three years after. Finally, the long-delayed Aashayein will hit the screens this Friday, and the young actress can heave a sigh of relief.

The carefree and bindas girl from Bangalore paid a visit to the rediff office, and told Nithya Ramani that her new film will surely make people cry. Aashayein has been directed by Nagesh Kukunoor and also stars John Abraham.

Over to Anitha:

You started shooting for Aashayein even before Chak De! Now, it's finally releasing. It's been a long wait.

Don't even ask! It was supposed to release in July 2007, then it shifted to March the next year, then April, June, July, September... Every time I call them up, they tell me it will release the next year. After the first year, I got so frustrated that I lost hope.

Sonal (Sehgal, actress) and I were the only people, who were in touch with each other, trying to find out when the film would release.

The most depressing part was that I had shot for Aashayein before Chak De! released and had shaved off my hair for this film. So I couldn't cash in on any of the Chak De! euphoria.

Why was the film delayed?

Percept had produced the film and Big Pictures had bought the distribution rights. They had a fallout and went to court. That took a while to get resolved. Big Pictures is still the distributor. There was a time when they thought of not releasing the film at all.

'I was more nervous about Shyam Benegal than Shah Rukh'

Image: Anaitha Nair

What have you been doing in the last three years?

I've been busy shooting. At times, I anchored shows and did ads. Of course, I have been sitting idle at home for several months too.

Aashayein happened because of Sudeep Chatterjee (the cinematographer of Chak De, who has worked with Nagesh in Iqbal, Dor and Bombay to Bangkok). When we were shooting in Sydney, he told me about this film that Nagesh was doing and that he was auditioning. He mentioned it to all of us but I guess I was the only one who followed up. I called Nagesh and auditioned. He then mentioned that I would have to shave my head. I looked at him for a few seconds and then agreed.

I have done a film too, Shyam Benegal's Well Done Abba.

What was Shyam Benegal like?

Shyam Benegal is the nicest person I've ever met. When you enter his office, you think that he is this 74 year old veteran, who is a legend and that you should be in your best behaviour. But when I met him, he was so friendly and warm.

I was more nervous about him than Shah Rukh (Khan), John (Abraham), Nagesh (Kukunoor) or Shimit (Amin).

He has such a great memory. While shooting in Hyderabad, he spoke about the architecture there, the nizams of Hyderabad and the places he grew up in. He can talk just about anything.

And I haven't seen a production as organised as his. Everything was so prompt -- from the development of the film, the screening, premiere or even payment. They are so professional unlike other production houses.

'I've got all my films by replacing someone'

Image: Anaitha Nair in Chak De

Have you done any other films?

I've done a film called Ekanth, directed by Sunil Pillai. It also stars Ranvijay, Imad Shah and a new actor called Raj. The film is about four college kids, who land up at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Then I'm starring in Abbas Tyrewala's 1-800-Love, with John again. After that, there is Rohan Sippy's Dum Maaro Dum and Nishikant Kamat's remake of the Tamil film Khaaka Khaaka, again with John.

I've got all my films by replacing someone, including Chak De! and Aashayein (Ayesha Takia was originally approached for the role).

I was skeptical about doing 1-800-Love because I have a very small role. I play a friend of the main characters, John and Pakhi. But we had a blast shooting in London. It was like a two-month vacation.

During Dum Maaro Dum, Prateik (Babbar) landed up getting chicken pox and we couldn't shoot. So we had a blast in Goa.

Then I have signed Vivek Sharma's film Ek Bhola Mast Maula with Rajpal Yadav.

'I had to climb up 13 floors to reach John's flat'

Image: Anaitha Nair

Tell us about Aashayein.

I play a terminally ill cancer patient, who is very cynical and bitter. She is 17 years old. She becomes so defensive that everyone hates her.

This is my toughest film. I've been through so much emotionally. I would shut myself in a room to feel the character because that's how a terminally ill cancer patient, who is fed up with life, would behave.

Sonal plays John's girlfriend. Once John realises he has cancer, he comes to the hospital where he meets me. That's where the story begins. The film is about how we find hope in each day, and make each day count.

You are half Parsi, half Malayali, just like John. You must have bonded well.

Yes, we have the same combination -- our fathers are Malayali and our mothers are Parsi. He was very excited and so was Nagesh. John speaks fluent Gujarati. He is a typical Parsi, the way he speaks, his mannerisms... My Malayalam is better than his.

You are doing films with John, Aashayein, 1-800-Love and the remake of Khaaka Khaaka.

Yes. The first time we met was quite funny. It was during the reading of Aashayein at his penthouse in Bandra (a posh Mumbai suburb). I have this bad habit of being punctual and when I reached his building, I realised his elevator wasn't working.

I had to climb up 13 floors! When I reached his house, the first thing I said was, 'I just climbed 13 floors.' There was no 'hi' or 'hello'!  I had thought about what to say to John as I was meeting him for the first time but after climbing 13 floors, I'd forgotten all that.

'I am going to get married, have children and sit at home'

Image: A scene from Aashayein

Did you always want to do films?

I used to do a lot of theatre in Bangalore but not in Mumbai, unfortunately. I was one of the top rankers when I graduated and could have opted for further studies. But that wasn't something I was interested in.

I became the lead vocalist of a band. We cut albums and sung playback for some south films. Through that, I got a small part in a Malayalam film. I liked it and thought of pursuing it.

A friend was coming to Mumbai to do an acting course, so I came along and did the course too. I didn't want to return to Bangalore and try films there because I can't speak the languages fluently. I knew Hindi best and thought I should try my luck in films here.

Didn't you think of pursuing a career in singing?

Honestly, I am a good singer and performer. In our band, we had some of the best like Benny Dayal (who sang Pappu can't dance saala).

I'm a better actor than singer but I'm open to singing as well.

What next?

I'm getting married next year to my childhood friend, Akhil. He is in Singapore, so I will be shifting there. He works for a shipping company.

Does that mean you will quit acting?

I am acting because I love it. If I like something else tomorrow, I might do that. I love hair dressing and am thinking about taking it up as a career. I have worked with the best names here and done some good work, so I have no qualms of quitting films.

I am going to get married, have children and sit at home.

What does Akhil think about your films?

He loves them. Though only I know the amount of struggle we go through, he thinks I'm walking the red carpet everyday!