“ I first declined my role of Aisha because I wanted to be a heroine ”: Amrita Puri recalls her first film
Amrita Puri is an actor who has successfully experimented with all mediums. From being a part of films like Kai Po Che, Blood Money and Judgmentall Hai Kya, to trying their hand at television at a time when Bollywood actors tended to avoid the small screen. She has been seen on TV shows POW – Bandi Yuddh Ke and Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, both showcasing her versatility.
Its recent shift to the digital space has also earned it a lot of appreciation. Although she is an important part of the Amazon Prime Video Four More Shots Please series, which is currently filming for its third season, Amrita was one of the highlights of the recent web show on Zee5 – Jeet Ki Zid. . She was also seen in Made In Heaven.
Amrita has been around for over a decade and continues to push its boundaries. But how did it all start for her? Here’s what the actor shared:
What was your first acting project? How did the project come to you?
My first big project was Aisha, my first time on a film set. Honestly, I didn’t know much about filming a movie. So Aisha was also like going to film school, because I had only done a few commercials here and there before that. I had made my portfolio while I was doing publicity auditions. I got a Facebook message about a Jane Austen remake of Emma, and that they were looking for a girl to play the character I ended up playing. I was still in college and doing my bachelor’s degree in English and I think this message came from someone in the literature department. So, I was very excited about the idea that there was an adaptation of a classic that is in my program. And that was all through that Facebook post with a number. I messaged this person and came to Anil Kapoor Productions, not knowing anything. I met Amrita Sehgal there, who gave me the script. At first, I refused the role. I said I didn’t want my first role to be that little town girl because I had my own idea that I wanted to be a heroine and how you live your first movie. She scolded me and told me that if I knew what was good for me, I would introduce myself. I was so scared that was the only reason I showed up for the audition because I didn’t want to make her angry.
I auditioned and then they asked me to hold on for a second because Sonam was also there and they wanted me to do the scene with her. I was shocked because I had gone for a random audition. Even later, it never happened to me that the star of the film was there at the audition. I was so nervous and intimidated that Sonam was all over magazine covers, with a huge character, a fashion icon. We auditioned for 2-3 scenes. I particularly remember the scene where I am in the elevator, telling Sonam that I want to wear the Kareena Kapoor lehenga to my wedding, which will not be red or pink. Rather, it will be a crazy and bright color. The one I did with it. The next day I got a call saying, there you are. It was very exciting for me because they auditioned some 250 girls for months for this character across the cities.
What do you remember from your first day on the set?
I remember it was Delhi and it was raining. I was very confused because I had no idea about vanity van and spot dada. So there I was, sitting alone in my vanity, thinking where everyone is, what’s going on. Who am I supposed to ask for breakfast… I didn’t even know I had to tell the place I wanted something to eat, so I didn’t even eat or drink. I was later explained how the dada spot system works.
It was really early, like 6 a.m. It was just Sonam and me. The manager was also there with Rhea. It was a restaurant scene where I had to cry while eating chop suey. First, I was nervous and second, I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast. And the first thing I had to do in the morning was eat chop suey. If you see actors, they don’t eat much in such scenes because they have to keep rehearsing it. I did not know that. So I ate plenty. Then I had to eat several times with other actors. And I had to keep doing what I did on the first take.
Were you nervous? How many times have you taken?
Yeah, I was nervous. And it wasn’t just the first day, I was nervous before the big stages, monologues and a bunch of difficult stuff. So I was pretty nervous for half of the shoot. I felt comfortable with my other films later on as I learned and understood more about the process of making films.
I don’t remember the number of takes, but with any scene we take different angles – there’s a main shot, a wide shot, a close shot… We have to have multiple angles. So in the end, I had eaten so much chopsuey, that I started to feel sick.
How was that connection with your co-stars when you got to meet them or work with them again later?
I am in contact with Cyrus (Sahukar) and Ira (Dubey). I don’t think I’m really in touch with anyone. But of course when we meet we talk about Aisha because we were all young and it was a pretty big project in our lives.
If you are given the chance to reprise your lead role, what would you like to change or do better?
In terms of performance, honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. The only thing I would change is my quirky eating habits, because at that point I was not at all disciplined when it came to staying in shape and eating healthy. I used to eat everything and gain weight while filming the movie, which is a continuity issue.
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A movie or a role that inspired you to become an actor?
I was a big fan of Sridevi. I think everyone of my generation, who grew up in the 80s, would say the same thing. She was my idol and I danced to all of her songs. I used to wear my mom’s saree and act like Chandni. I also liked Amol Palekar and loved his Golmaal. I liked the way his films were shot and scripted.
I didn’t want to be an actor. I didn’t even think it was a possibility because I come from a very different background where movies don’t even appear as an option. And it’s a very difficult line. But I have always found it fascinating and interesting. I was quite chubby when I was young. And as an actor you have to look a certain way. I went through a grooming process later. But, I started doing professional plays in college and loved it. Then I was working as a copywriter, and I realized most of the time that I just dreamed of being able to get back on stage. So, instead of focusing on my job, I decided to quit and follow my passion.
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