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Vasundhara Das - A Versatile Girl
interviews .. www.chennaionline.com

Looking for changes and challenges


Long time since seeing a girl going pink? Just ask Vasundra Why dont you participate in the Miss World contest and wait for a moment. Roses blossom on her cheeks. She belongs to a Vaishnavite family from Bangalore and is trained and talented in Carnatic, Hindustani and Bharata Natyam. Unfortunately, she is popular only for songs like katti pudi katti pudidaand ayyo paththikichu I am disappointed at the tendency to brand me as best suited for such songs alone she adds with a tinge of remorse. Understandably!

Ok. Why then did you moan and purr and make all sorts of suggestive sounds for the song katti pudi katti pudida. The roses blossomed on her cheeks moments ago turn redder, now with anger. Its not me! I just rendered that song. All the other sounds were by some other artiste, recorded separately and mixed. This was done without my knowledge. I would not have accepted the assignment had I had the faintest idea that this would be the final product. At least they should have given the name of the other artiste. I just left it at that and forgot the whole thing.

Have you spoken to director Surya about it? No. What for? It is all over now and nothing can be reversed. Just drop it

Are you singing in Suryas next film, New? They have not called me. I dont have an assignment for the movie.

She sparkled as Mythili in 'Hey Ram'. However, she has not been around, on the screen for a long time after that. I have been busy, singing, says Vasundara. I have so far sung for 17 Tamil films; 3 Telugu and 2 Hindi movies. I did an album, Meri Jaan for Magna Sound. Really busy flying from Bangalore to Hyderabad and Bangalore to Mumbai.

I have been receiving offers for roles in movies. But I want to be careful and choosy. I dont want to be branded again that Vasundara can do only Hey Ram type roles conventional and traditional. Presently I am acting with Ajit in Citizen. A really challenging role. I just love that role. Meantime, I acted in Monsoon Wedding, an English movie by Meera Nair.

I have sung a couple of melody numbers for Samurai and Badri. Meri Jaan gave me a different kind of exposure with a lot of variety like symphony, western, Arabian and Latin American. Hope at least now the katti pudi katti pudida branding goes!

What is she doing now? Planning to bring out a video dance album. I need lots of male and female dancers for it. Interested artistes may call my assistant Preeti in Chennai, over phone on 432 9157.

I continue to be the happy-go-lucky girl that I have been, otherwise. Same old pastimes of college days and same old friends and all She said bye with a big, sparkling parting smile.

Ocean

A Quick chat with Vasundhara Das


A promising debut in 'Hey Ram!', some catchy numbers like Shakalakka Baby 'Pathikichu.', and 'Kattippudi Kattippudida Kannala' to her credit, an English film with Mira Nair, and Vasundhara Das is back again in Chennai. Playing Ajit's romantic interest in the film 'Citizen'. A quick chat with the actress who would rather be called a singer-actress.

A Chat with Vasundhara Das

Ques: One line on 'Hey Ram!'
V.D: It's a film that has to be watched. A must see, despite its box-office rating.

Ques: Favourite film director?
V.D: I am not a movie buff so I don't have favourites. I am just now getting to see a lot of films.

Ques: Would you do a 'Fire'?
V.D: I would think about it. I wouldn't say a no, outright.

Ques: Which came first. Hey Ram or 'Shakalaka Baby'
V.D: Hey Ram! I sang 'Shakalaka' much after shooting started.

Ques: On Kissing Kamal?
V.D: Very clinical

Ques: What's your kind of music?
V.D: I like to listen to a lot of world music. Spanish music, Portuguese music. I sing in Spanish. And English and Hindi, Tamil and Telugu too.

Ques: Why this sudden popularity of Latin Music?
V.D: It's just that a lot of Latin stars have come to the international arena recently. Otherwise Latin music has always been very popular. It's lot more 'Daney' than it used to be. Lots of kids from the younger generation are listening to it. It's music that comes from the heart that you can dance to. It's got a new definition since Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez entered the scene.

Ques: On your Dubai trip?
V.D: During the Dubai shopping festival, there was this Indian Pavilion there. And I was there representing South India along with singer Srinivas.

Ques: What does Indi Pop mean to you?
V.D: A lot of experimentation. But I don't see people exploiting the actual sense of Indi, as much as they are doing pop. There is more pop than Indi.

Ques: Favourite Singers?
V.D: Many, I like Sting. As a kid the inspiration was Whitney Huston. And my Guru Pandit Parameshwar Hegde. He taught me Hindustani music in Bangalore, for the past six years.

Ques: Favourite music Composer?
V.D: I like Sting's arrangements. Rehman is fantastic. He lets me experiment.

Ques: How far would you go to get a role you wanted?
V.D.: If I was meant to get it I would. Probably I would let them know that I am interested. Nothing beyond that.

Ques: Any secret dreams?
V.D: To be a big, big, big popular singer. With great, great, great tracks to my credit. And to have everybody that I love around me.

Ques: Your greatest fear?
V.D: Darkness.

Ques: Quality you most hate in a man?
V.D.: Chauvinism.

Ques: Quality you love in a man?
V.D.: Open Mindedness.

Ques: Your idea of love?
V.D: It's wonderful thing. And needs to be cherished and nourished.

Ques: A compliment you can't forget?
V.D: From my mother. When she let me go and said, "I don't know what will happen. But I know you will do it,".

Ques: Singing or acting?
V.D: Both

Ques: Would you marry someone with no bank balance, but a big heart?
V.D: Definitely, in a jiffy.

Ques: If you were caught in a lift with crazy fans?
V.D: I would indulge them in conversation. (Giggles).

Ques: Choose between a Kamal and a Ghai Film
V.D.: I will do both

Ques: Don't play safe!
V.D: (Giggles). Ok Now that I've seen this side, probably I would want to see the other side too!

An informal chat with Vasundhara Das

At the age of ten she was given a harmonium and sent to the music class by her grandmother who was a Hindustani singer herself. But at the age of 16 Vasundhara was an interested learner. And at 22 she is famous as the 'Shakalaka Baby'crooner, and as Mythili of 'Hey Ram'. From a conservative Hebbar Iyengar family in Bangalore, Vasundhara Das has come a long way. She has sung for Rehman in 'Rhythm" and in "Kandukonden Kandukonden'. Offers are pouring in by the dozen for acting too, but Vasundhara is choosing her roles with care. Meanwhile she is keeping herself quite busy preparing an album for Magnasound. It is to be in Hindi and Tamil, and the music is to be scored by Praveen Mani.

Excerpts from an interview with the singer-actress, who if given a chance would love to sing for all her films.

MM: What attracted you to acting? Money, glamour or fame?

V.D: None of these. It was just that I got the chance to act with people like Kamalji, Hemaji and Karnad. Just the fact that it was such a new arena for me. Somewhere I had never stepped into before or hadn't even thought of doing so. Hence, it was the basic experience of it and the people I have been offered to work with that decided it.

MM: How did this offer come about?

V.D: I was in Madras working on my album, in March last year. And with Praveen Mani the person I was working with, I happened to meet a lot of people. I met A. R. Rehman through Mani. Then Anita Ratnam who is a friend of Kamalji suggested my name. And things moved fast after that.

MM: There was this offer from Maniratnam earlier. What happened?

V.D: Maniratnam was looking out for a heroine for his 'Alai Payudhe". Rehman suggested my name to him. I screen-tested for them. But it was all too sudden at that time. I wasn't expecting a call from the film industry, at all. And when it came, I didn't know whether I wanted to do it or not. Whether I could do any acting or not. I didn't have that basic confidence in myself. And when I went for the test, I was totally new. I didn't know what was required of me. That being the case I didn't know whether I would be able to pull it off. But it so happened that the screen test I did for Maniratnam helped me to sort of get my bearings about what exactly was required. So when I did this test for Kamalji it was a lot better.

MM: Doing a semi-nude, smooching scene in your very first film must have been quite uncomfortable.

V.D: It is all in a day's work. There was no physical intimacy as such. It was very clinically done. It was just another day's work for me. Just a question of putting your mind to your job. The script required it and I had to do it.

MM: With this sex-tag, you will be getting more such offers. Will you do it?

V.D: If I feel it is absolutely necessary, I will do it. If I feel that they are just trying to make me do it since I did it in my first film, I will not do it. I will go through the script carefully and if I think it is required only then will I do it. I look at acting as a job. If it makes sense to do it in a particular scene, then I would. Not otherwise.

MM: What about exposing and revealing clothes?

V.D: I don't have a sexy body or anything like that. I am not voluptuous. So it's not like I'd like to flaunt it. (giggles). I have to wait and see what the script says and what I feel about it. It is very subjective.

MM: How would you go about choosing your roles?

V.D: The role, the kind of character, and the amount of involvement it would require from me would be my criteria. Then I would look for the director and the banner because they are also equally important. But first the role should appeal to me.

MM: And What about the money part?

V.D: I would like to earn off acting. Because my passion in life is music. And If I could earn from acting, and it will help me further my career in singing, then I would. So definitely I would like to earn from this media.

MM: Which was your most challenging scene in Hey Ram?

V.D: The most challenging scene was the one at the hospital. I know that I am in love with this man. But I am not sure whether he loves me. And there he finally accepts the fact that he loves me. He wants to come clean and share his feelings with me. And lets me know he loves me. That was quite a challenging scene for me to show my reaction. In fact the whole movie was challenging. But I liked that scene in particular and I liked the way it turned out.

MM: How did Kamal Hassan direct you?

V.D: He would tell me exactly what he wanted me to do. The mood and the feel a scene required. And that helped me a lot.

MM: What's the best response you got for your performance?

V.D: Something really nice happened recently. I want to see this play called 'Salesman Ramlal'. It was a very nice play. And as per my habit I went backstage to congratulate the team. Surprisingly they all knew who I was. Being recognised was something new for me. They said "We saw Hey Ram and it was nice.' Then one of the artistes came up to me and said, 'I am an ardent fan of Kamalji and I want to know all about how it was doing the film." And then we got talking. And then he told me that they were all from the Film Institute. That they had all gone through an intensive five-year course in acting. "We go through all of that, and when we come out of the acting school, we find that we have to unlearn everything we have learnt. But you, without any training are at a point, doing what we wanted to do." It was such a big compliment for me.

MM: Was it intimidating to act with stalwarts like Kamal, Hema and Karnad?

V.D: Not at all. They were all very helpful. They weren't at all putting on the act of seniors. I was the kid. They were giving me tips and eye-openers into certain scenes. They all have been very sweet.

MM: Do you feel bad about missing Maniratnam's film?

V.D: Not at all! If it were meant to be for me, it would have happened.

MM: What is this about Abhishek Bachchan's offer?

V.D: Oh, that was a long time ago, much before the release of 'Hey Ram'. I was then shooting for the film. I took a week's break and went away home to Bangalore. At that time they called me and asked me if I wanted to continue acting. So I told them no, for at this stage it was too early for me to tell them anything. It was not that I didn't like the script. It was too soon and I hadn't made up my mind about continuing acting. Please clarify this for my sake. Someone had mentioned that I hadn't liked the script.

MM: Any interesting offers?

V.D: Yes, quite a few from the Tamil field. Some films from Malayalam and Telugu too. But I am treading carefully. Have a film with Nagarjuna and Sibil Malayil.

MM: Stardom involves loss of privacy. Are you prepared for it?

V.D: I am dealing with it on a day to day basis. I am getting used to the fact that people recognize me. But it has all been very nice and it is not that people are out to maul you. I have set out to be in the entertainment business whether it is music or acting. So at some point I'll have to face that.

MM: How would you like to be known as?

V.D: I would like to be known as a thinking actress, a singing actress. In fact, I would like to sing for all my songs in my films.