She’s only a couple of years old in the industry but already has directors like Madhur Bhandarkar and Priyadarshan endorsing her filmography along with prestigious banners like UTV and Adlabs. Neetu Chandra has certainly arrived with a bang! She made her debut against two of the biggest hotties of the century, Akshay Kumar and John Abraham, in 2006’s blockbuster hit Garam Masala and now she’s on a mission to make a mark in this rat race to the top. She promises to be on the top very soon and BollySpice got the chance to catch this rising star before she takes off to the top!
Firstly Neetu tell us how did your journey begin in the film industry?
I started four year back with a couple of ads for ICIC, Hero Honda, Bajaj and many more. There was a time when there were two to three ads on air at the same time, and I did an ad for Parker Pen with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Mr. Priyadarshan directed this ad. At that time I had requested Mr. Priyadarshan that if he was doing a film with newcomers please do let me know. I got a call from him approximately 3 months after the ad was completed. He called me on a Sunday I think, or a holiday, and asked me generally what I was doing. I simply replied saying that I was just relaxing at home being on holiday. He then said that he’s doing a film with Akshay Kumar and John Abraham [and asked] do you want to do the film? I didn’t know what to do or say, I was so excited and said yes immediately! I asked him where and when to see him, and he told me to see meet him right away. So I went, signed the film and I was on board! So this is how I started.
What was the experience like working on Garam Masala?
It was a great experience. I am a sportsman so I related with Akshay very well and was really in awe of this disciplined person, both in terms of his fitness and as a human being and was very impressed with his professionalism. The same goes for John who is a very good football player and is undoubtedly one of the best looking dudes in the industry today. Priyadarshan sir was amazing once again and Venus was the banner, which as everyone knows is a very big banner. For me, instead of getting a solo heroine launch and everything else that comes with that, this seemed to be a fateful launch because I don’t belong to a filmi family. I thought that if I had done a solo heroine film maybe the audiences wouldn’t have rushed to the cinemas, however I was certain they would for a film starring Akshay and John and if I have little bit of talent somewhere they will notice me. So yes, my wish was thankfully granted. Originally I was so nervous because I had three other heroines in the film and [having] a western look and all made me very nervous. But at the end of the day, it all worked out well and it was great experience shooting for it. I had a great opportunity to work with some of the biggest actors such as Paresh Rawal, who is such a senior in the industry. My first scene was quite daunting because it was with Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar. I convinced myself that I had worked so hard and I had to do it so I prepared in every way possible, memorized my dialogues, rehearsed in front of mirrors and the moment I reached there I forgot everything but Akshay made me very comfortable. He kept on saying “don’t worry, chill out” and then Pareshji was like “are you okay?” and I replied saying that “yes I am okay now”. And then post the first scene I was comfortable after that.
You’re next film Traffic Signal was quite the opposite to the comic genre which you did with Garam Masala. Was it a conscious decision to go for such a different role post your debut in GM?
Well you see, I believe in doing versatile roles. I had always thought I would do different kinds of roles and that’s how I landed in Traffic Signal because the moment it came to me I just grabbed it. I knew it was life time role and something I wouldn’t get again. This inspired me to do the research I did for the film. I actually set on the road for ten to fifteen days to prepare for my role and as a part of my practical workshop for the film.
Madhur Bhandarkar, your director from Traffic Signal, received the national award for this film. How did this make you feel since you played such a pivotal role in the film?
Well, I was the solo lead in the film, although Konkona Sen Sharma played a guest appearance in the film, but being the solo lead made people really relate this acclaim to me. I think I worked very hard on the character, and I feel great to be a part of this film because this kind of character comes very rarely. You’ll know by watching a number of films that such roles aren’t created and offered to actresses often. I thought I was very privileged and was very thankful to Madhur for have given me the role. When the National Award came into the picture people really recognized and acknowledged [me] and I felt really amazing.
So, what sort of preparation do you do for your roles and is it something that is a set routine or something that alters depending on the character before you?
To tell you the truth, I can [say] that even though you thoroughly prepare for the nuances of a character when you actually play it you change things as you go because you improvise on the spot and thus there is a little “you” also in the character. For example, if I am playing a cop in a film and I have avidly prepared for the role and researched the character, there will still remain a little Neetu in the film and character. You can play the character the 100% originally as created is something I cannot say because a little Neetu is always there. So yes, I do work on nuances of a character but I don’t play the character 100% as created because I put in my effort, and as an actor I do have limitation to what I can do. So I do research and specifically try and put myself in the position of the character in order to understand body language and especially language. Especially in India, the language of a character is of particular importance because there exist a lot of different castes, religions, etc. For example, after Traffic Signal I played a cop in One Two Three who came from a different state. I tried to pick up those little nuances and style that are specific and unique to that character and perform it to the best of my director’s liking and creation.
You once said that the best thing about this role is that I got to deliver my dialogues on the louder side with my eyes. What did you mean by that?
I mean that more than my words and my mouth saying the dialogue, my eyes should express what I am saying. I don’t want to name a director, but a very big director told me that my eyes speak. At that time I made fun of it and even said “do they say anything to you?” which everyone laughed at, but of course he gave me a very big compliment. So later on I kept thinking about it and revisited my clips and thought whenever I was blank, my eyes said something. In addition, a lot of other things such as life experiences, etc. do matter in delivering the performance, and then I concluded that maybe my eyes do speak more than my words and took up the complement full heartedly.
Which is the favourite movie you have been in so far?
Well currently everyone has seen only three films of mine, Garam Masala, Traffic Signal and One Two Three. Next month my film Oye Lucky Lucky Oye is releasing, and I think that character is my favourite character thus far. It’s also my tenth film (3 movies down south, 4 to release in the next six months), so incidentally my tenth film is my favourite role thus far.
So, can you tell us a bit about the four films hitting screens in the next six months particularly Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. What kind of character do you play in this film?
I play a second year college girl and how she is striving and fighting to sustain in society. She is very very simple. She suddenly gets this guy who is loaded and is giving her all the happiness. So she doesn’t know how to balance this and handle such a situation. Her elder sister is a total drunk and she works in a bar. So this girl is very simple and innocent. She hasn’t seen the world much and doesn’t know what things to do and what not to do. Throughout the film you see the journey of how she becomes stronger and stronger day by day and how she stands by Lucky, played by Abhay Deol, throughout this. At the end, she remains the only person supporting Lucky whilst everyone else has turned quite negative.
And apart from Oye Lucky Lucky Oye what else do you have coming out?
First one is Mumbai Cutting directed by Rahul Dholakia, director of Parzania. I play a home caretaker in this film, and my character belongs to one strata of society which is very poor. The film is about Mumbai and the different societies in Mumbai. The film in total is done by ten directors and I am part of Rahul’s segment, which incidentally is the last story to be featured in the film. I am privileged enough that the movie ends with my face. After that, I’ll be seen in Thirteen Weeks under the Adlabs banner. It has been director by Vikram, who is a Tamil director, and this film will be his debut in Hindi cinema. The movie is shot by P C Shreeram who is quite an acclaimed cameraman, and with me will be R Madhavan who is quite known and has been great to work with. Again in Thirteen Weeks I am a solo lead. The last one of the lot is Kushar Prasad Ka Bhoot, bhoot meaning “ghost”. It’s a very interesting role for. Kushar Prasad in the film is played by Paresh Rawal and along with him is the main lead Randeep Hooda although Kushar Prasad, being the main protagonist, is possibly the main lead of the film out of the two. Of course Randeep Hooda is whom you all would know well from D, Ru Ba Ru and the upcoming Rang Rasiya. He was also a great actor to work with and Raghuvendra Yadav is also in the film. I endorse a very Indian and glamourous look and people, who see me in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, won’t be able to relate me to that same character because the look is so drastically different to what I have done thus far. Similar to how there was drastic change from my role in Garam Masala to my role in Traffic Signal. So I play a very colourful village Indian color and perhaps am the only colour in the film. I have also had a chance with this role to do some very Indian dance numbers. I am a trained Indian dancer.
Are you happy with the roles you are getting?
Yes. I am very happy, but as an actor you cannot be satisfied. You keep wanting more and more. I do really envy guys in the industry because in India most films are male protagonist based. I constantly tell them how lucky they are and am constantly hoping directors come up with more and more female orientated stories in which actresses would get to work more because I am workaholic and would love to do such roles.
What is a good movie to you?
Good script. A good execution of the script is very important because even a good film can take a film’s fate the wrong way despite a great script. Thus, I think the execution is very important. Also my character, my importance to the script is an imperative trait in a good movie.
Along with films you’ve had quiet an interesting last few years, along with the computer game you were associated with? How was this experience and how did you get on board?
Haha… you guys have done a lot of homework on me! Well coming from a martial arts background, which I was introduced to by my mother and started doing at a very young age, it was an amazing experience and it was very exciting that people knew a game by [me]. The game was titled “Neetu the Alien Killer”. There were about 18-19 actresses in mind for that project and the moment they knew about my marshal arts training they approached me, and I signed it and got on board. They’re working on the promotion of this game but it’s a fantastic feeling to know that it’s the first 3D animated game to be played on a phone. In addition, it feels great to be called a great and good actress and then a great martial artist on a game. The experience as total was very nice, and I strongly feel that whatever I have achieved till date has been from the blessing of my elders’ and my mother’s support. She’s been by my side the whole time.
So it’s taekwondo that you’re trained in and also korf ball?
Yes, I have been a part of a lot of sports. First it was taekwondo, then basketball, baseball, korf ball, cycling and so many more. But my main game has been taekwondo and after that basketball, which I absolutely love.
Speaking of being quite the sports star what would you rather be, a sports star or a movie star?
You also met the prime minister. How was this experience?
It was great and very formal. It was like I was in a dream because I come from a very small place and such things growing up were only seen on TV and the big screen. Even some days now I feel I am dreaming, but I am so happy to be in this dream world because it makes my mom happy and I can see the smile on her face all the time.
What advice would you give to a girl wanting to enter Bollywood?
Firstly, be very confident and be ready to face things that are both good and bad. Just make up your mind that you really do want to be in this line because you have to be very strong in your heart and mind to take this decision. You need to be talented and very good in your field. God has given you this talent so keep on polishing those skills, even if you become a superstar. So yes, there is no alternative for hard work and you better be ready to give it your 100% in whatever you are doing.
So my last question is what do you want to see happen in your life in 2009?
I’d like to be on the top as one of the top actresses. That is something I don’t wish but know will happen, and that’s because my mom said so and I know it. Also with 2009 and the films I have lined up, I know people will surely see me as a good actor and as a hardworking actor. I’d like to remain a youth icon as I do work for UNICEF and AIDs and cancer patients and keep doing things to help these people. With the things that happened in our country, such as the Bihar flood for which I was a volunteer and was literally running from one person to the next begging for help and support, I wish that such things wouldn’t happen every year. [May] God give happiness and peace to everybody so that everyone can continue working because I think what will we do with this career and happiness when you see people dying everyday? So I hope 2009 is not a repetition of these terrible things we have recently witnessed, and it’s more peaceful and nice.
Well here’s another wish to wish that may all these wishes come true! Neetu is here and most importantly, she’s here to stay! Be sure to keep your eyes out for all the promising projects in Neetu’s horizon and don’t forget to rush to the cinemas this November to catch Neetu in her favourite role of all time in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye!