The very beautiful Amy Jackson, riding high on the success of Shankar's I, is now on to a second innings in Bollywood with Singh Is Bliing. She shares her excitement with Subhash K Jha.
It is all so unreal, sometimes I've to pinch myself. I was just a 16-year old in England when I was asked to be an actress in India. Shankar's I was an eye-opener. I learnt so much doing that film. And after its release I got an amazing amount of attention including this role in Singh Is Bliing. The journey is quite something.
I believe there is an incredible story behind how you got the role in Singh Is Bliing?
You wouldn't believe how it happened. I had just landed in Mumbai from London. My makeup artiste came to pick me up. He had to collect curlers from producer Ashvini Yarde's office. I was tired after a long flight and wanted to wait in the car. But my makeup artiste told me to come up and say hello. I just went up casually and said 'hi' to Ashvini. At that time another actress (Kriti Sanon) had already been signed for Singh Is Bliing and in fact, I didn't even know what Singh Is Bliing was.
But Kriti opted out and Ashvini remembered you?
Yes, she apparently remembered that meeting in the office. When the other actress' dates didn't work, Ashvini thought of me. So everything happens with a reason.
Ek Deewana Tha almost killed off your career in Bollywood. Looking back, do you think that whole media focus on your relationship with your co-star Prateik Babbar took attention away from your work?
Whatever happened in the past, is in the past! I don't want to go into that. And I've decided never to talk about my personal life. But if you are asking me if all that harmed my career my answer is no. I learnt so much from working with Gautham Sir (director Gautham Menon).
Did the Ek Deewana Tha experience make you cautious about the projects that you accepted in future?
No matter how cautious you are, no matter how much you weigh the pros and cons, things can go wrong. You can't be a hundred percent sure about anything in life. But yes, I definitely wanted to be careful. And I wanted to do things that I knew I could do justice to. And of course, I was dying to work with Akshay Kumar and that too in a project as big as Singh Is Bliing… what more could a girl ask for?
Beautiful women are often misconstrued as dumb. Do you fall victim to that stereotyping?
It all depends on how you project yourself. Looks fade. It's how you conduct yourself that you are remembered by. Audiences can look at a pretty face on a screen. But beyond a point they want to see the mind that works beneath the looks.
You have a very strong British accent. Are you working on your Hindi?
Haan jee. Main koshish kar rahi hoon. In Singh Is Bliing I've dubbed my own lines. You know when I was doing I Shankar sir gave me a lot of invaluable advice. I spent 2 ½ years doing his film and I was under contract not to do any other film. So I got to observe him from very close quarters.
What did you learn?
Shankar Sir taught me the virtues of dedication and hard work. There would be these 2 ½ page dialogues which I had to memorize. Shankar Sir didn't allow any prompting. Both Shankar Sir and Vikram Sir (leading man) would help me with my dialogues. I was learning on the job while doing I. And what I learnt was invaluable. It was like going to an acting school. It gave me a good grounding.
Vikram is a complete chameleon. His dedication to a role and his ferocious passion… I had never seen anyone so driven in my life. Akshay Kumar is also fiercely focused and dedicated. But he's also a lot of fun on the sets. On the sets it doesn't feel like work until the camera is on. I looked forward to each day of shooting with him. I have a great support system in Singh Is Bliing. I am lucky. Because it's easy to get lost in Bollywood.
You've a terrific career in the South. Now you are being noticed in Bollywood. How will you divide your time?
That's the thing. I am taking small steps. But to me working in any language is the same. I don't look at Tamil cinema as being any separate from Bollywood. I'll choose roles not according to where they're offered from but according to how much I like the role.
What are the dos and don'ts?
I don't want to be typecast as 3-song heroine who just comes on for the entertainment and leaves. I want to be known for my acting and dancing.
What prompted you to come so far away from home to pursue a career?
Honestly, it was all unplanned. I was only 16 when I won a Miss Teen World in America. There was a picture of me with a crown on a swing that went viral. This Tamil director A L Vijay who directed my first film Madrasapattinam saw that picture, flew down to London and met me. My dad and I travelled from Liverpool to London met Vijay, did a few looks tests and I was on.
Before this opportunity you hadn't contemplated an acting career in India?
I hadn't even thought of acting! I was still in school, and I was modeling. It all happened as though in a dream. I look back and I wonder, how did it happen? Now acting is all I want do. I can't imagine doing anything else.
Do you have family in India?
No they're all back in Liverpool. But my parents are coming to India next week for the release of Singh Is Bliing and just to be with me. My mother will probably stay back longer while I'll be shooting for a Tamil film with Vijay.
Do you have feel at home in India or you miss Liverpool?
I went back to Liverpool a few months ago. And you know what? I felt lost. I do miss my family and school friends a lot. But India is now my home. I make it a point to speak to my parents every day.
What plans after Singh Is Bliing?
A Tamil film with Vijay. In Hindi I am looking at projects. I am fully determined to master my Hindi and be a complete Bollywood actress.