Model-turned-actress Akanksha Puri is all set to make her Bollywood debut with Madhur Bhandarkar's movie "Calendar Girls", which hits the screens on 25 September.
Akanksha started her career as an air hostess and she also pursued modelling as a hobby. She then decided to take a plunge into films and worked in quite a few Tamil and Malayalam movies. The starlet will now be seen as the lead actress in "Calendar Girls".
In an exclusive interview with IBTimes India, the actress revealed how Salman Khan inspired her to enter the industry, some positive and negative aspects of the glamour world, and a lot more.
"Calendar Girls" is your debut Bollywood movie. How was the experience working with Madhur Bhandarkar and the team? Do you have any other Bollywood offer as of now?
Madhur sir is a great director and fun to work with. He has a vision when he makes a movie and all you have to do is follow his vision. He lets you be yourself and when he selects his actors to play certain roles he ensures that. So, there is not much of effort that I had to put while playing my role of Nandita Menon in Calendar Girls. He used to pamper us a lot and we are spoilt brats now. Really do not know how we will adjust anywhere else. I have a couple of scripts in hand and I am going through those. I shall wait for the film to release before finalising any of those.
You have worked in some south Indian movies also. How did you get the break in Bollywood? How was the switch?
I was shooting for Praise the Lord with Mamoothy (Mammootty) when the auditions were going on. I ignored the call as they were looking for supermodels. I thought I did not stand a chance here. But they insisted that I go for the first meeting with the director. The meeting went well and Madhur sir was so friendly and simple. I got along well with him and we discussed a lot of things right from the food we like and the places we visit. After this meeting I was pretty confident that I was Madhur Sir's Nandita Menon. I just had to go for screen test and look test to qualify. I have worked in Tollywood and Sandalwood too and each industry has its own charm. The switch was quite smooth for me and I did not take much time to adjust.
Film "Calendar Girls" is based on the lives and struggles of models. What were the hardships that you faced during your initial days of modelling? Does any personal experience form part of the film?
My modelling assignments would go on for hours and in initial days there was a lot of struggle. We would sit for hours with make-up on and it is not easy when you are not an established model or a film star. However, I feel that Calendar Girls have a life which is different from the regular models and even the challenges that they face are different. They are more glamorous as the platform is big and also because of the kind of photoshoots they do, it turns out to be challenging.
Modelling demands skin show, as it is shown in your film "Calendar Girls" also. Did it trouble you when you did your first photoshoot, or any thereafter? What was your parents' reaction?
I mostly used to shoot for jewellery and ethnic wear, so the kind of modelling I did was not even close to what Calendar Girls have to do. I wore bikini for the first time for this movie and it was a big thing for me. As an actor I thought that if it was required to make my character look more natural I shall wear it. Though in the beginning I was a bit uncomfortable, Madhur sir had assured me that he would not use the photos and shots if they do not turn out to be good. He made us feel comfortable during the shoot and it looked good on the screen. My parents have been very supportive and they know that I am an actor and all this is a part of my acting career. In fact my mother would give me tips on what all to do a day before the shoot to make sure that there is no water retention in body and I look slimmer.
Madhur Bhandarkar's movie "Fashion" was based on the black side of fashion industry and "Calendar Girls" also apparently deals with the same subject. What new can the audience expect from your upcoming release?
Madhur sir is a National Award winning director and he has never repeated anything in his movies. "Fashion" and "Heroine" were from glamour industry and people were expecting these to be on the same lines but he surprised everyone with his story line. This time too you will find a different story line and a strong one. "Calendar Girls" is about an emotional journey of the five girls who come from different background and culture. There is a lot that audience can expect from this movie in terms of story and entertainment.
Being a part of it, what do you think are the main positive and negative aspects of the glamour industry?
With fame comes a lot of responsibility and herein lies the positive and negative aspects of the glamour industry. Stars become youth icons at times and people look up to them. That's when your role of responsibility begins. Also for you to live a normal life becomes difficult with everyone around you judging you all the time. There are times when you need your real and true friends and that is difficult to find and your regular life gets hampered due to your tight schedules. Thankfully, till now I have been living a simple life like a girl next door. I drive my own car and I am blessed with good friends and a loving family. I think all through my film career I will make sure that I stay away from the negatives of this glamour industry. All this also depends on how strong you are as a person.
"Calendar Girls" is facing a controversy over some anti-Pakistan dialogues and there are rumours that the film has been banned in the neighbouring country. What are your comments on that?
I think it is not appropriate to be judgmental before the release. I think people should watch the movie first before coming to any conclusion. It is a story about an artist and how they suffer due to the conflict between two nations.
Working with the Khans is a dream for most of the Bollywood newcomers. Which Khan--Salman, Shah Rukh or Aamir--would you like to work with first and why?
Salman Khan is my first choice. He is the reason I am into this industry, so it has to be him. I have grown up watching his movies and I always dreamt of dancing with him and would envy his female co-stars. First, like me he is also from Indore, so there is an instant connect. Second, it needs a lot to be such a star and still not let the stardom get on your head. I find him simple and down to earth and I have heard a lot of stories about his behaviour with the co-stars and how he treats his team with homemade lunch for all on the sets. I wish I get a chance to work with him someday.
Do you want to give any message or suggestion to aspiring models and actresses?
I want to give a message to all the newcomers that meetings do not happen in coffee shops and hotels. There are hundreds of fake coordinators who keep fooling young aspiring actors. So all those coming from different cities should be careful.