Vasundhara Das - A Versatile Girl
I want to be an all rounder
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Q1 What has been your experience in Hey Ram?
A1 It was quiet an amazing experience. Kamal Hassan is a great actor and he made me feel so comfortable, not to say the least that hes not an amazing director. Also in terms of the role, it was a very complex and a challenging role, and to make a newcomer to do this role was a challenge in itself and he did a wonderful job of it.

Q2 What are your hobbies?
I like moving around, travelling, like to go to camping. Participate in nature sport, moving around. I love outdoor like white whitewater rafting. Also I love music. Music is a part of my life and for me I cant imagine my life without music.

Q3 Given a choice would you go in for acting or music?
Music, because I never really thought about acting till the time that I actually started acting in Hey Ram. For me music has always been the focus of my life.

Q4 How did Hey Ram come about?
I was in Madras for commercial music and at that time people heard about me. It was then that Kamal Hassans company called me, I gave the screen test and I was in. I never gave acting a thought or didnt do anything extra for fetting my role. However when I did get the role I had to think fast about it as the shooting started in 3 days. So at that point of time I was that it would be a good change and a good challenge too.

Q5 From now where to?
Now its more movies, more music and that now Meri Jaan is out, its like my portfolio in the music world. I am also starring in Aks, a tri-lingual film called Little John. I have done about 15 Tamil films, 3 Telugu films and from now its going to be movies and music at par with each other.

Q6 A lot of people who have heard your voice say its difeerent yet attimes very similar to Shubha Mudgal, what do you have to say to that?
I cant ever dream to compare myself to Shubha Mudgal. I dont have such a high pitched voice and its got a different texture. My voice is diferent to what people have been hearing and for me my music is in a completely different league. Its all about hearing to new singers and I dont think I am anywhere different.

Q7 Can you tell us about your experience in making your music album?
I had a great time while shooting this video, mainly because in my video team the eldest was 28. The director was was 25 and everyone was between the age of 23-25. For a lot of people it was the first time like for the choreographer, the director etc. It was a good learning experience.

Q8 How is your music video different?
See the concept of the music is also different. It involves Black Taj and a lot of computer graphic which is not an easy thing. Technically also its not easy to make the video. And I was involved with the video from the day one. For me it was a great experience seeing the video come on screen along with my acting.

Q9 Did you face any problems while shooting this video?
On the day one itself we had some technical problems and we had to finish the shoot in 4 days which was a difficult task, otherwise we would have run into capital problem but we still managed to do it and it was a fantastic video.

Q10 What kind of movies are you now interested in now?
Im open to all kind of movies. I like to be called a multi-lingual person, as I can speak English, Tamil, Telugu, Spanish, Kannada and for me language is not a problem and neither a barrier.


An informal chat with Vasundhara Das
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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 "Mudalvan'. 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.

Malini Mannath