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December 6, 2000


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Change has been a constant in her life.

She is a trained ballet dancer, a veejay, a singer, a music video artiste, and now an actress.

Sophiya Haque has tried them all, stopped at nothing.

Even doing a love scene, when, as she herself confesses, she is essentially shy. Besides, an actress has gotta do what she has gotta do!

Runima Borah Tandon met the artiste whose film, Snip, will release this week. Excerpts:

Yours is an unusual debut. Snip is not the average Hindi film. Tell us a little bit about your role in Snip?

I play a hairdresser called Tara in this film. She is a bit older than my real age.

My main scenes are with Saurabh Shukla, who is this fat gangster called Munna.

I'm cutting the hair of Monty, a fading Bollywood actor who last blockbuster was some ten years ago, at his house. This guy's planning to make a big comeback on stage.

Now, Munna comes to Monty's house because he needs a place to hide, because he's just shot somebody.

Meanwhile, Monty's too fidgety and I cut his ear. And he goes screaming into the bathroom. A crazy scene follows in the bathroom. It's beautifully shot in slow motion. Monty knocks his head in the toilet and he dies.

I'm standing frozen where I cut his ear, and Munna is standing behind me with a gun.

So basically that's how we get involved. He blackmails me about going to the police saying that I killed Monty.

It's quite interesting how our relationship develops. First of all, Munna's this big gangster with a gun. He trying out all my wigs and dresses. But by the end of the film, he's like putty in my hands. What happens is very sweet.

It (Snip) is a dark comedy. It's fun and there is no deep message to it. It's just meant to be a piece of entertainment and I hope a large audience gets to see it.

Sophiya Haque

How did you relate to Sunhil Sippy as a director? This is also his first film, isn't it?
We bonded immediately. You know, he had seen everybody except me for this film. I don't know why he felt I wouldn't care.

I saw the way the script was written which was very British. It was very conversational. He is very talented.

We both have the same taste in films. We talked about the films and the directors we liked. In a way he didn't have to work too hard with me.

He was worried initially whether I could do it with the rest of the crew. After a few days, I improved and he felt I was doing very well.

The film took about 48 days to complete the shooting. Then we did the patch-up work and put the songs in later on.

Were you comfortable doing that love scene with Nikhil Chinappa?

Yes. I'm pretty liberal in that sense.

I am shy of nudity, essentially. If I were changing and you happened to walk into my room, I would scream and shout.

In this situation, (Snip) you know you have control over what is being shot. They just shot my back and I had my knickers on, a sheet was tucked into them and I had cello tapes all over my chest.

I didn't mind. I just wanted to look right.

Anyway, the love scenes are not there in the film anymore. Not because of the censors but because Sunhil didn't think they were necessary. He wanted to keep the film only two hours long. So he cut quite a few characters down.

How did you relate to Nikhil as a costar?

He's fine. I think he comes across great in the film.

While we were rehearsing, there is this part where he uses my breasts as crystal balls.

It was a joke and he was supposed to pretend to be a businessman.

During the rehearsals, he was a little awkward. So I just told him, "The script says put your hands on my breasts, so do it." And I grabbed his hand and put it there.

It's much better just to go through it in a matter-of-fact manner. That's something I have learnt only in the last couple of years. I wish somebody had taught me that ten years ago.

I used to be shy. I would hold back a lot at rehearsals. Now I have learnt to shed all inhibitions and just go for it. That is the only way you will be convincing.

Can you recollect any special memories while working on this film? Sophiya Haque

There were moments when I really got a buzz that I was really in the moment, and it kept the whole room focused.

Going with the character is a great feeling. And somewhere along the way, I built a lot of confidence.

Shooting for the songs was fun as well. That was a territory I was familiar with. Whereas with acting, I was constantly wondering whether I had done it right.

After Snip, how do you see your growth as an actress? Where do you think you need to improve?

I still have to learn a whole lot.

What I did with Snip was just react. That turned out well. I didn't stretch myself too much.

I'm a bit of a mimic. I remember as a kid, we would put on shows for my mum's friends. And one of my party pieces would be imitating other people.

One of the producers I worked with in Hong Kong used to say that I would be a great character actress. I think I'm more comfortable when I'm being somebody else.

So I'm yet to experience that and I would love to do a character role.

I don't know if I have a flair for comedy. I can turn on tears. I've been practicing crying in the room.

But I don't know if I can do it in front of the camera or in front of the crew around you. You really have to soul search and I have not really had any coaching in that sense.

Aditya Bhattacharya doesn't want me to have any coaching lessons. Another director probably would want me to.

The hardest thing for me would be to change my body posture because it is so balletic. My neck is really long and I walk with my feet turned out. That is something I really need to work on.

You have dabbled in so many fields. You were a VJ, a trained ballet dancer, a singer, model and now an actress. What is more creatively satisfying to you?

So far, probably music. Because you are really creating something from nothing. Earlier, I would have said dancing because dancing and singing are the freest forms of art you can do. You don't require anything else except your body.

I love the whole process of singing, working in a studio, watching the mixing happening and learning quite a lot about technology. At 18, I could program music on the computer. I love live performances in front of the crowd.

I also love the filmmaking process because it's very technical. You try and reach that level of perfection which one never does it with TV.

Sophiya Haque and Nikhil Chinappa Now that you are in films, where do you see your career heading?

We'll see. If Snip hits the roof and goes all over the world, I think my life will just start coming to me.

I've been very lucky. I have turned down so many things even if the money was good because I have always come out right without being in an uncomfortable position. In this industry, you are asked to be in an uncomfortable position so often.

Being a veejay made me experience every possible discomfort. You are walking into a club and there are suddenly lights coming on with the camera and invading your privacy. That's the last thing I want to do but I had to do it. It was my job and I learnt how to do it in a dignified manner.

Are you going to be selective about the kind of films and directors you are going to work with?

Yeah, for sure. Throughout my career, I have done something slightly on the edge and offbeat.

I don't care about the mass audience. I'm not so ambitious that I want to be famous. I would call myself a big fish in a small pond.

No one knows me in America and few people know me in England maybe but I don't mind that.

Even when I was with channel [V], I told my producers, "Don't give a primetime show. I want to do videos that people haven't seen before. If they don't like them, I don't care."

What is your next film going to be on?

I'm working on a film called Avatar with Aditya Bhattacharya. It stars Lucky Ali. I play one of the three female characters in the film. I play his original girlfriend.

Lucky Ali plays Lucky Ali and the film features all his music. It's a great story but it is not about Lucky Ali's life.

I will shoot for the film early next year in London. It's going to be freezing and I'm not looking forward to going to London in the cold.

But I think it's good for Aditya -- it's the best time to shoot and you don't have too many people on the streets then.

Sophiya Haque and Archana Puran Singh What about special appearances in Hindi films? Are you open to doing that as well?

Yeah I would love to continue doing that. Just as Helen did in her day, why can't I?

People are also offering me roles. I just want to be up there in one number because I love to dance. I love working with Farah (Khan) and her dancers. They are very experienced.

How did you find Sanjay Dutt in Khubsoorat?

Gorgeous. He is such a gentleman. I didn't know him really and I hadn't seen that many Bollywood films but I knew his image.

These guys are incredible at picking up. They don't rehearse.

I had a problem because I'm not used to rehearsing in the studio. I practise for three weeks before I go for a performance, especially a live one.

Sanjay does everything well. He's so wonderful. I know he is considered not the best of dancers. And the nicest compliment I got was I made him feel like a good dancer.

He's got such a great posture. He does anything with the right amount of conviction.

When I met him, I said, "Hi, how are you?"

He said, "My wife says that I should be really afraid of you. She says you are a really good dancer."

Which Indian dancers would you like to work with?

Prabhu Deva, because he is different and interesting. He is probably the kind of guy who would want to rehearse somewhere in the studio beforehand. So I would like to work with him.

I've been watching Hrithik Roshan. He seems to have balletic moves. And I think we would work if we work together.

Also Shah Rukh Khan. I look at him as Gene Kelly in his comedic way of moving. I would like to do something with him, maybe a tribute to Hollywood kind of thing with old numbers.

I still want to do a big tap number in a film. I once went to Farah Khan and told her, "Come on, let us do a tap number." I think that would be great.

Do you ever feel like an outsider in Bollywood? Do you think you fit in?

I don't fit in. And that's the perfect thing about it.

I would learn Hindi for a role that I could really get into and is written for someone like me. It has to be the right role for a Bollywood movie.

If I could learn Hindi, then I could learn a dialect in any other language. I want to work on the nuances, and know what they are, so I'm not just mouthing off like a puppet. The audiences are much smarter these days.

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