Monday, July 05, 2010

the continuing tale of strange names

The South Indian film industry has been known to import belles (buxom and otherwise) to cavort around leading men. The leading men usually look uncouth and unshaven and seem to suffer from a lack of sleep, short tempers and fewer vocal variations than a cow (or bull, if you like to be precise about that sort of thing). Occasionally, a shave is effected and the grungy persona is replaced with a certain walk that mixes rejected moves by Michael Jackson with a tribute to shuffling skeletons. The lassies, meanwhile, dress in leather, casuals or seductive minimals and try to get their lips around the inflections of the native language (all actual utterances come thanks to another famous star of the area or a dubbing artist).

That said, the industry seems to have moved from merely importing Bollywood familiars (Sonali Bendre) or has-beens (Nagma, Manisha Koirala) to tapping the tree that Bollywood already has an account with: the modelling world. In the past, the likes of the Misses India, Misses World and Misses Universe first made their way into Bollyreels before trying the Southern waters (sometimes after their Bollystock went down the Mariana trench). Nowadays, the other Woods are equally attractive. Consider Ileana D'Cruz, who went straight from modelling to Tollywood and has only recently started exploring Kollywood and Kanada films. There were rumours of a move to Bollywood opposite Shah Rukh Khan in a remake of Athadu (much like Asin's move with Aamir Khan in the remake of Ghajini), but since Ek: The Power of One (duh! no chance of a sequel called 4: A Power of 2) made it to the marquee without either name, one wonders what Ms. D'Cruz's Bollysplash will be.

Then there's the case of Parvati Melton, the daughter of a German father and a Punjabi mother, whose modelling stint in the USA caught the eyes of a producer back home and that set the stage of a career in Tollywood (and a occasional film in Malayalam). Frälein Melton is reputed to combine "the beauty of Aishwarya Rai, the looks and charm of Sushmita Sen, the physique of Shilpa Shetty, and the smile of Shriya"; if that is indeed the case, this was a great deal for investors and represnted a much lower cost than hiring those four.

And this brings us to Taapsee Pannu (anagram: Peanut Paens). The wikipedia page tells us that she is an ethnic Punjabi (if anyone knows what that means, please drop a comment here) and the obligatory rediff profile notes that she is a qualified engineer in computer science (again, enlightening comment please). The ambiguity of these attributes notwithstanding she seems to have credentials for the job: epidermal accolades (Miss India winner for Best Skin), an adequate score in the departments of height (tall), pulchritude (beautiful) and performance (a number of modelling assignments, both print and television, under her belt). She also has very clear reasons for choosing to take the cinematic dive:

Initially, I wanted to be a full-time model and never thought I could act. As time went by, modelling became not that exciting or enjoyable, as posing in front of the camera became monotonous.

Also, I felt my name was not being highlighted. The name gets highlighted only in films. One gets to do something new, meet new people every day and travel while doing films. Every day is a challenge and something new happens too. So I wanted to act.

She also has great things to say about her experience shooting for Jhumandi Naadam and other things that were asked of her:

the language: The South Indian and North Indian languages are different; the sound is different, the meaning is different.
her co-star Manoj Mancha: Manoj is full of energy. Even on a bad day, he is on top. His energy level is tremendous.
diet: I make sure I eat a balanced diet -- fruits and vegetables. I eat only when I'm hungry. One shouldn't restrict oneself by overeating or eating less.
fitness: I have a dancing background, so my fitness is taken care of. Even now as and when I get time, I dance.

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