Neetu not an ordinary girl any more

May 23, 2006 Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, May 23 (IANS) After her near-disastrous debut in the hit comedy "Garam Masala" things got a little 'thanda' for Neetu Chandra but now the skies have opened up for this spunky Bihari wannabe.

Not only has Madhur Bhandarkar signed Neetu for the plum role of the migrant embroidery-weaver eking out a living at the traffic signal for his next film "Traffic Signal", but she's also likely to be cast as one of the female leads in Shimit Amin's film on the game of hockey starring Shah Rukh Khan. Yash Raj Films will produce it.

For a girl who until a few years ago was just a dreamer from a small town in Bihar, the leap from anonymity to a film with the Yash Raj banner is a dream come true.

"I wouldn't be able to comment on Shimit's film. But yes, I have auditioned for Shimit. And I have started practising my hockey. I guess it is every girl's dream to do a Yash Raj film. If it happens, I'd consider myself unbelievably lucky," Neetu told IANS.

She feels Bhandarkar's film will open a new chapter in her acting career.

"Right now, I am looking at Madhur-ji's 'Traffic Signal' as a new beginning. When I heard that he was looking for someone like Smita Patil, I thought I qualified... Not that I can compare myself with her. But I felt I fitted into the physical description of the role.

"Madhur-ji screen-tested me several times over a period of almost two months before I was on."

Now Neetu can't believe her luck.

"It is almost like being born again! I showed Madhur-ji bits of my Kannada film 'Godavari'. In that I sport a traditional Indian look. And look at the coincidence... my director in 'Godavari' is Shakhar Kammula who is also a National Award winner like Madhur-ji.

"I guess I am really lucky to be working with directors who have proved themselves both commercially and critically."

She admits her first Hindi film "Garam Masala" didn't get her career going.

"But I have no regrets. I was a newcomer. I had no one to guide me. Not that I want to sound like I had to struggle... But as a new girl in Bollywood who couldn't even speak English properly I think I managed for myself.

"In 'Garam Masala' I got to work with experienced talented people like Priyadarshan and Akshay Kumar. Even John Abraham was far more experienced than me."

Neetu is keeping her fingers crossed.

"My mother, who stays with me, and I have been praying constantly ever since we heard the announcement. My father is in Delhi. But I took his blessings on the phone. Not just my parents, I want to do all of Bihar proud."

Neetu says she identifies with the character.

"I can understand how it feels to be a migrant in a big hostile city trying to live with dignity. I have been there."

Bhandarkar is very pleased with Neetu's performance in "Traffic Signal".

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Garam Masala


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