Niharika Singh says that identifying with her role in the film was easy since she too is a struggling actor

“Totally unemployed and not a bundle of nerves” — that’s how actress Niharika Singh, who plays the lead in Miss Lovely (released on January 17) likes to sum up her state of being. “I am very Zen at the moment. The movie was shot in 2009 and it did the festival circuit (was at Cannes last year). We were waiting for an India release all this while. The wait has only helped to remove any apprehension,” says the beauty pageant winner, who has already been making waves with her portrayal of the struggling actress in the critically acclaimed film.

For Niharika, the last four years have been a journey in self-education. “I was looking for work when Ashim (Ahluwalia, director) offered me Miss Lovely. I came to the sets, totally clueless regarding the intricacies of acting. I was totally unprepared for what awaited me — a newcomer working with people such as Ashim and Nawazuddin (Siddiqui, her co-star) who are masters of their craft. I realised how much I didn’t know. I learnt every single day. Even when we went to Cannes, for me, it wasn’t just the red carpet or the gown I wore. I was too engrossed assimilating this whole new realm of international films that had opened up to me,” says Niharika, who returned to take a film appreciation course at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.

The actress says that identifying with Miss Lovely was easy for her, as even she is a struggling actress. “I didn’t have any trouble understanding Pinky. I have been around since I was 17,” she says. Niharika started out in her hometown Dehradun before shifting to Delhi’s modelling scene and eventually to Mumbai. “I moved from doing free modelling shows to doing those with a paltry pay. I have seen women changing identities to fit into newer roles every time. I have shared rooms with similar ‘strugglers’ and know their personalities and ideas.”

The idea of debuting with a film based on the C-grade cinema of the 1980’s and 90’s also didn’t perturb her, she says. “See, I am not classist. C-grade cinema is a part of our history. If nobody talks of that or has decided to put it under the carpet and not document its existence, then we should only be proud that Ashim thought of making this film. I had also seen Ashim’s John & Jane, so I knew I was in the hands of a sensitive filmmaker who knew what he was doing. It wasn’t like we were filming a porn movie itself!” she responds.

On working with Nawazuddin, Niharika says it helped that she didn’t know who he was when they started filming. “We didn’t have a clue regarding one another. He probably wondered if I could act at all! With time, I realised the immense wealth of talent I was up against. I guess he realised that I could do a decent act as well,” she laughs.

Niharika feels that now is a good time to be in the movies. “Our history has several examples of people trying to change set patterns in cinema. So this surge of new voices in cinema isn’t new, yet it is being seen after a long gap of 20 or 25 years. So I am happy to be here,” she adds.