'I have a life beyond the camera'
Namrata Shirodkar is happy even though she doesn't have much to do in Hathyar
Subhash K Jha
Jaya Bachchan once said Namrata Shirodkar deserved the National Award for her performance as the prostitute in Mahesh Manjrekar's Vaastav.
Remind her of that and Namrata blushes. "I still consider Vaastav and Raj Kumar Santoshi's Pukar two of my better films. Though I admit nothing great happened thereafter."
Now, Namrata seems perched at a crossroad. She is cast in unconventional roles in the two conventional releases this week: Mahesh Manrekar's Hathyar and Anant Mahadevan's Dil Vil Pyar Vyar. While in one she has no songs, Mahadevan's film is a musical and Namrata just cannot stop raving about the film, her role and her costar Madhavan, in that order.
"To be honest," says Namrata, "I don't have much to do in Hathyar. I won't call it a pivotal role. The moment Sanjay Dutt's character grows up, I die. I am there in the first half. And I even put grey in my hair in the first half when my son is 17, like Sharmila Tagore did in Aradhana. There was a lot of discussion between Sanjay Dutt, Mahesh Manjrekar and me about whether I should do it or not. We all wondered whether I would be able to play this character.
"Finally, since I was never going to be in the same frame as Sanjay Dutt, we thought it would look more authentic in a sequel if I played the character's mother," she explains.
As for Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Madhavan and I are like the backbone of the film. This is the first time I have done a film of this kind. The writer and director have given a unique curve to every character. Madhavan was so helpful and such a great actor and human being. We had never met before Dil Vil, but we bonded from day one. We played a newly married couple and our characters' mutual love comes across so distinctly. The comfort level was really high between us."
Shirodkar, who came to the film world via the ramp like her colleagues Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen, also plays a pivotal role in the experimental Pran Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye, where she has been cast as a junior artiste in movies. She has just signed a film with the redoubtable Govind Nihalani. "It is about the complexities in the relationship between two sisters. I am the first one Govindji has cast. He saw some rushes of my work before signing me. I heard the script. To be honest, I would have done a film with Govindji even without hearing the script."
Refreshingly candid about her life and career, Namrata says she was in a long-term relationship that ended recently: "My work was almost like a God sent medicine to heal the wound." She also admits to lacking the killer instinct of some of her colleagues: "I work hard. But I am not cut-throat ambitious. Acting is a major part of my life today. I love my work and I am very passionate about it.
"But I do not live, eat and breathe cinema. I have a life beyond the camera. I like to travel. I need a breather between movies. And I don't think I can do that if I work on five films at the same time. I don't even think I can do justice to my characters if I work that way. I prefer to work at my own pace. Like I don't have songs in Hathyar, but have seven songs in Dil Vil. I am happy with both."
Namrata has a small circle of friends. Among her colleagues she is close to Raveena Tandon whom she describes as a "real warm and honest person." Much was made in a section of the media about her friendship with filmmaker Mahesh Manjrekar. Namrata says she did only three films with Manjrekar. "But the gossip press made it sound like a unbreakable director-heroine team. I think because of this rumour many filmmakers presumed I was inaccessible."