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May 8, 2000


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'It'll take a long time for me to become a star'

Esha Deol Ever since Esha -- eldest daughter of Hema Malini and Dharmendra Singh Deol -- announced her decision to follow in the footsteps of her illustrious parents, she's brewed a small storm. Both in the industry and within the confines of her home.

But the determined teen has signed on two films -- Boney Kapoor's Vinay Shukla -directed Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche with Aftab Shivdasani and Arjun Sablok's Na Tum Jaano Na Hum with heartthrob Hrithik Roshan. This, after convincing her disapproving father that acting was the only thing she wanted to do.

As she prepares for her new career, she does not seem very different from other teenagers ("Mom will kill me if I give up on my studies"). Except that, until yesterday, she was sweet little Bittu who hid behind her famous mother. Today, she is very much in the limelight. She is Esha Deol....

Excerpts from Esha's exclusive interview to Priyanka Bhattacharya.

What convinced you that acting was a good career choice? Were you not afraid of entering a field where both your parents are highly well known and respected?

I was interested in acting right from my childhood. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to act. But, until now, I did not get the right opportunity to bring out what I wanted to do. I feel that acting is not tough, but, at the same time, one has to love doing what one is doing.

Right now, I don't know much about acting. There are so many things I have to learn. There were times when I felt I wouldn't be able to do it. But the important thing is that you have give your 100 per cent and have to love every moment of what you are doing.

As far as my parents go, I have been heavily influenced by them. Whenever they went for shootings or shows, I used to think about the day I would command respect the way they did. And I would automatically feel that even I want to be a star and earn my own money.

Comparisons are bound to be drawn but they do not deter me. I personally feel that people should avoid comparing me with anyone. They should see me as my own person. There are so many people who tell me that I look like my mom or dad. But, as far as acting is concerned, let's see what happens. I hope I can measure up to people's expectations and meet their standards.

You are very young and have led a very sheltered life so far. How will you deal with the big bad world of films?

I do not think that age matters at all. It's all about your will power, strength and your whole attitude towards it. I love what I am doing now and this passion for acting will definitely see me through.

How has your mother reacted to all this?

Esha and Hema Malini My mother was always chilled about all this. She completely supports my decision. Her only advice is that I should put my 100 per cent in whatever I try and I should be the best in whatever I do. Like I said earlier, I wanted to act but did not get the opportunity. One day, my mom suddenly asked me if I wanted to act. I immediately agreed and that is how it all started.

What role does she play in your film career?

Initially, she will accompany me for all my shootings because I still have so much to learn. She helps me sort out my scripts and decide whom to work with. Right now, I do not know head or tail of what my mother knows in this industry. She is like this pillar of strength right behind me.

Initially, your father was very hesitant about your decision. How is he taking all this?

Yes, Papa was reluctant earlier but, now, he is adjusting to it. He obviously wishes me well and keeps advising me to be careful. Both my parents tell me to do what I want, but to give it my best shot.

What about your sister, Ahana?

She is obviously very excited and happy for me. She finds my co-stars very cute. On the other hand, she also has small fights with me. She complains that I don't spend enough time with her any more. Earlier, I spent all my time with her but, now, I spend so much time in rehearsals and all that. But this is a passing phase and, overall, she is very excited.

What about you? Do you find your co-stars cute? After all, you are working with the likes of Aftab Shivdasani and Hrithik Roshan.

Yes, I am looking forward to working with both of them. When I first saw Mast, I found Aftab very cute. When my mom mentioned that I would be working with him, I was pretty excited. I think that he is a very talented and good actor.

Esha and Hrithik Roshan And Hrithik? Are you part of the mass hysteria generated by him?

I wouldn't say that I am part of the mass hysteria generated by him. But yes, I find him extremely talented and good-looking. I'm really looking forward to working with him.

Tell us about the movies you have signed.

Well, I can't really tell you about the movies. I don't want to let out too much about them. All I can say is that I have very different roles in both the films. Hopefully, I will be able to portray both the characters well.

Is it true that Boney Kapoor asked you to wear braces?

That is not true at all. I have been wearing braces for quite a while now. Which is the reason why the shooting has been delayed. If it weren't for my wonderful teeth and my braces, I would have started shooting a long time back.

Coming back to your films, have you taken any special classes or training for them?

Yes, when I suddenly told my parents about my decision to act, I had to go through an entire grooming process, which is still on. I don't think we should ever stop because you can never learn enough. Every time you do a different scene, you learn something. This is an ongoing process.

I've joined Nimit Kishore Kapoor's Acting Lab which is really good. I've gone through the entire process of acting; from expression to dialogue delivery.

Then there is this very nice lady called Rina Mehta who comes for my Hindi diction because my Hindi wasn't that great. She helps me with Urdu pronunciations and nukhtas. Every morning at 8.00, I sit with her for one hour.

You are a professional and have given many shows. What about dancing in films? How different is it?

I have trained in Odissi, which is a classical dance form. So, at the moment, I find this Hindi jhatak-matak a little difficult. That's why, everyday, I practise for at least three hours. I hope I'll be able to adjust to that also.

You are still very young. Are you ready to do away with the usual partying and start working hard?

See, to achieve something, you have to let go of something. Joining this industry is entirely my decision so I have to let go of my happy-go-lucky times. I still spend time with my friends. I believe that everything has its own time. I have enjoyed my lazing around and chilling around enough. Now I really want to get down to some serious work and I'm enjoying it a lot. It's not like a burden to me.

Do you ever want to act with your parents?

Now, that would be a dream come true. I don't know if it will actually happen, but it would be like a dream come true.

Esha Deol Do you want to act with some specific director or do some specific role?

I don't know about that. Frankly speaking, my mom decides whom I'll work with. I have no clue about all this. It will take a lot of experience before I can decide these things on my own.

How about some actor you would like to work with?

Hmm, there is this Hollywood actor I'd love to work with, but he is too old for me. Sylvester Stallone... he is my favourite.

You are still in college. Where does your career leave your studies?

I will be continuing my education side by side. I'll be doing it privately and will definitely not give it up. If I do, then my mom will kill me. Personally, too, I want to continue with it.

These days, your pictures are splashed everywhere. How does it feel to see your own face staring back at you from so many magazines and newspapers?

I've always seen my pictures in the papers. When I was small, I was always there, peering out from somewhere behind mamma. But now, I notice that the focus is shifting to me. It is a very nice feeling. The only thing is, I don't know how to react when people tell me about seeing my snaps. I still have to get used to it. I do feel nice, especially when something nice is said about me.

How would you react to negative publicity and criticism?

I haven't been through so much yet, so I don't really know how I'll react. As far as small things go, I think you should take it in from one ear and let it out from the other. Just as long as you know the truth.

All of a sudden, you are in demand. You are constantly giving interviews and photo-sessions. How does that feel?

It's not much, you know. It's just about people wanting to know who you are and what you are doing. It makes me feel nice that there are people interested in knowing about me.

Are you an avid film buff?

It may come as a shock to you, but I'm not very much into movies. Occasionally, I do go out for movies with friends. But if there is a new Julia Roberts or Kajol film, then I definitely watch it.

Then, of course, if I feel that there is a movie which relates to my script, I try to learn from it. These days, I've started watching a lot more movies; but that is from a different point of view. I try to observe the way the actresses act. You learn a lot from that. I'm not talking about imitating them, but about learning from them.

Who are you favorite actors?

In Hollywood, I love Sylvester Stallone. I think he is too cute to be true. In Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan still rules. As for actresses, Julia Roberts is an amazing actress. I watch each and every movie of hers. In fact, tonight, I've got the CD of Erin Brockovich. Back home, it has to be Kajol. I think she is a brilliant actress.

Which movies of your parents did you like the best?

Sholay. It is one of their best works.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Whenever I have some spare time, I try to spend it with my friends. We play many sports together. I work out in the gym. I love working out and I listen to a lot of music.

What kind of music do you listen to?

Basically anything that is pleasing to my ears. These days, I am very much into abstract new age music like Enigma. It's very relaxing.

Tell us something about your school life.

Oh! My school years were like the wonder years of my life. We led such a sheltered life then and, then, suddenly, we are in this big world of college. And I am entering an even bigger world of films. There are times I wish I wouldn't grow up and could go right back to school.

What about your activities in school? I believe you played a lot of sport.

Yes, I played a lot of sport. I played handball, throwball and football. I was the captain of the football team once and also participated in handball at the state level. I used to love playing sports. I also like to paint and used to paint a lot in school. I had taken arts as my optional subject and did pretty well in that too. Basically, I was always more on the creative side and not on the academic side.

Esha Deol And then you shocked everyone by deciding to dance.

See, my mom is a great dancer and people used to always ask her if her daughters also danced. And she always had to say no. That started getting to her, so I decided I should probably take up dancing. I thought that if it's in her, then I'll definitely have it in my blood.

Your mom is a world-renowned Bharatnatyam dancer, but you decided to learn Odissi. Why not learn the same dance as your mother?

I didn't want to do Bharatnatyam. I tried and it's not that I couldn't do it. But my sister and I never took it seriously and always used to joke during classes. However, I took up Odissi very seriously because I find that dance extremely graceful and nice.

What, in your opinion, does it take to become a star?

I'm still a starlet. It'll take a long time for me to become a star. But I'll put in a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and the right attitude. I believed that you've just got to be happy and love what you are doing. I hope the audiences like and accept me.

Do tell us what you think of this interview