“Of course, I've seen her films and always thought she was, well, fabulous — but, you know, million miles from the world I live in.” (Notting Hill, opening lines)
Until I moved to Bombay.
Anjali Patil was the first friend I made here after my move. I had first seen her in the independent film Delhi in a Day. She blew my mind when I saw her in the Prasanna Vithanage’s Sri Lankan film With You, Without You. I had to send her a Friend request.
Prasanna Vithanage’s brilliant film releases next Friday.
Anjali had won the Best Actress award for that film at IFFI, Goa in 2012. Earlier this year, she ended up with a Special Mention at the National Awards for her Telugu film Na Bangaru Talli.
She had grown up in Nashik, graduated in acting from Pune University – with a gold medal – before she left home to be an actress and joined National School of Drama where Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui among others were reborn as actors.
It was a great way to start this new column. Our encounter would be at Cinemax Versova, for Blended starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. 50 First Dates was my favourite romance film and I was excited about watching them in Blended, ten years after that film.
“I don’t even remember 50 First Dates, maybe because I was very young then. The dating culture was alien to me. Maybe now, I might like it. But just the idea of not remembering your life sucks, man,” says the actress.
Anjali liked Blended though. We laughed out loud quite a bit. There hadn’t been a romantic comedy out in a while. But Notting Hill was still her favourite.
“I like Tree of Life, I also like My Week With Marilyn but fine, if you want to call Notting Hill my favourite, go ahead,” she says when I tell her she’s always trying to sound serious. “Notting Hill is certainly in my top ten favourites,” she admits grudgingly.
“We do want the simple pleasures in life. It’s not about cozy romantic holidays or dinner dates. It is about just being loved, truly. Not because you are an actress but as a person,” she explains her attachment to Notting Hill.
She quotes Julia Roberts in Notting Hill: “Rita Hayworth used to say, "They go to bed with Gilda (her most famous part); they wake up with me."
“When you are in Bombay, there’s so much pressure around you. You have to socialise, attend events, be seen at parties… So even when I am not shooting, it feels like work. Visiting another city is when you switch off and get out of your actor’s shoes.”
Earlier this year, she packed her bags and took off to Bhopal and spent two months learning Dhrupad, purely on impulse. She learnt Sinhalese and Tamil because she wanted to dub for her role in With You, Without You. “I did the same thing for my Malayalam and Telugu films but they didn’t want me to dub,” she says.
But Na Bangaru Talli won her a National award anyway. “They got 410 entries and even without me dubbing for it, they gave me an award. Maybe it was a mistake,” she jokes.
She played a girl caught in human trafficking in Na Bangaru Talli, a naxalite who was gang-raped in Chakravyuh, a victim of war in With You, Without You, a newly married young widow in Mrs Scooter that’s set to release in August and a woman fighting rape in Kill the Rapist that will release later this year. “My face probably has this quality of a child but it has the body of a full-grown woman…okay, not full grown, whatever grown,” she laughs.
She plays the lead in Kill The Rapist. “It is a very sensitive issue and the team looked sensitive enough when I signed it,” she explains when I poke fun at her crass punchline from the promo. Is she happy doing these de-glam roles? “I don’t feel sad or deprived about not doing those glam roles. I should feel good that there are people who want to work with me because I am a performer and they want to exploit that.”
Not that she has any inhibitions about being a pin-up girl. “I would do a Maxim shoot just for the heck of it, just to explore what I can do. Not to be part of the race,” she says.
The only glam shoot she did was at home. No make up, just a little kajal and she explored her sensual side. “I haven’t shown these photos to many people,” she admits, asking me to pick one for this column.
“Love is a complicated, complex thing we don’t understand. Even though I do not have a sexy, glamorous or hot image, there’s a chance that the guy will fall for my onscreen image. I hope he can see beyond the superficial aspects and accept me as who I am,” she says.
The real her does not even use an air-conditioner at home. “Need is unending. The speed at which we are reaching for the sun, we are going to burn out with our unending needs and desires. I like greenery around me. I want my feet to feel the soil. There was a time I could travel by the local (train) but now I can’t. Now I have to travel by car. I have even started to enjoy driving now.”
Because it takes her home. To Nashik.