Reaching for the stars

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By Actress Smilie Suri tackles a tricky subject in her very first film Kalyug, and manages to make a mark, says Sushmita Biswas FACE OF THE WEEK - Smilie Suri
  • Published 7.01.06

True to her name, Smilie Suri is all smiles as she talks about her latest film Kalyug. She’s only one film old and success is already knocking at her door. Suddenly, when she goes out, people recognise her and that’s a heady feeling.

Kalyug, which stars another newcomer Kunal Khemu, deals with the workings of the multi-crore porn industry. It revolves around people who get involved into porn rackets without their knowledge. The film tells the story of a couple on their honeymoon night, whose pictures are captured on camera and then circulated on the Internet. It’s actually based on the real life story of a couple in Ludhiana to whom this happened last year. The tale intrigued filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt so much that that he decided to make a film on the subject. The task of turning the subject into a film was given to his cousin Mohit Suri who directed the successful film Zeher. Smilie is Mohit Suri’s sister and also Mahesh Bhatt’s niece.

In the movie Smilie plays the role of Renuka, wife of actor Kunal Khemu on screen, who is an educated woman raised with very middle-class Indian values. And when the married couple is arrested, the humiliation becomes too much for Renuka, who commits suicide in the end.

Originally titled Blue Film, it was later renamed Kalyug. The film also stars Amrita Singh who plays the main villain running the sex racket, and item girl Deepal Shaw who takes on the role of a porn star. Smilie however, has no regrets about Kalyug as her debut film even though it deals with a controversial subject like pornography. In fact, she’s happy about playing Renuka because according to her, entertainment should extend beyond reel life to real life.

Smilie has always loved acting and took part in several theatre and dance productions even in school. She was also a member of Shiamak Davar’s dance troupe and has performed in many dance shows with the group. Ask if she has always wanted to be an actress and she says, “As a child, I was crazy about films and loved watching Madhuri Dixit films. For me, films represented hope and the fulfilment of a creative urge. I’d made myself very clear to my parents that I wanted to be in this line when I grew up.”

But like many other newcomers, Smilie didn’t have it easy in Bollywood. Though she was Mahesh Bhatt’s niece, the veteran filmmaker warned her that making a name for herself in the industry would involve a lot of struggle. “I remember my uncle telling me that I was not a Bipasha Basu or a Kareena Kapoor that producers would make a beeline for my house. If I have to make a name, it has to be through days and days of hard work and perseverance,” she says.

Smilie took her uncle’s advice seriously all right, and took her first steps in the industry by helping her brother during the making of the film Zeher, which starred Emraan Hashmi, Udita Goswami and Shamita Shetty. “I picked up and learnt the finer nuances of acting by assisting my brother. Ultimately, my brother was convinced that I could pull off a convincing performance and decided to cast me in Kalyug,” she says. Still, Bhatt insisted that she go through the auditions for the movie.

Recalling her first day at the screen test, Smilie confesses that she was a bit annoyed at having to go through the audition. But she insists that it wasn’t decided till the very end, and that a lot of newcomers who turned up for the audition, might have got the role. “Vishesh Films is a reputed production house and therefore looked up to by a lot of newcomers. I consider myself to be extremely lucky as to get a role in this film, which has proved to be a stepping stone for me,” she adds.

That she idolises her uncle is more than clear. At the time of shooting, she says that everybody on the sets used to refer to Mahesh Bhatt as ‘headmaster’. He, however, advised her to be natural in front of the camera. Smilie also can’t stop talking about her brother Mohit Suri who boosted her confidence and helped her to brush up her acting skills.

She reckons the most challenging part of the movie was the scene when the couple are interrogated about how they got into the web of pornography. “While I was playing my part, I actually broke down in tears. I could really feel the trauma faced by the Ludhiana couple when they were unnecessarily dragged into the MMS controversy last year,” she says.

She also likes to talk about another cousin Emraan Hashmi who makes a guest appearance in the film. “He’s such a chilled-out person and great fun on the sets. In fact, when we went to shoot in Zurich for the film, he was a complete entertainer and often used to pull my leg,” she offers with a smile.

Young starlets in Bollywood tend to come in two categories. One lot insists that they’ll do the most daring role ‘if the script demands it’. The second category usually says they won’t be a part of it. Smilie belongs to the second category. She insists that she’ll wait for meaningful roles to come her way and that she’ll only take a role if she’s well and truly convinced about it. And as the industry anoints her as the new girl on the block, she takes her new-found status in her stride. “For my first film, I put in a decent performance. I’d prefer a gradual rise. I don’t want to be right at the top with my first film because after that, it would be quite difficult for me to live up to audience expectations,” she maintains.

Inevitably, Smilie dreams about working with Bollywood stalwarts like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Madhur Bhandarkar. But she’s determined to make her way forward without banking on family connections ? though she wants all the encouragement and advice possible. According to her, preparing for the next role is very important. As she states, “Acting is extremely stimulating and my journey has only just begun. But I believe that if you’re happy with the work you are doing, it’s an overwhelming feeling.”