Dreams on fire

Rare Find

Dreams on fire

Within just two years in the Hindi film industry, Mahie Gill has acquired the ability to surprise the audience. Her few films might have received a mixed response from both critics and viewers, but there is hardly any  dissent over the fact that Mahie Gill always scores as an actor.

Born in Chandigarh, she completed her Master’s in Theatre from Punjab University (despite an early ambition to join the Army) and started her film career with the Punjabi film, Mitti Wajaan Maardi in 2007 (and later Chak De Phatte in 2008). Her first tryst with Hindi cinema was a small cameo in Sudhir Mishra’s Khoya Khoya Chand. But her breakthrough came along when Anurag Kashyap saw her at a party and instantly finalised her for Dev D (2009), where her saucy turn as Paro earned her rave reviews and audience appreciation. In the same year, she sizzled in a unique item song, Ranaji, in Kashyap’s Gulaal.

Next came a couple of insignificant films (besides a small role in the smash-hit Dabangg) till her double whammy this year — Ram Gopal Varma’s Not A Love Story and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster. Clearly, Mahie, who has won several debut awards for Dev D, has pushed the envelope as an actress.

As Anusha in Not A Love Story, the ambitious actress who will go to any lengths to become a star, even concealing her boyfriend’s crime, and as “Biwi”, the psychologically disturbed but cold-blooded opportunist of Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, Mahie has been raking in accolades. “I do make a conscious effort to play diverse characters,” she says.

“But I would say that scripts and filmmakers choose me rather than the other way round. Ram Gopal Varma watched Dev D and offered me Not A Love Story. Tigmanshu had also watched some of my earlier performances and he cast me first in Paan Singh Tomar, which got delayed and will only release early next year. I play Paan Singh’s Rajasthani wife in the film. Last year, he offered me Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster. When I get an offer from an intelligent director, I accept it right away,” she adds.

Mahie also stresses that the darkness in her three most-recognised on-screen characters has been coincidental. “I am lucky to have got such author-backed roles so early in my career. But I have to move forward now. I am dying to do both comedy and romantic films,” declares Mahie, adding, “I have grown up watching romantic films and I absolutely adore Sridevi.”

Mahie also debunks the theory that she is a “method” actress. “I dedicate myself to the role and film, and nowadays it includes promoting the film too,” she quips. “An actor has to keep in mind what the director wants. Once you understand that, your job becomes simple. I do not prepare for any role and have never done workshops. Yes, my role in Not A Love Story was exhausting, mentally, but luckily, we finished shooting the film in 20 days. I wrapped up shooting for Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster in no time too. Tigmanshu conceived my role but he gave me the freedom to interpret it.”

She finds it easy to unshackle herself from the characters she plays. “So it’s okay that I accept such characters,” she says. Her theatre background helps especially when she has to work with talented actors like Naseeruddin Shah (in her new film Michael in which she plays a nurse), Abhay Deol (Dev D), Deepak Dobriyal (Not A Love Story), Jimmy Shergill (Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster) and Irrfan (Paan Singh Tomar). “Working with such strong actors helps me learn and I never feel intimidated by their presence,” she asserts.

“I am confident because I know I am talented. Though I was a little nervous initially when I started working with Naseer saab.”

Mahie has not taken up any film recently (apart from Buddha In A Traffic Jam with Anupam Kher where she plays the character of a woman working for an NGO).

“I will be signing films after a short break. But I really want to do comedy,” she reiterates. How much has she changed with success? “I have not changed at all,” says Mahie. “I still have the same set of friends I had before I joined the film industry. But yes, circumstances have changed. I do not have to give auditions any more and I can choose my scripts now.”

Mahie has no desire to turn director but has a unique dream that she hopes can be fulfilled one day: of becoming a cinematographer. “I am fascinated by the camera. I have realised that we stars look good because of the cameraman and the lighting as much as because of our make-up. I wish I can try and operate a camera professionally one day.”
Mahie is known for portraying memorable characters. And now, we wait for her to turn to comedy.

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