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Neetu Chandra making her mark in <i>Signal</i>

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By: Joginder Tuteja, IndiaFM
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
There is something that attracts you about some new actors and actresses arriving in Bollywood. Confident, well educated and strive to take on performance oriented roles rather than grabbing anything and everything that comes on their way. Boasting of an edge over dozens of other people on the street who want to make it BIG in the glamour world, this new breed is well trained in not just acting but other important facets that go along with the business like cosmetic care, dances, action - just about everything!

Neetu Chandra, who debuted as one of the three leading ladies of Garam Masala [dir: Priyadarshan] and is now looking forward to the release of her next Signal [dir: Madhur Bhandarkar], is one such actress who believes that it is either 0% or 100%, with nothing that can qualify as 99%. Over to her!

First things first. Hasn't there been a long wait between Garam Masala and Signal?
Hmm, well I won't really call it a long wait! Garam Masala released on 2nd November while 4-5 months after it I got Signal. I did have a couple of Hindi film offers in the interim but nothing that I could relate to and be a part of. Also, after having worked in a big setup like that of Garam Masala, I have been looking for something more concrete to start working for but unfortunately nothing exciting came on. In the meanwhile I enhanced my skills by being a part of plays and attending theatre workshops. Now that's an experience that I really cherish as there is so much to learn in theatre. Also, since being an actress means a package deal, I have been working on how to keep one's skin and hair in shape. I have been doing a lot of 'yoga', attending gyms, working on voice modulation and obviously fine tune my acting skills. Coming back to Signal, then see I am a very positive person and hence do not regret waiting for a few months since the wait only has fetched me a project like this!

You mentioned about theatre workshops, so are there any names that you want to mention?
They may not be famous/known names but what is good about these folks from NSD is the immense talent that they bring along with them. You can learn so much by working with them and I have been continuously trying to do that during this stint. Also, though I am from Patna [Bihar] and my mother tongue is Hindi, I have been working in improving my diction/vocabulary further by reading a lot of Hindi literature.

What's the kind of character that you play in Signal?
Have you noticed females sitting on the pavements and near the signals selling embroidery and glass work artifacts? I play one such Kathiawadi girl for whom her entire world revolves around the signal from where she operates her business. It was great to take up such a role as it gave me an opportunity to actually interact with these girls and understand how they make a living out of selling such artifacts on the road. In the end, after interacting with them for a few days, I think I did reasonably well in understanding their mannerisms that helped me act and dress like them!

How did Signal happen?
I read an article in a newspaper where Madhur had mentioned that he was looking for a lady in his upcoming film Signal and how she should be a mix of Smita Patil and Manisha Koirala. Now since I too am dark skinned just like Smita Patel and moreover have considered her as my ideal, I thought why not give it a try!? I just called up Madhur and asked him if he could just meet me once and it would be OK even if he didn't select me for the role. We met, he liked me, got me into the look of the girl he wanted for his film and made me wear the same clothes as her and in no time I was on for the role!

No screen test at all!?
No, there was a 'look test' but no 'screen test'! He had interacted with 20-30 other girls also but was very particular about the looks of the girl to suit the character and also wanted her Hindi to be good. Thankfully I fitted in the bill.

Knowing that your only work before had been a comedy [Garam Masala], wasn't he apprehensive about taking you on for a serious subject like this?
Me having worked in Garam Masala didn't effect Madhur at all. He is a director who knows his characters in and out and it doesn't matter to him about the background that an actor comes with. He is a person who completely goes by his instincts and chooses his actors accordingly. If you look at his last film Page 3, you can see that he took Tara Sharma who comes from a truly glamorous background with number of endorsements and films to her credit. Still he thought that she suited the bill. He feels that he can mould a character the way he wants and present it according it his vision.

Any roles in recent times that you wish you could play?
See, I am newcomer so I can't standup and say that "Oh I wish I was a part of a Sanwariya or a Black!" I still have to go along with my second film and am not in a position to wish for lot of things. Still, one thing that I can say is that I am multifaceted. I am quite athletic as I have been a national level basketball player while I also have good knowledge of how to take care of my skin and hair. Since I am trained dancer, I am sure that I can fit in well into a setup like Devdas, whereas my Taekwondo skills make me do the kind of roles that Angelina Jolie! So, you see you can take me into any sort of film and I know I will deliver!

Ok, now let's talk something about Garam Masala. Apparently there were some arguments and 'tu tu main main' between you, Nargis and Daisy [the other leading ladies in Garam Masala]. Do you want to set the records straight and confirm on whether it was true or not, once and for all?
I really want to tell you that nothing like that had actually happened. Each of us were really concentrating on our work and there was no time for any tiffs to happen at all. In fact me and Daisy were even staying together in the same room when we had gone out for the movie's promotion and when the rumors spread, we started getting these calls from media that wanted to hear it from us if anything like that had happened. It was so funny because when the reporters wanted to speak to me, Daisy was actually holding my mobile and on hearing such questions, she handed it over to me to clarify on the matter. Hum log mazaak mazaak mein ek doosre ki taang zaroor kheenchte they but never knew that people's imagination would go so far-fetched. Till moment I don't know from where did this all originate and why!?

So are you in touch with them now?
Oh yes, in fact it was only last week when I met both of them.

Any parting thoughts?
There are two things that one should definitely remember while being in any profession - work hard and come on time! Also one should never stand up and say that the job is 99% done. Because for me 99% is equivalent to 0%. Either you have done it or not done it!

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