Sarika's second essay as an actor has seen her take on roles of substance, says ziya us salam

Sarika may mean many things to millions of film lovers. To those who had their first flush of youth in the 1970s and early 1980s, she would come across as the girl who launched a million fantasies. To those who did not quite like what they saw then, the second coming of Sarika has evoked more than a passing interest. They have discovered that she is subtle, sensible and a talented actress.

A couple of summers ago, she got the National Award for Rahul Dholakia's Parzania. Now, the fair-skinned, light-eyed Sarika may just mean more, much more to all. This time, her word counts more than on any other occasion. After all, she is part of the international film jury at the ongoing International Film Festival of India. Rarely ruffled, seldom a word out of place, Sarika is calm and measured as ever as she gives her take on films at IFFI, and what lies ahead; for herself, for the film industry. “I am not so sure if IFFI can really help in getting global recognition for Indian films. It just does not work that way. IFFI is being held in Goa. A majority of the audiences exposed to films of varied nature are Indian. Where IFFI helps is in providing a platform to our audiences who do not get to see the works of many master foreign filmmakers to appreciate those films. They can see films from, say, France or Iran and also go and see Dev D.”

She, however, rules out any comparison of Indian films with their foreign counterparts at a forum such as IFFI. “Most foreign films in the fray this year do not have the luxury of a big budget and are by either first-time or second-time directors. There are just a couple of Chinese and other big budget films. The very nature of selection of films for the festival is such that non-commercial ventures are encouraged. There is no reason to feel that Indian filmmakers will suffer here because of their relatively tight budget.”

Through with her take on IFFI films, Sarika takes off the hat of a juror. And soon dons the cape of a versatile artiste. Expressing her pleasure at the marriage of different art forms at IFFI where Leela Samson's troupe performed at the inaugural ceremony, Sarika says, “Art is art. It is just a manner of expression. The tools various artists use for expression are different. But at the end of the day, we are all in the same bracket. It could be a classical dance, a film, a painting or even a piece of writing; it is ultimately art for expression. And if we can combine various elements, blend them in a way that is not jarring, nothing can be better.”

So, Sarika who started off in films as a little girl and went to be a bombshell of sorts before deciding matrimony was better, is all for a blend of arts. Mix and match is what she appreciates in films too. “It is not fair to write off commercial cinema. You must understand that it may not find many takers on the festival circuit but it has been succeeding for many years. You and I may not think it is great cinema, but it is a cinema that works, despite all the criticism. Let us not disrespect the work of people who perform, people who toil to make these films. Whoever is making a film that is appreciated by audiences deserves respect.”

A central role and a National Award for Parzania, a minor but noticeable role in Bheja Fry and note-worthy performances in Manorama Six Feet Under and Sacred Evil etc. And, a meaty essay in Tahaan. So, how does Sarika's magic work at a time when most of her contemporaries have either retired from films or been reduced to playing stereotypical roles in Hindi films? “There is no magic but just a clear thought process. I realise the more variety of work you have in your resume, the more you will grow as an artiste. For instance, I cannot do a Parzania again. It will be boring. In my second innings I have been conscious with the choice of roles. My priority today is to see the role, see what it offers me, how well it blends with the story and how crucial it is to the central theme of the film.”

So, how does she manage to balance a little comic caper or a thriller with a sob drama in the shadow of the gun in Kashmir? “Well, I cannot carry the same mindset to every film set. Approaching every role in a different way is cool for me.”

As indeed are her forthcoming films that include Shoe Bite with Amitabh Bachchan and Kaccha Limbu where she reunites with Vinay Pathak after Bheja Fry. Of course, for the moment being part of the jury is cool too for Sarika. The hat fits. Life is cool.