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And now it's southward ho!

Amisha Patel enters South with the Vijay starrer, "Geethai". SREEDHAR PILLAI talks to her.

Amisha Patel.

AMISHA PATEL, one of the most successful Bollywood actresses, has taken a bold decision — to do more films in regional languages. Amisha, heroine of the two biggest blockbusters of all times, "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" and "Gadar" is now playing heroine to the Tamil superstar Vijay in "Geethai", and rising heartthrob of Telugu cinema, Mahesh Babu in "New."

Amisha has decided to take the plunge at a time when she is the queen-bee of Bollywood commercial cinema. In fact she has a better track record than any of her contemporaries, as last year's thriller "Humraaz" featuring her with Bobby Deol and Akshay Khanna was also a big hit.

Amisha's favourite hero's the Deol brothers (Sunny and Bobby) and the one and only Hrithik Roshan were on the slide. So it made perfect commercial sense for Amisha to move South as she was getting offers from top banners. Actually she is having the best of both worlds as she has four assignments in Hindi and two down South and keeps shuttling between Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Last week we caught up with the actress, a gold medallist in Economics from the University of Boston and grand daughter of the late Mumbai Congress stalwart, Rajni Patel, at the Raghavendra Kalyana Mandapam, in Chennai, where she was shooting a song with Vijay.

So you have taken the plunge to do South Indian films?

Yes. Immediately after "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai", I did the Telugu film, "Badri" with Pawan Kalyan, which was a super hit, but after that I became so busy in Hindi, that I could not concentrate here.

Your detractors say that you have been acting pricey in Bollywood and not willing to act with smaller stars. And when the trend changed you found yourself in the cold?

I have worked with the biggest stars in show business, as well as struggling stars like Jimmy Shergill, Arjun Rampal and Aftab Shivdasini. In cinema, everything depends on your box-office draw and if I start acting pricey I wouldn't be here at all.

There is a feeling down South that Mumbai girls are roped in for the glamour factor and not for their acting calibre. What do you feel about it?

Even I know a few Mumbai models, beauty queens and failed actresses who came down South to do glamour roles, but don't put me into that category. I may have done some `naach-gana' in my films, which is part of commercial cinema. Still I am known as a mature and serious actress in Mumbai. So in the South too I look forward doing some performance-oriented roles.

Playing heroine to Tamil superstar Vijay in "Geethai".

So what is your role in "Geethai"?

I have a meaty role in "Geethai", where I play a Malayali Catholic girl full of verve and attitude. It is a sacrificial role, in which I am sure to be noticed along with Vijay. I have three songs, as it is a commercial film.

Will you be doing more films in Tamil? How comfortable are you with the language?

First of all I will do only films with reputed banners and directors. The role should be exciting and challenging. Jagan, the director of "Geethai" had given a narration of the story and as I am not too familiar with the language, I get an English translation of the script. After all I have to safe guard my screen image, which is my bread and butter.

What is your screen image?

In all my films, I have portrayed the role of an Indian woman with middle class values. My predecessors like Madhubala, Meena Kumari and Madhuri Dixit had dignity and womanhood attached to their roles, which made them a favourite with the masses. I would like to do similar roles.

But the clothes you wear on screen give you the glamour doll look...

Please take a look around, the page three culture has created a blue print for film directors who are aiming at the cola sipping, disc hopping, upwardly mobile, post-liberation yuppies.

Even World Cup cricket broadcast now is being sold using glamour ladies. So wearing Western clothes is not indecent any longer and let me tell you that I am among the few actresses who follow a dress code.

Is the dress code applicable in South Indian films too?

(Smiles) I have made it clear in my contract that I will have my personal dress designer for all the films in Telugu and Tamil.

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