She has made it big at a young age. With films such as City Of Joy, The Terrorist, Saaz and Bombay Dreams in her kitty, British-Indian actor Ayesha Dharker is now expecting the release of Loins of Punjab Presents. She speaks to HT City.
While other actors of your age are still struggling, you are an established name. How do you see yourself as an actor?
I think of myself as someone who has just begun. I have worked for nearly 20 years but every job feels like the first day at school.
Tell us about Loins of Punjab Presents.
The film is based backstage at an Indian singing competition in New Jersey. You meet all the many contestants and their families.
What is your character in the film?
In the film my fiancé is one of the contestants and I don’t think he has a chance because he is a white American who doesn’t speak any Hindi at all. My character is also trying to start a new kind of exercise fad called “joga” in which she has combined yoga and jogging. She misguidedly believes that this will be the next thing to shake the world of fitness and exercise. It’s a comedy full of fun.
How did the role come your way?
Director Manish Acharya got in touch with me in London and sent me the script. I read it and laughed a lot. I found it interesting because it was talking about a new generation of Indian immigrants that were not weighed down by feelings of inferiority or displacement, they were very happy where they were in New Jersey. It was more like the world I saw around me and not the old story about new immigrants to the US of the 70s.
<b1>You have earlier worked with Shabana Azmi in Saaz. How was it working with her again?
I have worked with Shabana twice before: In City of Joy and Saaz. Shabana Azmi is a part of my personal mythology now and I have always aspired to be like her. I was nervous the first day we were on the set because though we had stayed in touch socially it is a very different thing working with her.
I would watch her shoot scenes I was not in and sit by the monitor watching her. Every time I did that I realised why so many people admire her.
It is heard that you suggested her name to the director…
When I was discussing dates with Manish, I asked him about the cast. He said he was still trying to cast the role of this socialite who
is the main character. During the shooting of City of Joy Shabana and Om Puri would imitate one another and have the rest of us in splits.
So I said, why don’t you ask Shabana Azmi? Manish was very surprised and said, ‘Do you think she would be interested in comedy?’ and I said that he just needed to ask. He was very anxious but she loved the script. And I had another chance to work with my mentor.
Didn’t you ever want to settle in India and do more films here?
I would love to do more films in India, especially because there is such a wide variety of films being made.
Where do we see you next?
Outsourced is to release soon. I’ve been shooting a crime drama in the UK called The Commander and am halfway though filming an episode of Dr Who, a BBC children’s programme.