“Never Write Anyone Off!”

There is nothing like a good comeback. It’s like rediscovering an old friend. It’s not always easy for a female actor to recover from career misfortune. Bollywood actor Ameesha Patel,who won a million hearts in Gadar, is gearing up for one such comeback. This time as a producer and businesswoman.

Ameesha Patel Ameesha Patel

Photos Carrot GK ❖ Assistant to the photographer Miresh ❖ Styling Abhilasha srivastava Text Nivedita Jayaram Pawar ❖ Location Renaissance mumbai convention centre hotel, Powai, Mumbai

Ameesha Patel Ameesha Patel

Films can be a self-regarding world, but Ameesha Patel’s vision roams far and wide. A Bollywood actor, Ameesha is equally at home facing the camera with her co-star Sunny Deol for her upcoming film Bhaiyyaji Superhitt, helming her company engaged in a water softener and encouraging players of her team Royal Patialvi in Box Cricket League.

Ameesha Patel made a fantastic debut in the 2000 hit Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai with Hrithik Roshan. After a massive hit at the box office, it would have been easy for her to cruise along on that fame with less challenging roles. She did the opposite when she jumped into the cauldron with Gadar: Ek Prem Katha with Sunny Deol. It was no easy role to pull off. Set in 1947, during the partition of India, the film narrated the story of a truck driver (Sunny Deol), a Jatt Sikh, who falls in love with a Muslim girl, Sakina (Ameesha Patel), belonging to an aristocratic family. This unglamorous role was not what was expected from the young and beautiful Ms. Patel, but it presented a challenge that she embraced with passion. The film was a hit, cementing her star status and turned out to be a great career decision because it established her as a serious talent in her second film, and not just another beautiful, south Bombay actor. It was also an indicator of the type of acting career she was seeking.

You can’t decide a film’s fate before its release. There’s no surety that your new films will be better or worse than your previous ones. You can only hope to surpass your efforts. None of us here are soothsayers or astrologers to predict what will happen because we do not have the mathematics in place. I’m proud of all my work because there’s a little heart and soul of Ameesha in all of them.

Call it fate, or poor choices, Ameesha didn’t quite hit gold with her subsequent films.The odd hit like Abbas-Mustan’s Humraaz were forgotten as the flops piled up. Chatur Singh Two Star didn’t work and Shorcut Romeo earned abysmal reviews. Disappointment at the failures must have been huge but she didn’t disown any. “I’m not ashamed of any work I do,” she says. “You can’t decide a film’s fate before its release. There’s no surety that your new films will be better or worse than your previous ones. You can only hope to surpass your efforts. None of us here are soothsayers or astrologers to predict what will happen because we do not have the mathematics in place. I’m proud of all my work because there’s a little heart and soul of Ameesha in all of them.”

Ameesha Patel Ameesha Patel

Currently, she has poured her heart and soul into her home production Desi Magic, which has been in the making for over two years. What’s taking it so long? “I don’t think it’s too long a time for a baby company involved in everything right from scripting to release,” she says. “Sanjay Leela Bhansali had scripted Bajirao Mastani 14 years ago, but decided to go into production only later. Sometimes films take time to be made. Look at Welcome Back or Jagga Jasoos. This film (Desi Magic) has been shot across the country and abroad—France, Thailand and Europe. If we were shooting in Lokhandwala, it would have been over in 20 days.”

A rare combination of beauty and steel on celluloid, Ameesha is even more impressive in the flesh. There’s a lightness to her being that’s underpinned by a palpable composure, and an ego that’s probably as solid as her muscled core. “I still feel like a misfit because of my education and the way I have been brought up,’ she says. “People feel I am a snob just because I am a south Bombay girl belonging to a political, illustrious, rich family, who studied at Cathedral, then went to Tufts University in Massachusetts, America, being Rajni Patel’s granddaughter and knowing politicians. That (weight) remains with me in everything I do.”

I am not a star child, I will not get a chance after giving 17 flops just because I am the daughter of a successful filmmaker or director. I have to create my own space. When you do that, it’s a bigger sense of achievement and pride.

Though celebrated in the business, she takes nothing for granted, saying that after 16 years in Bollywood she still finds it as difficult as it was when she first entered it. “I am not a star child,” she says. “I will not get a chance after giving 17 flops just because I am the daughter of a successful filmmaker or director. I have to create my own space. When you do that, it’s a bigger sense of achievement and pride.”

Ameesha Patel Ameesha Patel

The actor, who had an unexpected start in the world of cinema, has survived fame, family betrayals, a broken heart and career setbacks, among other things. Ask how she has managed to emerge unscathed and curiously unspoilt, she insists her positive nature and faith keep her going. “The industry hasn’t changed me as a person,” she says. “I am Ameesha Patel—motivated, happy and grounded. I have cool friends outside the industry, yet I get along very well with everyone in the film industry. I have no camps.” Then she admits that being outspoken and honest haven’t always worked in her favour. “People in the industry don’t want to hear honesty. They like chamchas and yes-men and I am not like that. I speak my mind. What you see is what you get. I don’t know how to be diplomatic. Or I’d be a politician.”

Ameesha maintains that the toughest thing in the Hindi film industry is not having a hero as a boyfriend, or a godfather to back you. “Life becomes a lot easier when you are dating someone or spending a lot of extra time outside of working hours with powerful heroes,” she says. “Your job becomes a lot easier and there is a comfort level, which is something I haven’t done and won’t do. Each one has his own way of carving their career. I have my own, so I have Ameesha Patel Productions.”

Asked along the way

I am

A sensitive and emotional child-woman.

Ameesha Patel Ameesha Patel

You can call me

Angel or Amy Pooh.

Life is

Something you have to leave to God. You can do as much planning, but nothing is in your hands. So, I want to enjoy the journey of my life and have a blast everyday.

I strongly believe in

Never write anyone off. You never know which Friday can change anyone’s destiny.

The best thing about stardom

It’s the effect you have on millions of people. They make you part of their families. After watching Gadar, elderly women in Pakistan named their granddaughters Sakina! You can make money by being a businessman, doctor, engineer, or a smuggler, but you can have the love of millions only by being an actor and doing good cinema.

Ameesha Patel Ameesha Patel

The best compliment ever

When people meet me they say you are far prettier in person. They say you are a beauty with brains.

I deal with the critics

Just the way Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan deal with them when their films fail—with a pinch of salt. It’s a Friday to Friday thing. By Saturday, it’s forgotten and newspapers with the critics’ reviews are dumped in the bin, or used to pack bhelpuri.

I blow up

When my house is in a mess. I am a cleanliness and control freak. I need everything to be prim and proper.

What I find irresistible

Sev puri and pani puri from the roadside. Basically, a good chaat and a good dessert.

Favourite colour

Pink. I love it and also consider it lucky. Even my company logo is pink.

Fashion mantra

I am not a fashion victim. I pick what I feel comfortable in. I love shoes and handbags. In fact, I have an enviable collection. I love dressing up. I know what suits me.

Favourite designer

I like Chanel for their bags, Gucci boots and Valentino and Roberto Cavalli gowns.

Style icon

Rekha oozes sensuality. She is always immaculately dressed in a sari and gold jewellery. She is ageless.

If not an actor

A really boring investment banker.

The one thing I would love to change

I am hyper. I will be in my pyjamas, but my brain remains super active. I wish I could calm down and rest, and be a little bit of a girl sometimes.

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