Ishaa Koppikar is finally moving towards her dream-prize - getting out of the item girl trap 'very soon,' she adds with the bubbling enthusiasm that befits the high energy levels of this an item number in Ram Gopal Verma's COMPANY. For this statuesque frame of five feet and seven inches with sculpted features and beautiful eyes, life has never been better than it is right now, what with leading roles in big banners lined up for quick release in the near future. Our Correspondent holds her captive for an interview
We know you have a background in modelling. Then how did films happen? I got into modelling merely for pocket money because no one in my family has ever been remotely linked either to modeling or to films. It just happened. My father is a gynaecologist and my mother used to work in a bank. My grandmother was the first lady graduate to come out of Mumbai's R. R. Ruia College. I was a state level basketball player and also trained in Kathak from Neelambari Jadhav who is a disciple of Birju Maharaj. I have trained in Taekwondo and Hapkido, which is less violent and involves subduing the opponent with the use of several body locks. Films just happened and my first break in a Hindi film was EK THA DIL EK THI DHADKAN which got shelved. In the meantime, I graduated in Life Sciences because my father insisted that I finish college. I won the Miss Talent Crown in the Miss India 1995 contest. I began with the Tamil film KAADAL KAVITHAI (1998) opposite Prashanth that fetched me the Filmfare Best Female Debut Award. I also acted opposite Arvind Swamy in the Tamil film EN SWASA KAATRE and a couple of Telugu films. But after COMPANY, there has been no looking back.
We hear your role was chopped on the editing table for KAANTE? Yes. That's right. Though I was a bit disappointed in the beginning when I saw that all I had were two item numbers in KAANTE one after another and no role to speak of, I took it in my stride as an occupational hazard one goes through in every line of work.
What criteria do you use while accepting a role? Firstly, the presentation and packaging of the final product must be good. Secondly, the script should excite me absolutely. The banner should be big enough to appeal to me. Then my role in the film, who my hero is going to be and of course, the director. I know I am a very spontaneous actress but I am also known to be a director's delight because I am extremely disciplined on the sets, am ready to do my homework religiously and give 100% to my role and to the film.
You are now doing very diverse roles in some really meaty films, aren't you? That's right. I have been trying to break out of the item-girl stereotype for some time now. I played a paan-chewing cop in KYA KOOL HAI HUM and since then, some directors discovered that I have a very good flair for comedy. I would love to get roles that need comedy because the film industry in Bollywood lacks a female comedienne today. I think I could fill that niche. Now, I am doing very diverse roles that have given me the chance to explore my potential and test my commitment to hard work. The films that are now lined up for release are - Atul Agnihotri's HELLO based on One Night @ the Call Center, Chetan Bhagat's BESTSELLER, Lalit Marathe's SHABRI, Jahnu Barua's HARR PAL, Manoj Tiwari's HELLO DARLING and Kaushik Ghatak's EK VIVAAH AISA BHI. Each character is different from the next posing a challenge to my abilities as an actress.
What roles are you playing in these films? In HELLO DARLING, I play a Hariyanvi girl from Panipat who arrives in Mumbai looking for a job. It deals with serious issues like sexual harassment at the workplace but with a very light-hearted touch. There are three girls in the film and I play a girl who works under a kind of a pervert boss played by Javed Jaffrey. The message of the film is that the way a girl dresses is no indication of her moral character or values. I got the director to get me a language expert to lend cadence to my Hindi spoken with a heavy Hariyanvi accent. In HARR PAL, I am Preity Zinta's friend and we stay together in a hostel. The impact my character has on the life of the character Preity plays in the film is the focus. In SHABRI, I play an orphaned woman. HELLO is about five friends of which I play one of the three girls along with Gul Panag and Amrita Rao. The two men are played by Sharman Joshi and Sohail Khan. I play Esha who wants to break into modelling for a career but the dream eludes her. HELLO DARLING, under Subhash Ghai's Mukta Arts banner, is an out and out comedy that revolves around three heroines and a villain. EK VIVAAH AISA BHI is a moving story about a man-woman relationship that goes beyond the bonds of marriage where the man and the woman overcome all obstacles for 12 years. I play the woman opposite Sonu Sood. This is a Rajashri Films production and I am looking forward to its release. Almost the entire film is situated in Bhopal.
Which among you are the milestones in your career of around 40 films? I am proud of COMPANY because it gave my career the kick it needed at the right time and right place. I am very fond of Farhan Akhtar's THE DON RETURNS where I play Anita, Shah Rukh Khan's girlfriend, the character that has been borne out of Farhan's interesting interpretation of the earlier DON. DARNA MANA HAI was challenging in a different way. Girlfriend was extremely controversial and I loved doing the film. QAYAMAT - CITY UNDER THREAT, I cherish because of the strong negative shades in the character I played. KYA KOOL HAI HUM and SALAAM-E-ISHQ are two more films I love to list as among my favourites.
Dream roles if any? I'd love to do the characters Sridevi played in CHALBAAZ and SADMA. She is my favourite actress. I am a determined person and my biggest dream is to win the Oscar for India and that too, very soon.