Actor-politician Jayaprada tells Bhumika K. that the world of politics or films isn’t dirty by themselves. It’s the way you see it
It’s easy to scoff at actors who get enticed into the whirlpool of Indian politics. It’s easier still to give them the “glamour-doll-drawing-votes” tag when the actor in question is a woman. But there must be something Jayaprada is doing right. She was elected a second time as Lok Sabha MP from Rampur in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh. An admirable feat for a woman who couldn’t initially get roles in Bollywood because she couldn’t speak Hindi. Even more admirable considering the dirty games her senior colleagues played this election to humiliate her.
One wonders what really drove her away from Bollywood into far off Rampur; not even back to home turf Rajamundhry in Andhra Pradesh. Jayaprada, the reigning traditional beauty of the 80s from the South — she of the long braid, the doe eyes, the perfect mole above the lips, and an actress who could really dance and is immortalised as the “dafliwaali” from her Hindi debut film “Sargam” — didn’t seem like she would go further in the political arena beyond a cursory campaign magnet.
But the actor took her voters seriously, unlike many other star colleagues who’ve been questioned for doing a cameo election-time appearance only to ask for votes. “It wasn’t my decision really to enter politics,” says Jayaprada, more than a decade after she first became a Rajya Sabha MP in 1996 from the Telugu Desam Party. “I love to be in films. My passion is music and dance. But when you think of reality in the real world… that’s what made me turn to politics,” she explains.
Jayaprada was in the city as brand ambassador for the Jewels of India exhibition that takes off on October 2, with its array of gold, diamonds, platinum and gems to offer in time for the wedding season. In between photo shoots for the exhibition’s advertisements, as her make-up is getting done, Jayaprada, looking gorgeous at 47, takes some time off for a chat.
“Everyone asks me why I joined the dirty world of politics… but there’s always both meaningful and dirty politics. My experience in these last elections was a challenge — when dirty politics really hit me. But women really supported me and the credit of my winning goes to good politics,” she says.
But any questions about the Azam Khan incident (the senior SP leader, now expelled, had allegedly distributed morphed nude photographs of her during the election campaign) make Jayaprada emotional. After all, she had considered Azam Khan her political mentor and brother. Tears well up in her eyes and in that one fleeting moment the pain the incident inflicted on her becomes obvious.
“It was a harrowing sequence of events. But it has made me strong now,” she says, even as tears form an obvious film on her lovely, large eyes. She recovers her composure in a flash and adds: “Now no one can take me for granted in any relationship. My life can’t be a full stop with Azam Khan. I’m thankful that he made me strong.”
But what’s dirtier — the world of politics or films? “It’s how you look at it. If you have a dirty mind, you’ll find it dirty. If you have a good mind, you’ll find it beautiful. There are two ways you can live and you choose your life.”
Bollywood and politics don’t really gel well. “Dharamji and Govinda were not so successful (in their political careers)…At first people of Rampur thought of me like that — ‘ Bollywood mein rehne waali hai. She’ll just take votes and go back’. But I’ve put a pause on my Bollywood career, and decided to sacrifice it. If you mingle politics and your profession, you can’t be successful.” She talks at length of her projects in Rampur to provide education, connectivity, and employment. This year she plans to open a cricket academy, and a paramedical school in her mother Neelaveni Krishna’s name in her constituency.
The queen of multitasking admits: “I’m doing ads, politics, Parliament and Rampur…I’m lucky to have everything in my pocket. I live in Mumbai, my mother is in Hyderabad, my politics is in UP and in Chennai is my business (she and her brothers own two theatres). It’s difficult to manage but I’ve gotten used to it and so far I feel I’ve given everything my best.”
But what made her go all the way to Rampur? It’s a question that puzzles many. “God has decided this route for me. It’s a miracle. Otherwise there’s no connection anywhere. Nothing is planned or designed in my life. At every crossroad I feel there’s no way.”
When she entered Bollywood, southern heroines were chastised for not knowing Hindi. But today actresses from the north do well in southern films. Jayaprada doesn’t go easy on them. “Heroines of today can hardly speak their dialogues. They don’t need language perfection. In our time, the demands were more, and that’s why people remember the characters we played better.” She’s just wrapped up a Bengali film “Shesh Sangat” which she’s also co-produced, There’s the Hindi-English bilingual “Desire”, and two more films with Buddhadeb Das Gupta and K.C. Bokadia.
But doesn’t she miss the world of films? “Maybe people are missing me on the big screen. If earlier I did 14 films, now I’m doing four. I do miss films. But I’ve come midway in politics. And I never leave anything midway.”