As Jaya Prada settles down for the interview Satyajit Ray comes to mind. The maestro is said to have called her the ‘most beautiful face on the Indian screen'. We'll just modify it to ‘the most beautiful face in the Indian Parliament.'
The face that launched….
A compliment is inevitable and she laughs and attributes it to ‘the Almighty'. She talks about her career – as actor and politician. Both are tough and demanding, in different ways. While the former requires her to be fit and beautiful, the latter is high profile nevertheless, but requires or rather demands her to be always on call. The common factor? “The love of the people.”
Apart from a four year break, Jaya has been acting. Her kitty is full. Besides Blessy's ‘Pranayam,' in which she is acting opposite Mohanlal, she is acting in a Kannada film, a historical based on the life of Rani Chenamma and then there is a film where she is acting a tough-cop (‘different one').
She is most keyed-up and excited about the Bhojpuri film she is going to act in. She is open to new things, and “when people ask me why Bhojpuri? It is such a vibrant industry and why not?” And she is raring for films and acting.
Dancing is an important aspect of her acting and she still keeps in touch with that too. In fact, in between all the things that she is doing there is a dance drama/ballet that she is preparing for. “It is ‘Aamrapali'. It will be staged later in the year in Hyderabad.”
Education is another area of interest. Jaya wants to open a film academy in Kerala, “there is so much potential here. It is also born of a desire to give an education which I missed.”
She does clarify that she was fortunate enough to have worked with, and had as teachers, people such as NTR, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, K. Balachander, K. Viswanath, Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth and Amitabh Bachchan.
“While acting with Amitji in ‘Sharaabi' he was very helpful with Hindi and other aspects of acting. I was fortunate enough to have worked with such greats when I was a newcomer.”
A need to do something meaningful for people led her to politics. She is full of quotable quotes, more politician than actor though both require a bit of the other. Sample this… she hails from Andhra Pradesh (AP), but was elected to the Lok Sabha from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh (UP), so the equation is “AP + UP = JP” (JP for Jaya Prada of course). Where does the confidence to pull off something like that come from? She just shrugs, “I am an adamant person if I want something really badly I get it. If there is a challenge then I have to take it up and overcome it.”
Sans political godfathers she says she has worked hard to get to the place she is at now. She had a few things going against her actually. No godfathers, a woman and an actor to boot. “We (filmwallahs) don't belong to anybody. But that worked as an advantage for me…I, therefore, came into politics without any baggage.”
When she talks about her constituency and its problems, there is genuine concern and pride. Development issues pertaining to farmers and weavers in eastern UP bother her, although ‘my constituency is in western UP.'
She has strong opinions and views be it the trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh or the new party that Amar Singh is, according to her, planning to float. She says she has ‘measured the length of Purvanchal with my feet,' referring to the Purvanchal Swabhimaan padyatra that she participated in.
She has done her share of television too, a talk show in Telugu called ‘Jayapradam' inspired by ‘Koffee with Karan'. Of course, she asked the questions but at the end of each show her guests (and her friends) would ask her “why politics?” The conviction with which she talks about her politics it is clear that it is one role that she holds dear to her heart.
Jaya belongs to that rare breed of actors which calls a spade a spade. Since she is the MP responsible for stalling the proceedings of the Parliament over the Women's Reservation Bill, does she think anything will ever happen on that front? “No. Nothing will happen. It will go on like this, there is no political will. Look at the Lokpal Bill how it happened.”
And the best compliment…
“It has to be what Satyajit Ray said. It is the best compliment I have got and from what a great person.”