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    Individualistic, Koel Purie stands out

    [Interview by Subhash K Jha]
    Thursday, March 10, 2005
    Like the bird she is named after, does Koel Purie talk!

    Chirpy, sharp and in her own words, "bindaas", Koel is a new kind of experience for Hindi cinema. Not quite a square in a circle, but still individualistic enough to stand out among the Rais and Sherawats, Koel gives a riveting performance as a burnt-out TV writer in Vinta Nanda''s "White Noise".

    Her effervescence, and even her intonation, echoes Preity Zinta.

    "Really?" Koel cooed delightedly during an interview.
    "I've met her. Liked her immensely. I love Tabu too. If she hadn't let go of 'White Noise', I wouldn't have been in it.

    "I want to send Tabu a bouquet of roses for giving me such a career-making role so early in my life.

    "It's a complex character. But when I was offered the role, my first reaction was, 'God! This sounds so easy!' The dialogues seemed to be the way I speak and the characters were people I knew.

    "When Tabu walked out of 'White Noise', Vinta Nanda was looking at every possible actress. Soni Razdan who's directing me in 'Nazar' recommended my name to Vinta, who's her best friend. Soni had seen me in a play in London, and thought I was a really good actress.

    "When I read the script, it seemed so close to home! Like Gauri, I was going through an emotional crisis when I played her. That helped."

    Koel feels lucky to have done "White Noise" so early in her career.

    "When Vinta saw me, she intuitively felt I was right for the part. Maybe she felt my inner tumoil at that time. When I was playing the role of Gauri, I was undergoing my own trauma. That should've made the role tougher. Instead every day of shooting was a process of cleansing and therapeutic. I used my character to exercise myself of my demons.
    "If I hadn't let it all out, I'd have slumped as a person. Is it amazingly lucky for an actor."

    After "Everybody Says I'm Fine" and "White Noise", the unusual seems to be the usual for Koel.

    "I think it does. And it doesn't seem unusual to me. By playing such characters I feel I'm just doing what comes naturally to me. It's only when people point it out to me that I realize how rare such characters are to Hindi cinema."

    "I play wounded characters in both 'Everybody Says I'm Fine' and 'White Noise', though I'm far more mature in 'White Noise'. I play a much older person than I am."

    Koel was also seen in the British film "Dirty War", a HBO production.

    "It was a very controversial subject about terrorism in England. I played a Muslim FBI agent....But it isn't as if I HAVE to play a color-specific character. In the TV serial 'Holy City', I played a generic character."

    Right now, Koel is focusing on mainstream Indian commercial cinema.

    Would she be able to pull off the running around trees?

    "I may not. But at least I've to try. I never want to take the easy way out. Besides, I think this is a great time to be in Indian cinema. There's so much going on.

    "Look at the two mainstream Hindi heroines on top. Both Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta are completely unconventional. Preity doesn't look or act like the coy heroine.
    "And Rani is someone you wouldn't give a second look in person. But she just lights up the screen with her persona. I think this is the best time for an unconventional actress because performance-driven films are getting their due."

    She's very happy with her controversial Pakistani co-star Meera in "Nazar".

    "A fun person and easy to work with."

    Koel is also gung-ho about her "Nazar" director.

    "Soni Razdan and I have been on stage together. We've shared the same dressing room. I respect her tremendously."

    Koel is convinced she can carry off mainstream roles.

    "If I don't believe in myself how can I expect others to believe in me? I may have been thoroughly unconventional in my first two films. But in 'Nazar', where I play a cop, I'm all there.

    "After that, I'm in an out-and-out comedy 'Dil Deke Dekho' where I'm the only female character among a whole lot of men."

    She says she's looking forward to doing comedy.

    "Though I've done humorous parts on stage, my roles on screen have so far been pretty grim. So I look forward to 'Dil Deke Dekho'."

    In-between Koel also starred in "American Daylight" produced by Bobby Bedi.
    "The whole film is set in a help centre. I play a middleclass girl named Sujata who turns to Sue at work and falls in love over the phone with a multi-millionaire from the US."

    On the personal front, Rahul Bose and Koel were a pair earlier.

    "That was a bit of a comfort and a problem both. He was hugely helpful about building my confidence on the sets. One could always speak one's mind openly. I was never hesitant about doing whatever seemed right.

    "The downside of being good friends is you cannot hide your irritation after 12 hours of non-stop work. One of our best scenes of shared warmth was done on a day when we weren't even talking to each other."

    Koel had no problems working with a man with whom she once shared a closeness.

    "No. In fact we met during work while we were shooting the travel show 'The Great Escape'. And when Rahul directed me in 'Everybody Says I'm Fine', the comfort level between us was great.

    "We continue to be very good friends. We hate and love one another. It all balances out finally."

    Is she happy with Rahul's supporting role in White Noise?

    "My character is pivotal, yes. But my character wouldn't work with Rahul. He comes in like a glass of water. If my character just continued to rave and rant non-stop, who would want to bear with her neurosis?"
    As for her 'Nazar' co-star Ashmit Patel she describes him as "sweet focussed and hard-working".

    Koel is only a year into her career "and I'm earning more and more....I'm definitely doing Vinta Nanda's next. We can't do without one another. We don't peep into one another's lives and yet we're so close.

    "We're both extremely loud, fiery and passionate. And we don't listen to each other when we're talking. Everyone thinks we're fighting, but we aren't. She knew I was hurting during 'White Noise'. She never probed, just understood my pain and shared it silently."

    Koel pauses for breath. It's the morning after the Delhi premiere of "Everybody Says I'm Fine".

    "Mein Dilli ki ladki hoon. Meri Hindi bahut achchi hai. People don't know because they've only seen me in English-language films."

    She loves also Mumbai, because in Mumbai they let you do what you want.

    "In Delhi, they take interest in everything you do. In just nine months I've made a circle of very good friends in Mumbai."

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