The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, March 9, 2003
Lead Article

In the spotlight
An ‘outsider’ who belongs to Bollywood
Sitesh Debnath

  Amisha Patel  SHE is Bollywood’s typical "outsider". Although born and brought up in Mumbai, she has been far removed from films with absolutely no family connections in the industry. Her sensibilities, attitude and personality are clearly defined by this non-filmi background.

But Amisha Patel is not making any bones about it. "I’m aware of who I am, where I come from and am proud of it," she declares. "I am known to be this "South Bombay outsider’... a baggage I have had to carry since Kaho Na... Pyar Hai. I had to prove a point."

That she has done in no uncertain terms. The phenomenal success of her debut film was followed by the gargantuan Gadar — Ek Prem Kahani, Badri (Telugu) and the slick thriller, Humraaz. The last few months have been disappointing though with Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar and Yeh Hai Jalwa failing miserably.

"You know the media is so unfair sometimes," she exclaims. "They will happily highlight the failure of a film, yet a genuine hit like Gadar hardly got any credit. If a Lagaan did Rs 200 million at the box-office, Gadar did a hundred. But nobody wants to talk about it."

More than this feeling of discrimination, what really bothers Amisha is being misunderstood. By her own admission, she does not mix too much on the sets and prefers reading a book or writing in her journal between shots, thereby giving people the impression that she is snooty!


"Well, yes, I am different," she points out. "I cannot get around backslapping with the unit, using abusive language or sharing tea with others. I have a fetish for punctuality, I hate it if things are out of place, I like my food served properly with a napkin, fork, spoon, and the rest of it..."

"Go ahead, call my fussy," she continues. "But it really is more about the upbringing I’ve had as Rajni Patel’s granddaughter and Asha and Amit Patel’s daughter. Of course, over the last three years, some of my corners have got rubbed off — like now, when I’m at a social do. I get irritated by the inanity of some of their pre-occupations. I mean, now I know the struggle and sweetness of being self-made."

Life has indeed taken Amisha through unexpected turns. She was training to be an investment banker, earned a gold medal from Tufts University, Boston and was planning to settle down with the son of a well known industrialist in the US, when the lure of her silver screen threw up a new set of surprises.

Her boyfriend did not approve of the career switch and they split. It was not as though she was accepted in films with open arms either. "It was a hostile environment," she narrates. "Everybody else who came in with me was from a film family — Hrithik Roshan, Fardeen Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Esha Deol, Tusshar Kapoor... I was sticking out as a sore thumb!"

Does she feel the same way now? " Yeah, the heroines still resent me, every single one of them," she laughs. "I can’t claim one heroine as my friend. There was also that ridiculous, media-hyped slinging match between Kareena. But thankfully, all my male co-stars have been wonderful especially Sunny Deol and Ajay Devgan. Sunny, in particular, is so gentle and protective. I am hoping to work with him soon."

Among Amisha’s forthcoming films, the ones to watch out for are Suneil Darshan’s Mere Jeevan Saathi with Karisma Kapoor and Akshay Kumar. Vikram Bhatt’s Humko Tumse Pyar Hai with Bobby Deol and Arjun Ramphal and Kamal’s Zameer, opposite Ajay Devgan.

There is also a couple of southern projects — Surya’s Telugu film (a remake of Big) with Mahesh Babu and a Tamil film, directed by Jagan and with Vijay as co-star. "I will always make time for good south Indian films," she maintains. "But Bollywood is where I belong." MF