Vishakha Singh gets the best of both worlds

With a host of exciting new-age projects, Vishakha Singh, best known for her debut in Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se (KHJJS) a few years ago and more recently for Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya (KLTA) in Tamil, has a busy year ahead with three of her films awaiting release — Vikram Bhatt’s Ankur Arora Murder Case, Farhan Akhtar’s production Fukrey directed by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and Shashant Shah’s Bajate Raho. And, she’s also turned producer for indie projects — Peddlers and Haramkhor — that have generated great buzz. Vishakha Singh was in town and we caught up with her for a chat.

From the period setting in Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se to a Tamil comedy film seems like the other end of the spectrum.

As an actor I can't restrict myself to any particular genre. After KHJJS people remembered me as this intense actor. Now, intense: I am. Hardworking: I am. Intelligent: I am. But heck, I am also fun!

So when KLTA came along, I was game for it. My director Manikandan K S came from an advertising background. I knew he was going to present me well. And the reference he gave me was that of Sai Paranjpe’s Chashme Buddoor. I was naturally hooked.

When did you know you wanted to be an actress?

Films were never on the agenda. No one in the family is from the film industry. I grew up away from Mumbai. Films happened by chance. Long ago, I was visiting Mumbai during my summer vacation. And I was spotted by someone from Ashutosh Gowariker’s office. They asked me to meet him and audition for Swades. Yes, it was back then! I was the culturals captain in school at that point of time, and was involved with dramatics . I was shortlisted but not selected. He told me I looked too immature. That's when the acting bug bit me. I thought if an Oscar Nominee Director like Ashu Sir can see some potential in me then I certainly must have it.

You have been part of the new wave young Hindi cinema with Peddlers and Fukrey. You even produced Vasan Bala’s Peddlers.

This is such a fabulous time for the film industry. Jaded commercial formulas are fading out. We have fresh young talent pouring in. The audience tastes are changing. The ‘offbeat independent variety’ has become commercially viable.

As long as you are within your budget, work with a like-minded team and know how to market it to the target audience, I don’t see any reason for such films to not do well. I am proud to be associated with Peddlers. I have co-produced it with Guneet Monga and AKFPL (Anurag Kashyap Films Pvt. Ltd.) has presented it. Let me clarify, I am not starring in it. As a co-producer, it was minimum investment-minimum risk for me. Peddlers being part of the Cannes Critics Week 2012 was a huge turning point for me.

How are you balancing your time between the cinemas of the North and the South? How different have they been for you?

The past year has been crazy. I co-produced Peddlers and now Haramkhor with the same team. I am shooting four films back to back and starting my fifth film... My first Malayalam film with Rajesh Raman Pillai called Motorcycle Diaries. It's been an eclectic mix.

So, apart from the language and the effort I put in switching from a Tamil ponnu to a Punjabi kudi, there’s not much of a difference between the North and the South.

If you were to look back at the history of Indian cinema and pick one or two actresses you want to be like, who would they be?

You know if I had my way I would love to do films such as Paruthiveeran, Kaadhal, Fashion, Kill Bill, Guru, Black, Crash, Gone with the wind, Loins of Punjab or even the role of a Basanti from Sholay! Picking one or two actresses is difficult.

There have been quite a few actresses who have left a mark. Smita Patil, Nargis and Madhubala left a huge impact on me. Among the present lot, hats off to Rani Mukherjee and Priyanka Chopra.