She has made us sit up and take note, as she struggles with all the little-big concerns of an adolescent. Gurpreet Kaur, Gippy is disarming and touchingly naïve as she squeezes into bras, deals with weight issues, falls in and out of love and tackles everything from acne to friendships.
Fourteen-year-old Delhi girl Riya Vij, who plays the protagonist in Sonam Nair’s directorial, mirrors all the concerns of the young adult she plays, and even throws in some pearls of teen wisdom, the way only girls can.
When we caught up with the amateur pianist and basketball enthusiast, she was on her way back from her school Mater Dei. And in the course of the next few minutes, she told us everything we wanted to know about her life, her family (she has an 18-year-old elder sister, her father is an entrepreneur) and how she would one day like to become a dentist or a photographer. But only if Bollywood does not work out for her. Plan B and C already?
It was a friend who dragged her to audition for the role, chirps Riya. “Actually it was my friend who wanted to do the role badly. I just tagged along,” she says. But a simple twist of fate landed the role on her lap, putting her friendship to a serious test. Her friend was hurt, Riya admits, but adds, “For a few moments she was quite down, but eventually we worked it out.” The day Riya was for the role, her family surprised her with a cake. “That was when I began to take all this seriously,” she says.
Like most girls her age, Riya says it’s her mom who knows best. “My dad did not read the script. My mom combed it. She said, there was a nice underlying message, that girls should be comfortable in their skin during their growing up years. She wanted me to do the film,” says Riya adding, “My mom is my friend and my sister as well.”
Not particularly interested in academics (‘Which kid is these days?’ she laughs), Riya had her ‘grown up’ moment while shooting for the film. Her mother used to accompany her to the sets every day during the Simla schedule. “But one day I told her that I wanted to be there on my own. She was hesitant at first, but eventually agreed,” says Riya. A small step that went a long way in bolstering her confidence.
In the film, Gippy, an awkward teenager, gets bullied because of her weight and her lack of ‘coolth’. But in real life Riya is in a happier space. “I don’t get bullied because of my weight, thankfully. I really think the problem with adolescents is that they are too conscious about themselves and feel inferior to others. They try to ape the cooler kids.”
And with a flash of wisdom that belies her age, Riya says: “No one should be embarrassed about who they are. There are intense physical and emotional changes when we are growing up, and it is all natural.”
Aware that she may have to conform to a certain Bollywood prototype if she considers a career in the industry, Riya says calmly: “If I have to lose weight, I will. Only when I grow up. . .”
UTV Motion Pictures will release Sonam Nair’s Gippi in UK cinemas on 10th May 2013. The film is produced by Karan Johar