Monday, March 7, 2011

Just like Juhi

The affable Juhi Chawla was in the city on Thursday evening for a screenplay launch, and Sandhya Iyer caught up with her for a quick tete-a-tete

Looking younger by years and slimmer than ever, Juhi Chawla made for an extremely pretty picture, as she joined director Onir and co-star Sanjay Suri at Pune’s Landmark book store to release the screenplay of their 6- year old film, My Brother Nikhil, that over the years has been evoking discussions on many forums around the world, due to the sensitive issues of homosexuality and AIDS that it handles.

Coming to Juhi, we ask her how she’s managed to shed so much weight, but the cherubic faced star is in a painfully self-effacing mood and doesn’t take any credit for her lovely looks. “Hardly,” she says giving us her chirpy smile. “Maybe it’s because I’m wearing black. Everyone looks slim in it,” she says. Is the weight loss a result of the IPL planning where she’s part-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders along with Shah Rukh Khan, we joke? “No, I’m not really involved with it. The others manage it,” she says about her team that has been putting up a disappointing show the last three years.

Coming back to films, throughout her career, Juhi firmly stuck to commercial films. There wasn’t even a hint of anything arty in the work she did. But with films like Teen Deewarein, My Brother Nikhil and some others, she suddenly seemed to be patronising meaningful, hatke films? Does she see this as a natural transition for a top mainstream actress like her? “You’re right. I never did anything arty in my career. I was very happy running around trees, and banners etc did matter to me. In general too, I am a fan of regular Hindi cinema. I like films to be entertaining, matlab they have to keep me engaged. My Brother Nikhil happened because of Jhankaar Beats that I was doing with Sanjay (Suri) and Rahul Bose. I did that film because it was being produced by Pritish Nandy and his name rang a bell. Also it was such a sunny, happy film. Sanjay was the one who introduced me to Onir, and when I heard his script, I was blown away. That is how the association happened,” she tells us.

Now that Juhi has got a taste of the more sensitive, subtle cinema, she says she’s not enthused much about the purely mainstream fare. “I think I have outgrown those kind of films. Moreover, what can commercial cinema offer me? I am not ready for mother roles yet, thoda ruk jao abhi...,” she says, her humour intact.

The actress who is married to industrialist Jay Mehta and is mother to two children didn’t take a longish break at all from the industry. Unlike her contemporaries, she eased into all her roles and today appears to have kept a fine balance between family and career. “Well, I know how chaotic my life is, but if people think I am balancing everything beautifully, I am happy to appear like that,” she says. “I love my work, films are very important to me. At the same time, my family matters a lot too. Social events, get-togethers, I like all these aspects of my life.”

Among today’s actresses, the QSQT, Darr and Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke star is fond of Vidya Balan, who perhaps comes closest to her own comely personality. “She’s the only one who is pushing the boundries, so it would have to be Vidya,” she says.

Juhi’s next film, which she has also co-produced, is Onir’s film I Am where she plays a wealthy Kashmiri Pandit, who is forced to come face to face with an uncomfortable past. The film also stars Nandita Das, Sanjay Suri, Rahul Bose and Manisha Koirala. The film allowed Juhi and Manisha to connect after so many years. “Imagine! I never really knew her when we were contemporaries, but we spent a lovely time in Srinagar,” says Juhi.

We do hope to see this talented actress in several different roles, but Juhi, prompted by director Onir sitting beside her, agrees that she is perhaps in a happy, comfortable zone and doesn’t feel a strong need to push herself. Yet, as an audience who is feeling the lack of strong actresses more severely now than ever, one does hope to see more of the lovely Juhi.