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Diffident and determined


Rohini Hattangady would rather do theatre than stereotypical roles on film.

CAREER DEFINING As Kasturba in `Gandhi.'

Rohini Hattangady was 27-years old when she did the defining role of Kasturba Gandhi in Sir Richard Attenborough's multiple Oscar winning movie, Gandhi. "I did not win an Oscar," Rohini exclaims with a smile.

Incidentally, Rohini is the only Asian to have won a BAFTA for Actress in a Supporting Role for her turn as Kasturba. "It was quite an experience playing Kasturba with an age graph of 28 to 74. Tom Smith did the make up. He was an artist the way he would literally paint my face - the whole thing took two hours."

About why she did not capitalise on her success in Gandhi with more assignments in the West, Rohini, laughs depreciatingly and says, "I did not know how to! I did not have an agent or anything."

Actually, the part of Kasturba worked against Rohini, "I was only offered mother roles. It took Pankaj (Parashar) who is a good friend to help me break out of the stereotype. He told me that I am only doing these serious roles and that I should freak out. He gave me complete freedom for both Jalwa and Chaalbaaz and I had a great time as well.

Though Rohini was part of a film that garnered eight academy awards and 11 nominations, the level of hysteria is nothing compared to the hype and hoopla that surrounded Lagaan and The Little Terrorist.

"There is more awareness these days, thanks to television."After Munnabhai MBBS, Rohini has not been seen on screen. "There is no particular reason. I am not getting any good roles. And I am also busy with television and the stage."

A graduate from the National School of Drama and Asian Theatre Institute, Rohini has set the stage alight with her histrionics be it in the Yakshagana Bhishma Vijay or the classical Japanese Kabuki play Ibaragi and her recent solo act in Aparajita.

"It is taxing to be the only person on stage for 90 minutes non-stop. I have not done this kind of role ever. It needed a lot of rehearsals as the play goes backwards and forwards. Working out the chronology was difficult. The play has 18 characters and it was a challenge but I like challenges."

SERENDIPITOUS REVELATION `I am very different from the characters I play.' PHOTO: SATISH. H

Rohini is all thanks to director-husband Professor Jayadev Hattangady "for choreographing the play in such a way as to make performance easy."

Having worked with her husband on five productions, Rohini says, "Jayadev treats me like an actor. Being a husband does not come into the equation. We do not rehearse at home!"

Ask Rohini whether she is closer to her Kasturba personage or her Chaalbaaz wicked aunt and she thinks and says, "neither or both! When I am acting, I study the role and naturally, some of my experience would colour the way I play the character. But once I am off the sets, I switch off. I believe if you carry the character within you, you are limited."

"Actually I am very different from the characters I play. I am very fun loving and though I play these brave characters on screen, I am terrified of cockroaches! One needs to be diffident to be a good actor. I was very shy about my looks as I used to wear glasses."

Rohini won a National Award for her role in Party and is quite horrified at the parallels being drawn between Govind Nihalani's film and Madhur Bhandarkar's Page 3. "They are totally different movies! Party is about intellectual decadence and Naxals."

About the multiplex movie, Rohini says it is too early to sing hosannas. "Time will tell if it is sustainable." And Rohini has fondest memories of Telugu cinema. "I have done six Telugu films including Ram Gopal Varma's Rathri and it was lovely. Everyone is so professional."

If she wasn't an actor, Rohini confesses to wanting to be a doctor. But medicine's loss is most definitely acting's gain!

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