Giselle Monteiro isn’t the first non-desi actress to garner some fame in the Hindi film industry, but she might be the first in the current generation to show some staying power.
The Brazilian-born beauty made her debut in Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal, and seems to be intent on creating a career aaj kal. However unexpected her casting may have been in the role of a shy Punjabi girl in the 1960s, Giselle by no means had it easy. In a recent interview with The Pakistan Daily Mail, the model-turned-actress confessed, “At first I did have some trouble picking up Indian dance movements. And I was extremely worried, because I didn’t know whether I would look natural doing them, or make a complete fool of myself.”
That wasn’t the end of her concerns, however. There was the little matter of Giselle not knowing a word of Hindi. Her new employers required her to take four hours a day of language and dance instruction for four months before shooting. Any other preparation? “I watched many black and white Hindi films to learn how to play a shy girl from the sixties.” Even after all that, Saif Ali Khan and Imtiaz Ali kept her identity under wraps during the film’s promotional period; it was with real surprise that the rest of the world learned of “Harleen’s” true roots.
Despite their abundance of caution about revealing her identity, Giselle has only praise for the two men. “Working with Saif was brilliant. He’s very well spoken, very funny and a great actor. I was able to base my expressions and body language in most of my scenes as reactions to his. Imitiaz is the best teacher in the world. I learnt so much from him and his work; he’s a superb director.”
Now the actress has caught the eye of directors and is tentatively scheduled to star in B. R. Chopra’s production Purani Jeans along with Kapil Chopra and Tanuj Virwani, both the offspring of Bollywood insiders and both making their debuts. And will Giselle be voicing her own lines? Well, not yet. She insists her Hindi won’t be up to the task at the time of dubbing, but that’s hardly stood in the way of other heroines’ success. Regardless of whether they hear her true voice, Ms. Monteiro is sure to have many fans eagerly awaiting her return to the silver screen.