Dreamy eyes look for inspirational roles

"I want to do a beautifully sensual role. I'd love to shock people_"  

SHE COULD be labelled as an attention-seeking show-off. Or, perhaps, just plain honest. Not just the love of acting, but the silver screen means more for actress Gauri Karnik as she says: "I love attention! Maybe I just love to show off, but audiences give me a high! I love it when people look at me with rapt attention. Like this!" And propping her face between her hands, she stares into space just so that you have an idea of how she would like you to look at her.

A candid reply indeed from this pretty woman who looks back at a younger Gauri as an "introvert and a tomboy". But now, a self-proclaimed extrovert, one look at this bubbly bright-eyed girl and you know how the peppy song "Dil main jagi dhadkan... " from her debut film "Sur" was shot. And why her name in the forthcoming film "Prarambh" is "Chamki".

"I was never like this! Whatever I am today, I have to thank my college -- St. Xavier's -- for it! I was an introvert, very quiet. I had never done any acting or theatre in school or college. But now, I am completely different -- a complete extrovert!" she says gesticulating excitedly. And adds with a laugh: "I have somehow always played the role of being an inspiration. `Sur' was like that and `Prarambh' is all about how this woman `Chamki' adds a spark to the life of a beggar and turns his life around."

If life had gone the way Gauri had planned, this economics graduate from St. Xavier's in Bombay would have been ploughing through files on India's relations with her neighbours. But a Miss India contest and a few television serials later, Gauri found herself on the road to Bollywood. Instead of the "picture-perfect" career of the Indian Foreign Service, destiny led Gauri into the film world.

"At 19, the Miss India contest looked very appealing. Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen had just won the Crown and they were women who walked tall and spoke well. And I was a complete tomboy! It was very attractive at that point of time in life and so I just participated. And then offers came from television and suddenly `Sur' happened."

And though `Sur' did not send the cash registers ringing, it set the path of Gauri's career.

"I have given up planning! I have never chosen anything in life. I plan something but it never works out that way. So I don't choose events," says Gauri. Then rolling her eyes upward, she adds: "I just do what I feel like and go along with what happens! I sing when I like, paint when I like. For me this is not work. I am not compelled to do it. And I don't have a habit that I need too much money for!"

Still regarded somewhat a newcomer, Gauri has plenty planned for the audience. While she is hoping that Friday the 13th -- premiere night for `Prarambh' -- does not turn out to be unlucky, she is also keeping her fingers crossed for a quick release of "Hum Jo Kehna Payee" and "Stop".

But if things have been relatively quiet for her for some time now, Gauri has a ready answer for it. "I don't want to do ten films at the same time. This way I would learn from the mistakes I have made in my last project. I would have time to improve on them rather than repeating them. I don't mind new mistakes, but I don't want to repeat my old ones," explains the actress. And as for `Sur', there's plenty that Gauri learnt from it: "There were bits in `Sur' where I saw that my performance wasn't up to the mark. And some places where I was low on energy. I have realised that cooking and performance can never be perfect!"

But for her next role, Gauri wants to break out of the `good girl' mould that the industry has put her in. "I want to do something sexy! Something very different from what I have been doing till now. I want to change my identity! I would love to do Bipasha Basu's role in `Jism'! When I told Pooja that I would have loved to do that role, she I said I looked too simple and straight! But I want to do a beautifully sensual role. I'd love to shock people," she says with a smile.

Photo: S. Subramanium

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