Gracy Singh speaks to Anuj Kumar about her smooth journey from Punjabi Bagh to dreamland

Everybody dreams but it is only a lucky few whose dreams become a reality. Gracy Singh is one among them. “I used to dream about working in a film with Aamir Khan and my family members used to laugh when I would tell them next morning. We had no connection whatsoever with films. My father is with Horlicks and my mother is a school teacher,” says Gracy, who is in New Delhi, her hometown to promote her latest film Aseema.

Eldest in the family, Gracy had different plans. She grew up in Punjabi Bagh but her eyes were always set on the marquee. “Sridevi was my favourite and didn't miss any of her films but Bollywood was never on my mind as a profession. I used to learn Bharatanatyam from a local institute called Saaz-O-Awaaz but my goal was to become a model. I used to attend Kaushik Ghosh's modelling workshop. You will be surprised to know that Sushmita Sen was in my batch. Sandali Sinha joined some time later. Eventually, we all made it to films.”

She might have taken long to realise, but the industry was quick to comprehend that Gracy has got the face to sell a million products but her body is not meant for catwalk. Pond's was the first to capture the grace and the rest queued up. Gracy was yearning to say good bye to academics and here was an opportunity to shift to the city of her dreams. “While I was busy with advertisements, veteran make-up artist Pandari dada advised me to try television. He suggested my name to director Sanjiv Bhattacharya, who was looking for a Punjabi girl to play Dinki. It was Sanjiv who taught me acting. Acting in Amanat was like going to school.”

A firm believer in destiny, Gracy says while doing Amanat, she met senior artist manager R. Joshi. “He was the one, who suggested Padmini to Raj Kapoor for Jis Desh Main Ganga Behti Hai. He believed my face is meant for films and suggested my name to Ashutosh Gowarikar for Lagaan.

Success, too soon

The dream became a reality but today Gracy feels it was just too quick. “Lagaan should have been my last film. When your first film is so big, people's expectations become hard to meet. Also I was not prepared to handle fame.” Gracy admits that she is not as social as compared to industry standards. “I have never met Sushmita after workshop days. I met Ashutosh only at the DVD release of the film. I don't see Aamir either. It is more out of shyness but some people take it as snobbery. Recently at a film shoot, a senior artist commented that a big star is one who wishes the entire unit every morning. I felt bad. Now I make it a point to wish everybody but my earlier attitude was not because I was smug. Main aisi hi hoon.”

She found herself stranded in the jungle when Joshi passed away. “I lost my link. Then I was tired of doing those four scenes-two songs routine in big banner productions and was yearning to do strong author-backed roles even if the banner is small. But when I signed such films, I realised such films find it hard to make it to the theatres.”

Aseema is one such film, where Gracy is playing the title role. Released this week, it is the story of a girl who walks out on her husband when she finds that he had an affair before marriage and is in no mood to accept her. “It is based on a literary work of Oriya writer Sailaja Kumari Aparajita Mohanty. The story is set in Orissa in the early ‘80s and ‘90s. It talks about small town girls who still have little choice when it comes to a career. Parents marry them off not realising what the girl will do if her husband ditches her. Aseema breaks the rules. After divorce, she studies and goes on to become a lecturer and provides her daughter the best education. She falls in love but doesn't get married till her daughter gets settled. It sounds little impractical but it is handled well by director Sisir Mishra. The message is woman has to find her way keeping in mind the social realities.”

Playing mom

Gracy was apprehensive about playing a mother and putting strands of grey. “I told Mishraji I love bright make-up and don't like dark lighting and shadows but he reminded me how he made a young Smita Patil age graceful in Bheegi Palken. Once I read the script, I realised the gravity of the role.”

However, Gracy is done with author-backed stuff and is again aiming for big banners and trying genres like comedy and thriller. Meanwhile, to keep the soul stirring, she is doing Bharatanatyam performances. “I have learnt from Deepak Majumdar. Recently, I performed a dance drama ‘Shyama', based on Rabindranath Tagore's work. It's more like a live film with instant reaction.” Amidst the hoopla of shutterbugs anxious to capture those immensely expressive eyes, she gives her parting shot. “I no longer dream!”