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|June 10, 2000|
'You can do whatever you believe of yourself'
Firdaus Ali in Toronto
From theatre to ad films to TV serials and now feature films -- Kitu Gidwani has done it all and scored full marks every time.
Refusing to play the shy, coy, eye-fluttering types, she pursued only those roles that interested her. An actress par excellence, Gidwani knows not only her lines, but also the medium of cinema as well.
Her recent films include Earth, Wisdom Tree and Dance of the Wind. Recently, she was in Toronto for the screening of Shadows in the Dark.
"I started my career with the stage and can easily call it my first love. I've played everything from a giggling girl, a mellow old woman to a drunken man," recollects Gidwani, whose strength lies in her versatility and spontaneity.
"Acting comes to me naturally and effortlessly," says the actress who has done almost 200 stage shows and several teleserials in India. Telly watchers will remember her from Swabhimaan, Saahil and Junoon for her punchy performances. She's played an iron-willed wife and a seductive, scheming mistress with equal ease and conviction.
Each role holds a challenge and unmatched excitement for her. "Most of my roles are about fiercely independent women who know what they want from life. This, perhaps, stems from my persona as I am terribly independent and live life at my own pace and on my own terms," says Gidwani.
In Deepa Mehta's Earth, she plays a Parsi lady who protects her family from the burning fires of Partition. "I took great care about my appearance and practised the accented Parsi-style Hindi for days on end. Parsis have a particular style and I did not want to overplay the character and deviate from the script," she says.
She also gave a tumultuous performance in Punkaj Butalia's Shadows in the Dark -- a film that deals with the harrowing events at the time of Partition. It resolutely anchors the horrors of the time, which included mass slaughter and the largest migration of people ever recorded, in a remarkably personal and multi-layered style.
Gidwani plays Lajma, a middle-aged woman living in present-day Pakistan. Raised in India at the time of Partition, Lajma decides to revisit her former home. She finds few traces of the past; her only surviving relative is an aunt.
But the visit evokes a deluge of memories, and the film unfolds in a series of flashbacks. It is the journey of a lone, fiercely independent woman through a breaking, burning country. "A lot of effort went into preparing for the role of the main character Lajma, to recreate the style and look of the forties," says Gidwani.
Besides acting in films by renowned Indian filmmakers, Gidwani has made forays into international cinema as well. A few years back, she did a French film called Black, playing a Brazilian girl.
With the acting bug still very much alive, she continues to do small but meaningful films. "I believe in sensitive, sensible cinema. The story has to touch me enough for me to want to do the film. I cannot see myself in a commercial Hindi potboiler, where women are just props," she says.
Besides theatre, she has many other interests. A lover of music and dance, she would have loved to become a jazz dancer. She's learnt tap dancing, plays the flute and is an exponent of classical singing. She finds herself drawn to arts, music, poetry and books.
"Some day, I'd like to sit back, sip wine and write my own story. Why, I may even direct the film myself. You can do whatever you believe of yourself. My motto is be yourself at all times. The rest comes easy!"
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