Most TV channel honchos believe that she has committed a career hara-kiri of sorts. Just when she was the undisputed Number 1 heroine of Tellywood, she hop-scotched to the movies.
Obviously guided by mentor Ekta Kapoor, the 19-year-old isn't worried if she'll be the next Kareena or Katrina. She makes her debut with Rock On.. and who knows?.. she could just light the multiplex fire. Over to Prachi Desai quizzed by Roshmila Bhattacharya.<b1>
So, have you always wanted to be a rock star?
(Laughs) No, actually I've always wanted to be a film actress. I loved Preity Zinta with her flashing dimples in Dil Chahta Hai. And now you're romancing the film's director on screen. Yeah, and Farhan (Akhtar) is as good an actor as he is a director. His wife Adhuna even worked on my look.
Can you really go all glam after playing the seedhi saadhi sari-clad Bani of Kasamh Se?
Yeah, I'm actually playing my age finally. The first time I saw myself in the Rock On get-up I almost didn't recognise myself. I'm looking and feeling years younger. But I have to admit that it's hard to relate to this character who's a South Bombay girl.. a model, rich and sophisticated.
If you hadn't won Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa, would you have got a movie role?
I auditioned for it before winning the title but I guess the show drew attention to me.
Do you get to dance?
No, the girls are not a part of the band. But we had these impromptu jam sessions on the sets. Farhan and Arjun (Rampal) play the guitar, Purab (Kohli) the drums and Luke (Kenny) has learnt the keyboard. Ever since school, I've been longing to play a musical instrument but there has been no time.
Does the controversy over the Jhalak.. win still rankle?
I think it rankles those who didn't make it. I feel like a winner, so happy and proud every time I look at the trophy. Even Mona (Singh) and Sanjeeda (Sheikh) have had their share of critics after they won their titles.
Shveta (Salve), Rakhi (Sawant) and Sandhya (Mridul) are all fantastic dancers but there's also the luck factor. It was really close between Sandhya and me. <b2>
After Jhalak.. your elimination from Yeh Hai Jalwa must have come as a shock?
There was talk about how the voting lines shut down after four hours instead of the usual 24 hours. Strangely, the day I was eliminated from Jalwa.., I had a gut feeling that something would go wrong. A friend tried to vote for me but was rejected. We learnt later that the lines were open for just four hours at night. That's unfair, the rules should be the same for everyone.
The buzz was that you were seeing your Jhalak.. choreographer, Deepak?
For 13 weeks we were together, every day, sometimes rehearsing till almost 3 am. But my mom was always with us.
Apparently, she also chaperones you on the Rock On sets?
I need her around for moral support. It makes me feel less alone. I even drag her for dinners with friends.
She also gave proxy interviews for you after Jhalak.. when you turned starry and elusive.
I wish people could lead my life.. they would know the pressures I went through. I'm only 19. For the last three years I've been working 24x7, sometimes coming home only for a quick shower.
On the day of the Jhalak.. finale I was running a temperature and had low BP. After my win I couldn't even call my sister in Pune with the news because interviews had been scheduled.
For the next two months, I was fielding 15 calls a day, some as early as 4 am. I'm not complaining but there are times when you wonder.. what's going on?
Does your sister want to be a star too?
She was fascinated till she saw my day beginning at lunch time and continuing till past 3 am. Now she's happy with her 9 am to 5 pm schedule in the lab. She's a year older and she's studying pharmacy.
Did anyone tell you that you look like Sonam Kapoor?
So many did when she was on Jhalak.. Even my mom saw her from a distance and said, "That's not the dress Prachi is wearing." I take that as a compliment, she's a beautiful girl.
Will you be a judge on Jhalak.. next season?
It would be too soon for me to be a judge, I'd rather host.
Sad to be out of Kasamh Se?
I still watch the show. Gurdeep (Kohli) has taken it forward well. (Smiles) In my heart Bani still belongs to me.
Think you will be back some day?
That would be great but it's not likely to happen soon. I've signed Abbas-Mustan's Life Partner.
That's the one opposite Tusshar?
Yeah, we had met a couple of times but we weren't friends. Maybe now I'll get to know him better. Tusshar's so quiet unlike Ekta who has such a short temper.
How has Ekta Kapoor taken your movie career?
She was the first person I confided in after getting the Rock On offer.. and not just because I needed her consent. It took a while to get the go-ahead because she needed to think of her show too.
Eventually everyone agreed that it wouldn't be fair to stop me.
Does she still advise you?
She does, so does Shobha aunty. But now I have a manager too.
What was the last day of the Kasamh Se shoot like?
I was very emotional. The end was traumatic, more so for those around me who watched me being beaten up and burnt.
I try not to think too much about Kasamh Se though I still watch the show. It makes me sad. For two years it was my life. I really slogged for it. Now I can sleep till noon. It's such a luxury.
It's said the show will wind up next year.
I didn't hear anything on the sets. I would want it to go on.. with several leaps into the future.
Would you have consented to a 20-year leap?
No, how can I play the mother of a 20-year-old when I'm 19? I was unhappy with the first five-year leap too but it was necessary. In a way, my exit was well-timed.
Bani must have been getting monotonous too?
Well, I had my breaks, like the cameo in Kasuati Zindagi Key when I played Prachi Desai who falls in love and runs away from school. Then there was Koi Jaane Kya Hoga in which I played a young girl with supernatural powers. It's sad that the show didn't work out.
Ram Kapoor and you were voted Couple of the Year in 2006..
(Cuts in) And you remember what he said on stage: "I'm the beauty, she's the beast." What if you ended up with a years older husband too? After two years of melodrama I wouldn't make that mistake. (Laughs) Just joking but honestly I'd rather hang out with young guys.