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Political avatar with promises

She is an actor and dancer-turned politician. Now, her biggest challenge, Jayaprada tells ZIYA US SALAM, lies in doing something for Rampur constituency, and balancing three careers at the same time.

Miles to go and work to do ... Jayaprada shows she is serious about her real-life role.

HISTORY IS not always made in a convulsion. At times, it is crafted, pieced together. Patiently, brick by brick. That actually is the need of the hour in Rampur, the home of classical music, often derided for manufacturing local knives, and only occasionally remembered for its delectable cuisine. The sad concern is the need has been felt for long; the blessing is it is finally being met, only if partially, only if in fits and starts.

``God has given me name, fame, money everything. Now I want to make a mark and leave my work for posterity. I want to work for love for that is one feeling one can never have enough of. I want to open educational centres. I want to open an engineering college for women. I want to give power to the people. I have to build schools.

``I have to make sure that the local handicraft items get good buyers abroad. I want to set up at least two industries here. Maybe, some of my friends can help out with investment. I want to open maternity centres in jails. The roads need attention.

``I am opening an ashram for women between the ages of 16 and 45. I know the loneliness of life. I do not want any woman who comes to me to go back empty handed. It is important that every girl gets (an) education and stands on her feet to be able to find her way in this male-dominated society.''

Not an empty slogan

``Remember my election line was, `Andhra is my janambhoomi but Uttar Pradesh is my karmbhoomi.' I want to prove that was not an empty slogan. I will have my share of detractors, I always have, but I am not here as just a pretty face, somebody who came asking for votes, then disappeared.''

Ah! More than a handful of promises? And some slice of work too! Welcome then to the political avatar of Jayaprada, once called the most beautiful woman in the country by none other than Satyajit Ray, and often quoted as the lifetime achievement award for the lady who made quite a career playing the docile, meek woman, bangles on her hands, sindoor on her forehead, long, flowing saris and pooja thali in her hand.

``I always wanted to be a part of a joint family. Stay in ghunghat, apply henna and the like. That was not to be. But I am happy with what I have got. Now, my biggest challenge lies in doing something for Rampur, and balancing three careers at the same time.''

Three, did she say? ``Yes, I have not said goodbye to films. I am in Rampur as Jayaprada. People know me because of my films. They are my identity.''

The dancer displays her talent in a sequence from a Bengali movie, "Swapney Dekha Rajkanya."

Talking of identity, Jayaprada is trying to shed the image of a conventional, doormat housewife she played with unfailing monotony in her films, ranging from "Swarg Se Sundar" to "Ghar Ghar ki Kahani" and "Maa."

Daring role

In what is already being talked about as the most daring role of her career, she plays a woman, Sandhya, divorced after 12 years of marriage, and finds succour with a man much younger in Mahesh Manjrekar's "Deh," the dubbing of which is now going on.

``I don't know what the problem is with the media? Everybody seems to jump to conclusions, saying `oh! It is an older woman, young man love story. That it is like `Ek Chhotisi Love Story,' etc. Rubbish. It is like `Astitva.' ''

Fair enough, even her director says, ``If men hated me for `Astitva,' they would like to kill me after `Deh.' And Jayaprada with her domestic appearance and conventional role was just the right choice for playing Sandhya.''

Jayaprada continues, ``Everybody says marriage is a safe institution but there is no safety if one of the partners does not do his bit. If one tyre is punctured, the other cannot carry the load. When a partner errs, there can be divorce.

``In any such instance, there is loneliness for the woman at the end. But a woman cannot kill herself for the husband. Woh Sati hone ka zamana chala gaya. Nor can a woman put a full stop to her own (life).''

Is reel mirroring real? ``I don't know but with greater exposure to the world I have learnt it does not pay for a woman to keep quiet or put up with all the philandering of men.''

After "Deh," Jayaprada will be seen in Nitin Manmohan's "Tathastu" with Sanjay Dutt and Amisha Patel. ``I play a doctor here but this is not a conventional film. It is about the misuse and sale of organs in the hospitals.''

In "Khakee" with Amitabh Bachchan ... since she could not give enough dates for the film her part was reduced.

After "Tathastu," she plays a principal in "College Campus," a seven-day shooting schedule,which was wrapped up in December. ``This is set in a college, and with incidents of ragging and drugs etc, it is a timely film. It does not have stars because the subject would have been diluted by star presence.'' Incidentally, the only identifiable face from the film besides Jayaprada is Milind Gunaji.

These two films are useful for Jayaprada's career, as she had to struggle like a newcomer on her comeback to films a couple of years ago. ``I did `Bharat Bhagya Vidhata' where the film turned out to be completely different from the script narrated to me. Then I did Rajkumar Santoshi's `Khakee' with Amitji but I could not find enough dates for the films as my husband was not well, so my role was chopped off.''

Talking of there being not enough dates, Jayaprada faced this problem last year too when she had to opt out of Keshu's "Insan," then titled "Sipahi." ``It clashed with the election campaign. The shooting could not be postponed, so I opted out.''

But there are no problems foreseen for N. Chandra's film, tentatively titled, "Abhinetri." ``I am playing the lead opposite Amitabh Bachchan. Sanjay is there too,'' she says with pride in her eyes, adding, ``It is a role of substance.''

From politics to acting, to dance. Yes, that is the third aspect of her life with `three careers.' ``I want to perform at Amrapali in March this year. It has been postponed a couple of times already. Now I want to make sure that does not happen this time. I am on a strict diet. I am not touching any ice-cream or pizzas until then.''

Then it is back to the grind of grimy lanes and bylanes of Rampur.

``I hardly ever go away from Rampur. I have been to three girls' schools today itself. In Poorva Madhyamik Vidyalaya I found the discipline okay but one of the schools near Rajdwara needs better infrastructure,'' she reels off her day's whistle-stop schedule, once again emphasising that here is a woman riding three horses at the same time, and determined to reach her destination.

Unkind press

``The Press has been so unkind to me. The Rampur sugar factory had been lying locked for more than seven years. I have got it re-opened, giving employment to thousands of people. We are putting (in) effort to start production. Engineers and technocrats from Lucknow have visited the place. The production is likely to start in March and by next season all the farmers can bring their produce here. It could not start by December because the infrastructure had gone to seed. There is rust and decline in everything because it was locked for so long. Still, the media only talks of `Jaya's sugar promise turns bitter.' I have been to the far-flung areas of the constituency, the areas often under flood. I have also got place for inter-college festivals and I am speaking to the Chief Minister for the engineering college. I have so many dreams for the place. Five years is too short a time but I want to make a difference.''

Well, if she is as effective in her stint as the Lok Sabha MP from Rampur — and not a Rajya Sabha gatecrasher as a shallow Delhi socialite called her just the other day — the place's geography, history and everything else might be changed for the better. Meanwhile, there are cine dreams to live by. And lots of promises.

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