There was a sublime aura ever since we entered the house of legendary actress Jayaprada’s sister, Manali Thakur, where we were to shoot with the actress and her niece, for our Ugadi special issue. While everyone around her was constantly making efforts in ensuring she was comfortable, we were awestruck by her poise and confidence. Her ever charming smile and courteous nature made us eager to start the day's proceedings. In a candid conversation, the actress-turned-politician spoke to us about her journey so far. Read on to know more.
From acting to politics, how did the shift happen?
I’ve never planned anything in my life, everything has happened by chance. My only aim is to succeed in whatever I do, whether acting, politics, education, or even business. All my professions are linked with people and I’m delighted that they have accepted me and given me so much affection through my journey. I’m extremely lucky to have two successful professions.
Acting was never planned, but I’ve now successfully completed three decades in films. I’ve always wanted to reach the public and serve the society, that’s why I chose politics after films.
Which was a better medium to reach people?
Both were unique in their own way. While in a film you can reach people by means of the character you play or the plot you enact, in politics it’s done through your actions and words. Unfortunately many in the field of politics misuse the platform.
Which field do you prefer?
Honestly, my identification and acknowledgement has been through acting. Because I was a successful actress, I was accepted easily in politics and could reach people comfortably because they already knew me. Usually it is not possible for an individual to go from one state to another and get accepted in politics. I’ve also got into the fields of education and business but I feel like I still have a lot to do in each of the fields. I’m currently working on two Bollywood films and have just completed two Telugu films too. I consider myself lucky to get such wonderful scripts.
What are you currently doing in politics and education?
Apart from our existing nursing colleges, we’re now starting a B.Ed. college. In the film space, I am planning to get into direction. I’m in the process of looking for a good subject now. All this keeps me busy.
On the political front I’m no longer with Samajwadi Party and although they expelled me and I was upset about it earlier, I’m now happy to no longer be associated with a party that doesn’t respect women. I’m presently taking a pause from politics, but this is not the end. I’m waiting for a good opportunity to enter a good party that can help me prove my mettle and serve the society better.
Do you thing the status of women in Indian politics has improved now, when compared to earlier?
Unfortunately it hasn’t changed as much as it should. Yes, the role of women in Indian politics is slightly better than in international politics, but even now cast and creed plays an important role in your election. We still have a long way to go.
You continue to look as gorgeous as you did 30 years ago. What is the secret to your evergreen glow?
I preserve myself with positive thinking, a disciplined lifestyle, and healthy food habits. I do a lot of puja so that gives me inner happiness and calmness and that is reflected on my body.
Which of your movies was the most memorable?
I’ve done 300 films so far, but for me, it was my first film, Sargam that was the most memorable. The character I played, that of a deaf and dumb girl, was very well accepted and my portrayal was highly applauded. But I’m blessed to have worked in films in seven languages and played strong characters like Jhansi ki Rani and Rudrama Devi.
Which of the industries was your favourite?
The Telugu and Hindi film industries, simply because most of my films have been in these languages.
Which actor or director has been your inspiration?
Director K. Vishwanath ji has trained me and made me a good performer. I’m always thankful to him for his guidance.
You’re known for your exceptional dancing skills. Do you still practice dancing?
Yes, I have a dance ballet called Amrapali and we’ve done several shows across the country. It’s like a mini opera. I’ve been keen on getting it to Hyderabad but I haven’t got the time. I’m in search for a good musical subject too.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I’m always working (laughs)! I don’t get time to rest at all because I’m constantly travelling. I have so many establishments in different cities so I’m juggling between Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, and UP. This is not the time for me to settle down. My wheels are still turning (laughs).
What’s your take on Ugadi?
It’s a beautiful festival and an important one for the Telugu people. The Ugadi pachadi that we make on this day is a magical potion; it’s a mix of different ingredients, each of which stand for an emotion in our life. It is also celebrated as Gudi Padwa in Maharashta, so I celebrate both versions of the festivals.
How are you going to celebrate the festival this year?
I don’t know where I’ll be on Ugadi this year, but I will make it a point to spend some time with my family. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous Ugadi and since the festival marks the beginning of spring, I hope that the farmers of India yield good crops and make good money this year.
-- as told to Niharika