Sonali Kulkarni a renowned Bollywood and Marathi theatre actress, has won the best actress award for her Italian film "Fuoco Di Su Me" at the Milan film festival in Busto Arsizio. The film received rave reviews from the audience at the festival. Sonali Kulkarni is the only Indian till date to have received such a prestigious award. The film in all won 4 awards at the festival including best actor award to Omar Sheriff. In the film Sonali plays the character of Graziella. Massi Miliano an Italian actor plays the role opposite her.
Here's a small account of this journey of hers to the best actress award in her own words: --
My first film Cheluvi directed by Girish Karnad had been screened at the Cannes film festival. This is where I got a chance to meet the producer Sergio scapagnini and director Lambartini. They wanted me to do a film for them. In the year 2004, I got a call from them and they wanted to come and do an audition for them for the role of Graziella. I got 19 scenes, which I rehearsed, on my flight to Italy. I was very tensed and scared but I gave a good performance. My producer said that I should expect a call for the role.
In September 2005 I went to Italy and started preparing for the role. I was given 2 language tutors and a personal assistant who would be helping me out with the language and role. I had 8 weeks of intensive training in the language. I used to write the Italian words in our Marathi script and then the meaning of each in English. Sometimes changes used to happen and then it would be all rewriting and re- understanding of the same. I used to feel so pressured and bored sometimes. I used to just come to tears at times... but my will power and desire to fight would get me going again. I used to stay at my producer's house in Italy with his family. This would help me know the language their life styles better. Actually helped me prepare for the role better.
Since it's a period film I had to wear those old types of costumes with five layers of clothes. My costume trials used to always an interesting thing. In Italy they have these museum kinds of places where they have preserved the costumes of lots of the well-known actors and actresses. Believe it or not I do aspire to get my costume preserved in one of such museums. Since I have a typical Indian skin tone they decided to get totally off make up. Slight touch ups for my eyes was all that was make up for me.
The assistant cameraman had a crush on me and he would keep looking at me secretly all the while. When every one came to know of it, all started teasing him. And even I joined forces with them. Almost at the end of the schedule I was coming down the stairs when he just said in front of all " you are so beautiful". Everyone was amazed at that.
But my best admirer was Omar Sherif the 65 year, old man. He loved me so much that he asked me if I was married. When I replied negative he said he would love me to meet his grandson who is 6 feet tall and much more handsome than him. He was the most sincere admirer of my performance. He would praise me when it was really done perfect. When at the screening at the Venice film festival we got a standing ovation, he gave me a warm and huge hug.
The film had been shot in "Vivara" one of the oldest jungles in Italy preserved by the govt. the view in that jungle was actually heavenly. The mountains, the dense forest, everything was just too lovely. We used to cook and dance after the pack up. I proved to be the best dancer in the entire unit. My hero Massi Miliano is a very handsome guy. He and I became the best buddies for all the dances etc. I also used to cook sometimes and everybody fell for my cooking. Whenever I used to cook, a crowd of 15 - 20 unit people would surround me and they would watch me cook. Everyone said that I was a person who could act, dance, write, cook, sing, think and still be a sensitive human being with no tantrums.
We had a dance sequence to shoot in the film and at the 11th hour the choreographer ditched us. So the unit people found an old couple, who could show us some of the typical Italian dance steps. In that dance sequence I was required to go round in circles for 20 times. Due to some technical problem I had to do the entire take again. And I was going around in so much speed that I didn't hear the director shout "CUT" when the 20 turns were done and I fainted and fell. But the shot done and I was appreciated by one and all.
On the day of my birthday, I had come back from a hectic shoot. I was changing when the producer's wife called me saying I had to go back to the set to rehearse for the next day's hoot. I was dead tired and checked if I could do it a little later. But they insisted I do it now. So I went back to the set and believe it or not the set was changed and made into a party hall. There was a big cake for me and the champagne kept ready and waiting for me. It was probably the best birthday I had ever celebrated till date. I was so surprised by this I just couldn't control my tears of joy. They had me laden with lots of gifts and cards and flowers.
There is a kissing scene in the movie. The director told me that the kiss had to pure, innocent, tender and still unique. Nobody in the unit believed that I had never done a kissing scene before. But then I am an actor and I was ready to do it. As fate would have it my hero was running a high temperature the entire day. He had been given a bed on the set itself. Whenever we used to be ready to do the take there used to be some or the other kind of disturbance or problem. So noise disturbance or some technical problem would eventually crack up. Finally all of this was in order and I was slightly shy of doing this. So much so that I started laughing at the point of "action". But then we did another take and it was done perfect. It's a very beautiful shot.
Finally it was time to come back home. On the last day on my shoot I was gifted a chair by al the unit people. The chair has my name on it and was signed by all the cast and crew. I had gone to Italy with a normal baggage of 20kg. But when it was time to return I realized that I had added up almost thrice of that. I had got so many parting gifts, painting, candles, and what not. It all showed how much beloved I was to them. They kept saying that I should not go back. They all just wanted me to stay back some more. The producer's daughters and I had grown co close to each other. We actually cried on the airport so much that we had to be separated by force, as it was time for me to check in.
The film was also showcased at the International film festival in Goa and Mumbai. It got rave reviews at both the festivals. Vijay Tendulkar and Satyadeb Dubey my mentors have both loved and appreciated my role in the film. All my pains and hard work has paid off.
It is indeed a professional high for Sonali Kulkarni who recently had a Bollywood success in the form of 'Taxi No. 9211' where she was widely appreciated for her natural act. One hopes that from this point on, she is far more recognized by the Bollywood biggies and given further roles of substance.