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Ray of hope

M. Pavitra
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Chat Lisa Ray turns designer. M. Pavitra

M ore than two decades ago Lisa Ray shot to fame with a Bombay Dyeing ad. Then, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan cast her in ‘Aafreen, Aafreen’. The actor who made her Bollywood debut in 2001 with Kasoor later went on to work with Deepa Mehta in films such as Hollywood/ Bollywood and Water . Diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2009, she was declared cancer-free a year later, following which she’s become a strong advocate for stem cell technology. The year 2011 marked Lisa’s return to the small screen, as host of ‘Oh My Gold!’ on TLC. More recently, the actor designed a range of limited-edition saris in collaboration with Satya Paul. Excerpts from an interview…

There has been a paradigm shift in the mindset of Indian filmmakers in terms of acceptance of foreign actors. Do you think you were not given that acceptance?

Bollywood completely accepted me. I was offered some very good films. The fact is I was not quite sure about Bollywood. Everything that I’ve done has been my choice. I never wanted to be a mainstream Bollywood heroine, not for lack of choice or lack of offers. People probably think I’m mad, as I said no more often than yes, but it was completely my choice.

What do you think about the kind of films being made now?

I really like them. We are having braver and stronger stories on women. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have left India if those movies were being made at that point of time. I like independent-minded and women-oriented stories and at that time they were hardly any women-oriented films.

You are seen more on TV than films. What do you find so attractive about the medium?

People need to understand what I went through was very serious. I was battling for my life and the fact that you are cured of cancer doesn’t mean you are up and running. Recovering from stem cell transplant normally takes a year or two, so I thought of taking one step at a time as I could not devote myself fully to movies considering the rigours of that profession.

It’s common perception that it is easy for celebrities to come out of such a situation as they have access to all amenities. Was your recovery from illness as smooth as it seemed?

I never made it out to be easy. I chronicled each and every step on the way. I have photographs with my hair gone; I did that to show people that it’s not easy but you can get through it. That’s my message. We are all human beings and go through the same kind of pain, the same anxiety, insecurities and fear. You are not immune to suffering even if you are a celebrity. In fact, sometimes it can be more difficult as you are always under the public radar and people pay more attention to you at that time.

What is keeping you busy at present?

I have just launched a special line of saris with Satya Paul, five of which are themed around life and have a special message stitched on them. I am also working on a book that I hope will be out in 2013; it narrates all the experiences I have had till date as an actress and as a cancer graduate, besides others. Recently, I was also offered two very good films and I am hoping to work with one of the filmmakers in the next year.


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