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    Bollywood's approach to sexuality changing: Neha

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Thursday, July 29, 2004
    She picks her words thoughtfully. No wonder Neha Dhupia has managed to carry off the bold role of a sex worker in "Julie" without coming across as sleazy.

    "To say that I did those bold scenes because the script demanded it sounds so stale. I did it because I believed in it," Neha told IANS in an interview. Excerpts:

    How did you manage to create so much healthy curiosity about "Julie"?

    It's very simple. "Julie" has been sold to the audience as a hot film. Winds of change are blowing through our cinema. I'd almost say we're going through a period of renaissance. The approach to sex and sexuality in our cinema is changing. I don't know whether the projection of "Julie" as a bold film will work to our advantage. I've been very honest about the way I approached the role.

    Playing a sex worker was difficult for me and I've said so in the press. I think my honesty has been well represented in the media. I have the greatest respect for the press in India.

    How much further than the other filmy sex workers have you gone in "Julie"?

    My director referred me to a lot of films from the past. What's really interesting about "Julie" is that she's shown being uninhibited before she becomes a sex worker. Once she takes to the profession, she becomes inhibited. To say that I did those bold scenes because the script demanded it sounds so stale. I did it because I believed in it. A lot of people would question why Julie becomes a sex worker. It's a moment of impulse. You can't explain it.

    Do you fear "Julie" would typecast you as a bold actress?

    I didn't think about it when I signed the film. But now when I look back I do see that as a possibility. It doesn't bother me. The good thing about Bollywood is it gives the individual the right to choose.

    But I agree actresses don't have that much choice. That's why after my decorative debut in "Qayamat", I was excited when "Julie" came up as my next release. Agreed I was eye-candy in my first film. I'd say I'm another kind of eye-candy in "Julie".

    How does it feel to be called the hero of "Julie"?

    It feels wonderful. Though I enjoyed the thrill of working with someone as big as Ajay Devgan in my first film, I wasn't really given much to do in "Qayamat". Now, suddenly, I'm in 79 out of 80 scenes in "Julie". It's really flattering.

    I went through a course in acting with the celebrated Satyadev Dubey after signing "Julie". It made me very comfortable as an actress. It opened up new doors to my personality. I now feel "Julie" is a re-launch for me.

    Did the Miss India crown open doors for you in Bollywood?

    It did, it did! I started getting calls from producers right after the crown. But, honestly, I wasn't trying very hard. Movies just happened to me. And now that I'm part of Bollywood I don't want to be anywhere else.

    After "Julie" it would be hard for me to search for roles that offer me the same opportunity. In fact my next two films - Mahesh Manjrekar's "Rakth" and Ekta Kapoor's "Kya Kool Hain Hum" - have precious little for me to do.

    How did pain come naturally to a sheltered girl like you?

    Ah, you'd be surprised. We shot "Julie" under anything but cushy conditions. We've even shot in near-freezing temperatures. I think the stress of playing a sex worker made me grow up.

    Is Bollywood still an alien world for you?

    Oh yeah. I don't go to any of the filmy gatherings. That creates a perception of arrogance. But I can live with that. You can't make everyone happy. On the set I'd rather read between shots than socialize. I've my own little house to run. I'd rather give attention to that. I've a million things to attend to.

    There're times when I return to a lonely house after an outdoor schedule. The unattended newspapers block the entrance of the door. I love those little discomforts of living alone. Being single is liberating.


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