British actress Amy Jackson will be making a huge Bollywood splash next week, as Gautham Menon’s Ekk Deewana Tha hits movie screens across the world on February 17th. Produced by Fox Star Studios, Ekk Deewana Tha – which also stars Prateik Babbar and is a Hindi remake of Mr. Menon’s own Kollywood (Tamil) direction of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa – will feature Ms. Jackson as the lead actress. It is quite the rare occurrence for a Hindi film to feature a European lead actress. One of the most memorable Bollywood productions to prominently feature a European actress in a prominent role was Lagaan.
An English model that claimed the top spot of the Miss Teen World competition in 2008 and Miss England in 2010, Ms. Jackson, who just turned 21 on January 31st, made her acting debut in the Kollywood film Madrasapattinam, later winning the Vikatan Award for Best Debut. About one year later, Ms. Jackson landed starring roles in three of India’s biggest film industries: Bollywood (Ekk Deewana Tha), Kollywood (Thaandavam), and Tollywood (Yevadu).
This week, Ms. Jackson spoke to the media of her Bollywood debut in Ekk Deewana Tha (“There Was a Crazy Guy”), explaining her role, learning a new culture, and the planned trajectory of her career as a budding international film star.
Parimal M. Rohit: Can you tell us about your character Jessie in Ekk Deewana Tha?
Amy Jackson: I play a Malayali Christian girl in Ekk Deewana Tha. We have shot the movie in New York, India, Kerala, and Chennai over five months. It was a great experience working with such a young and talented actor like Prateik, and Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman did the music!
PMR: How is the change from Britain to Bollywood?
AJ: I was new to acting before my role in Madrasapattinam. Though I was familiar with Bollywood, since there are many in Britain who watch Hindi movies, I hadn’t watched any of these films before I came to Chennai. I have been away from home since I was 17. I went to the US to start my modeling career at a very young age. So venturing into films and handling the pressure isn’t a big task. I feel more comfortable in saris than gowns. Unlike Madrasapattinam, where I wear gowns, in Ekk Deewana Tha, I wear saris and kurtas. I had never worn one before I started shooting for the film, and I believe it’s the most elegant outfit for a woman.
PMR: Was it hard to memorize Hindi for your part?
AJ: The British accent is hard to miss. Ever since I decided to shift base to India and made Mumbai my home, I have made an effort to learn Hindi and even take diction classes. I couldn't understand a word of Hindi earlier. Though my voice will be dubbed in the movie, it was easier to memorize Hindi than Tamil. Before takes, I used to practice my lines for almost an hour to get it right. Prateik did help me with the Hindi. [Smiles]
PMR: How have your friends in the U.K. responded to your international movie career?
AJ: I had no prior training in acting. Once Madharasapattinam released, we had a premiere in Liverpool for my friends and family. They were surprised to see me on screen! Even today, many of my friends, who are in university back in England, find it tough to believe that I am part of Indian cinema. Some of them think I am crazy. For me, this has been a dream come true!
PMR: How did you enjoy working with Ekk Deewana Tha director Gautham Vasudev Menon?
AJ: A couple of weeks before we began shooting, we did a workshop to understand the personalities of the characters we were playing. Gautham gave me a lot of freedom. He is such a calm and collected director who gives his actors the freedom to experiment. It was nice to be able to give my opinion.
PMR: What are your plans for the future?
AJ: I will be starting work in a Tamil film opposite Vikram in March.
Fox Star Studios’ ‘Ekk Deewana Tha’ opens worldwide on February 17, 2012.