Karnataka lass Avantikka gets a lucky break in Bollywood. She tells BHUMIKA K. the lack of hype may work to her advantage
She’s the fresh new face that ace producer Pahlaj Nihlani has discovered. And the young actor is proud to be the latest south Indian in big, bad Bollywood. The bubbly, giggly Avantikka is all of 22 and says she suddenly outgrew her awkward and gangly-teen-with-braces-and-frizzy-hair phase (“The Mumbai air groomed me a bit!”), wanting to be a filmmaker.
Of course, the transformation ensured that she landed the lead in “Khushboo — The Fragrance of Love” released this weekend. “Mysore is my permanent address,” she declares, pointing to her roots down south. Born in Mysore, her father’s bureaucratic job took her to Delhi, Gujarat, and finally Mumbai. “My grandparents are in Mysore and I’ve spent every single summer holiday there,” she says.
Back at her home in Mumbai after seven months of shooting in Manali, fields in Chandigarh and Mumbai’s ND Studios, she’s celebrating her 22nd birthday the day we call her. She landed in Mumbai a year and a half ago and met director Rakyesh Om Prakash Mehra. He offered her an ad for Dabur Chyavanprash. Pahlaj Nihlani saw the ad and picked her for the film, she says. Nihlani is known for introducing actors like Govinda, Chunkey Pandey, Neelam, Divya Bharti to Hindi films and re-launching the careers of the likes of Sunny Deol.
As simple as that. No knocking on doors of directors and producers and going through the rigmarole of agencies and photographs.
In an age when star children and their much-touted launches are the rage, Avantikka sensibly insists that not being a star kid has advantages. “It’s in a way difficult because expectations are very low. But I believe thatlower the hype, it works to your advantage.”
In “Khushboo…” she plays a boisterous Punjabi girl. She was convincing enough to be offered a Punjabi film soon after! “I’ve spent a few years in Delhi, where I studied Hindi and my family is blessed with no hardcore south Indian accent. In fact, people here don’t know that I’m from the south and when they do get to know, they always ask me ‘Aap ko Hindi aati hai?’,” she laughs.
She’s had no formal acting training, but has had basic training in Kathak. “Dancing is the best form of learning acting because acting is abhinaya after all. As a child, I showed innate talent and propensity for music and dance. I was never academically oriented. I was a last-minute crammer.” She just knew that films were her calling. Mumbai’s gotten engrained into her all right!
The double K in her name is for numerology, isn’t it? She guffaws and says, “As soon as I came someone told me my name adds up to three and all that. I said what’s in a name. A rose by any name smells sweet.” Considering her dad was a policemen, did the evil ones keep off her? Again some full-throated laughter before she says: “My mom is with me on the sets all the time, everywhere. She’s my best bodyguard and chaperone.”
She has a two-film contract with Pahlaj Nihlani and rejected four other film offers after “Khushboo…”.
“I was advised that my second film would be crucial to where my career heads. This film becomes an important marker and I didn’t want to succumb and get into B runs.” The polyglot speaks English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Gujarati and now some Punjabi too.