Anaitha Nair on roles, romance and rejection


Staff member
No extensive PR legwork. No unending SMS reminders. No jostling for interview slots. This was by far the most unusual and breezy interview I've ever done. It was unbelievably laid-back, with only Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to thank for it, after I contacted Anaitha through her FB page. So, what started out as a friendly poke, ended with an affable connection with Chak De girl Anaitha Nair on the web.

This clearly proved that this petite lady isn't one of the run-of-the-mill B-towners, who claim to be totally accessible, but clam up when we try to reach out. Anaitha's atypical manners could be traced back to her rather modest beginnings in Bollywood. Her big break came after she won a slot in the S5 pop band after a TV talent show search, and after dabbling in the ad world, she finally made Bollywood sit up and notice with her acclaimed role in the hugely popular Chak De India. And the rest, they say is history!

With her latest flick Dum Maaro Dum ready for release, we chat with the lady about her sizzling romance with the oh-so hot Prateik, her B-town escapades and being trained by Shah Rukh Khan.

What was it like working with Bollywood's new poster boy Prateik?

Prateik is a quiet 23-year-old with so much spontaneity in front of the camera and vulnerable eyes like no other I've seen.

Considering Dum Maaro Dum boasts an impressive all-star cast, did you have any fears that you'd go unnoticed?

Well, it's hard to go unnoticed given that I'm the reason the plot unfolds. Also, I've got too much of a screen presence to be overlooked.

Rewinding to your first Bollywood outing, you debuted with an ensemble cast (15 newbies, to be precise) in Chak De India. Were you worried about being overshadowed?

Well, when you're looking at breaking into any business then your choices are limited, especially in the film world. So, I was just happy to bag a film, and one that had such prominent names like SRK.

Yes, the idea of sharing screen space did worry me, at times, but not because I feared going unnoticed, but because it isn't easy to display your talent when there are 15 other girls in the frame. In all honesty, I was shocked at the attention I got for my small role.

You had hockey training to play Ahaliya Bose. How gruelling was it?

We trained under hockey veterans like Dhanraj Pillay for three months before we started filming. We also trained while shooting in Australia. I did find it rigorous and extremely exhausting, considering I'm not a sportswoman. But that was the challenge, which made my job as an actor such fun. As for the clashes between 16 girls, I'd let you figure that one out!

How tough has your journey to Bollywood stardom been?

It's been tough, yes, but fun. This was something I loved doing, so I went after it. I had the good fortune to work with the biggest names despite not being famous simply because I am here to act, and that to me is the only and the right reason to be here. All the frills that follow are just frills, which were never my focus.

How long into your career was it until Chak De... came along?

Well, my first film audition was for Chak De... I actually got rejected three times before they finally cast me! That in a way made me believe in destiny and that no matter how hard you try it'll only happen if it's meant to be.

I was lucky, but I also had a lot of confidence in my talent. But the industry can break you, especially when you are new and aren't the most conventionally attractive. I was fortunate to have had a grounded childhood to let it not affect me. But to be told off about how you act or look can be disheartening and negatively change how you perceive yourself. I'd say acting is the toughest job, because in no other profession do you voluntarily put yourself out there to be judged.

You followed it up with a gritty supporting role in Well Done Abba…

You can imagine my delight when I learnt I'd be on Shyam Benegal's film. He's a legend. I felt so fortunate about being a part of his film. Well Done Abba for me was a different world. I wasn't familiar with Hyderabad; it was a culture I had never been part of, so playing Sakina was fascinating.

Is there something more to your cinematic bond with John Abraham (Aashayein and Jhoota Hi Sahi) than mere coincidence?

I guess it's just too much of a coincidence! It's three films actually. I'm also doing a supporting part in Nishikant Kamat's Force. It was funny because whenever I'd turn up at the auditions for these films I'd find out that John was in them. I'd just smile going... AGAIN!?

Would you pick Aashayein as your most challenging performance?

Undoubtedly. But the most challenging I'd say was Chak De... considering how demanding it was physically. For nine months we approached it with determination. For someone who loves sleeping, I surprised myself by waking up at 4am to run for over five hours through Mumbai.

Aashayein was challenging for different reasons. Like shaving my head, living cooped up in a location to actually relive the desperation of a 17-year-old cancer patient. While Aashayein was mentally taxing, Chak De... was physically demanding.

How tough was it to stay true to the craft without being tempted by stereotypical roles?

Honestly, I'd have loved to do the stereotypes, but I never got any offers. In Bollywood to ‘make it' you've to be the stereotypical tall, fair, beautiful Indian girl, who can dance. If not, then you've to be connected.

I'm 1.60m, dusky, not connected and possess zero networking skills, so I matched none of the criteria, which is why I get the off-beat parts - I didn't make the cut to be stereotyped!

There's more to Anaitha than just Bollywood

Your ad world Ads are something I love doing, simply because you've got 30 seconds, 10 sometimes, to tell a story. And often it's devoid of any lines, so it's a challenge to make your expressions do the work. I've worked for top brands like Nokia, Virgin, Toyota Innova, Dove, Frooti, Cadburys, Acer, Nescafe and Sprite... all global brands come to think of it :)

Your musical background Sometimes I wish I had an agent who could sell me better. There's honestly nothing in the performing arts stream that I can't do; I can act (theatre, ads, film), sing (playback, pop, jingles), dance, do voice-overs, cut hair, thread eyebrows, paint.... all of it!

The band S5 S5 is part of where I started and my band members are the biggest names in South India today. I'm so proud of their achievements and it makes me thrilled to have been a part of the band.

How'd you describe yourself Driven, always learning and full of energy

Your weakness That when something has to be done, it just has to!

Your strength Understanding human behaviour.

A blogger/facebooker/tweeter? A facebooker

Filmmakers/actors who inspire you Aamir Khan. Leonardo Di Caprio. Brilliant!

Favourite actor Aamir Khan

One role in the past you wish you had done? Oh, so many of them. It's tragic the way most of them were played out!

You'd want to team with which person on Karan Johar's show Aamir Khan, because clearly neither of us are ever gonna be on that show :). He, because he won't go and me, because I won't get called!

Nair quirks Yeah, you'd rather not know about it!

Five things you can't live without My family and now, my husband. Period. I could do without anything else.