Saturday, December 14, 2002
M A K I N G  A  M A R K

Combining studies with showbiz

Gitanjali Sharma

Karishma Randeva has acted in the internationally acclaimed movie Ants
Karishma Randeva has acted in the internationally acclaimed movie Ants

WEARING a white lab coat, hair sternly reined into a thick plait and a serious look donning her face, she looks no different from the other science students on the Panjab University campus. Come weekends and presto! She appears as a dusky lissome beauty with her frizzy streaked hair falling wildly down to her waist. Her 5-foot-5-inch frame looks fetching in a western outfit, as she gives touches to her make-up before facing the arc lights.

This is Karishma Randeva for you. A student of BSc final year (honours in biophysics), a model, an anchor and, above all, an actress who has played the lead role in the internationally acclaimed movie called Ants. This 90-minute English movie, produced and directed by Sunil Babbar, won two awards at the Yellowstone Film Festival held at Montana in the USA this year. Competing against God’s Sandbox (from Israel), Amar Bhuvan by Mrinal Sen, Strokes and Silhouettes by Anjan Das and Hollywood entries like Joshua, The Dodo Head, Reversal, 587 The Great Indian Robbery, The Bermuda Triangle — the Story, Ants received the Best Producer Award and the Best Foreign Film Award.


"I know it seems incongruent to find a regular science student making a foray into the world of glamour but I am where I am by default," admits this 19-year-old daughter of a retired Army Colonel. "None from my immediate or extended family are even remotely connected with films. As a child, I was reserved, introvert, wore braces, and in my spare time either took refuge in books or spent time swimming and horse riding. The thought of becoming an actress never occurred to me."

Karishma, however, had her first date with glamour two years ago in December 2000, when she won the Miss Monte Carlo title. Though it was sheer curiosity that made this teenager participate in the contest yet since that day she’s not looked back from the heady business of showbiz.

First came the modelling offers for still advertisements, and then poured in requests by music video directors. Besides modelling for Tanishq, Aabhushan jewellery, Ambros suits, etc, Karishma has appeared in a number of music videos for well-known singers like Sardool Sikander, Pammi Bai, Amrita Virk, Manmohan Waris and Romi Gill. In between all these engagements, this young artiste has also been squeezing time to make a name for herself as a compere. She has not only been anchoring cultural events held in the university but also other shows organised in the city, like No Marks Face of the Year Contest, Penaaz Masani Night, Miss Lux Contest and conventions held by multinationals.

She has also tried out the small screen, acting in a serial called Apna Punjab, which is yet to be telecast.

This young resident of Panchkula, who is fond of meaningful cinema, however, received a windfall with her selection as the female lead in Ants. This small-budget movie, which was completed in 20 days in March this year and, interestingly, most of the crew of which belongs to Chandigarh, is slated for release in January. Sunil Babbar and Navtej Singh, both theatre personalities from Chandigarh, play the other lead roles.

Delighted with this plum role in her debut film, Karishma avers, "I consider myself lucky to have bagged a fine, meaningful role in the beginning of my career." A thought-provoking film about NRIs and the Indian middle class, Karishma says, Ants is a study of human relationships based on the behaviour of ants. She plays the character of a middle-class girl, whose ambitious parents get her married to a rich NRI doctor, with the hope that one day she will take the younger siblings across the shores too. Their dream turns sour when the girl discovers her husband is not only married but also has a child and that her new-found status is that of "the new Indian maid." This girl summons the courage to confront her husband and even manages to escape when her in-laws try to kill her. It, however, comes as a shock to her that her parents are too embarrassed to have her back since they have "two other daughters who are yet to be married ". Moving away from her parents, this disillusioned girl makes a journey from Delhi to Devprayag and meets a passenger in the bus who changes her life. How he influences her life is the crux of the movie. The film focuses on the bus journey: taking a cue from the behaviour of ants which while moving in lines meet and touch each other before proceeding, the story highlights how in course of travelling you meet strangers, share confidences with them before moving away.

The movie is not only shorn of all candyfloss romance but has also dispensed with the most indispensable feature of Indian movies — songs. There is just one background song by Reshma.

Though, initially, Karishma was plagued by doubts and fears about accepting the role of a married woman who does not get to smile even once in the 90-minute movie, now when she looks back, she happily remarks that she couldn’t have made a better choice. During the time she was selected for Ants, she was also offered a role in the big-budgeted Perfect Husband. After a lot of debate, she opted to play the sensitive role depicting the strength of a woman in Ants. And good for her, for Perfect Husband, she discloses is yet to cross the editing stage, while Ants shall be released shortly.

And till then this young actress is biding time, as far as accepting movie offers goes. A lot shall depend on the box-office success of the film, emphasises Karishma. So for the present, knowing the insecurities besetting film line, she is not only concentrating on her studies but also carrying out her modelling assignments over the weekends and vacations. Just a week ago she finished anchoring a documentary for the BBC, The Will Power, featuring Iron Man of the UK Manjit Singh. Eventually, this promising performer plans to go to Mumbai, be it to work as an actress, anchor or explore her skills as a newsreader.

Of the firm belief that "you will get what you have to get," Karishma expresses dismay at the undercutting and lack of professionalism in the field of modelling. "Modelling agencies don’t know the ‘P’ of professionalism", she rues, adding that not only do they have scant respect for time schedules but they are also unwilling to make payments. And it worsens matters when some models, desperate to get work, don’t think twice about shelling out money to get an assignment.

As a compere too, Karishma sees no signs of professionalism. Most event managers, she laments, are of the view that "a local girl deserves local money." Asserting that you have to exercise your judgement and will power to refuse exploitative assignments, she says she once walked out of the shooting of a music video. The director had insisted that she wear an outfit that was given to her at the last minute. She, however, put her foot down, since she had made it clear in the beginning that she would either wear her own clothes or else would like to be shown the outfits chosen for her two days before the shooting.

Karishma says she insists on taking up ‘quality work’ and demanding what she deserves. For, according to her, if a producer scrimps and saves on making payments, he will also cut down on other production costs, thereby affecting the quality of the end product. To live by her principles and values, this talented personality draws strength from her parents, who have always encouraged her in all her endeavours.