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Dream, Believe, Achieve
May 23, 2013 COMMENT comment
     
Dream, Believe, Achieve
By Purva Bhatia
 
If you believe in your dreams and have the hunger to fulfil them then they do come true, even if a little late. Actress Tisca Chopra exemplifies this. She is a firm believer in the power of dreams albeit not without a desire to learn and excel. I was just 18 years old when I did my first film. It was a rubbish film. I wanted to do meaningful roles but I was disillusioned. I felt I was a square peg in a round hole; it was a bad time for cinema.
 
Like hundreds who land in Mumbai every day hoping to make it big in Bollywood, Tisca Chopra arrived in the city almost 20 years ago. She soon bagged the leading role in a movie called Platform, opposite Ajay Devgn, who had just bagged Filmfare's Best Male Debut award. A number of offers followed and she did films like Bali Umar ko Salaam, Taqdeerwala and Gunehgar. However, this wasn't what she was looking for."I was just 18 years old when I did my first film. It was a rubbish film. I wanted to do meaningful roles but I was disillusioned. I felt I was a square peg in a round hole; it was a bad time for cinema. I thought I had made a wrong career choice," she recalls. She considered going back to live with her parents, lock, stock and barrel.

Coming from an academic background and being a bright student, she was expected to pursue higher studies after graduating in literature from Hindu College. There was no way her academic parents would have nurtured her dreams of becoming an actor. But Chopra, who had grown up enacting stories animatedly to entertain her kid brother and participating in all school and college
plays, was determined. She hoodwinked her parents into believing that she wanted to move to Mumbai to study advertising and marketing. She enrolled herself into the course but focused on building a career in acting. And there she was in the city only to find herself 'out of place'. She quietly disappeared from the scene.
 
But she didn't quit. There was a long hiatus before she appeared on the big screen again. So convincing was her role this time that the audience remembered her more as Ishaan Awasthi's mother (her character) than as Tisca Chopra. Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par (TZP) finally brought her the success she had been waiting for. She won a National award among many other accolades for her role.
 
But it did not happen magically. She claims to have consciously taken a step backwards to hone her acting skills during a sabbatical from the big screen. The realisation came through when she was offered an English film called Binodini, based on a story by Tagore. "The entire experience was extremely stimulating because of the discussions on characters, story and scenes we used to have after the shoot. It was then I realised that this was the format I wanted to be associated with," reminisces Chopra. "I wanted to polish my craft so I decided on doing meaningful theatre. I literally hounded Feroz Abbas Khan (theatre and film director, playwright and screenwriter) till the time he saw the passion in me. I worked with him on plays like Mahatma vs Gandhi, and Inshallah to learn the nuances of acting," says the 39-year-old actor.
 
A practicing Buddhist, she clearly knows what she wants – be it her roles in movies or the kind of makeup for Diva's photo shoot. Hungry to act, as she puts it, Chopra soon found her way into the small screen while she was doing theatre. Ekta Kapoor's Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki was her first break in television.
 
By this time she had married Sanjay Chopra, a pilot, who encouraged her further to learn theatre. She was later seen in two telefilms by Timangshu Dhulia and serials like Astitiva, Saakshi and Sarkar. And it was in one of the serials that a certain casting assistant for a big movie project noticed her work. She was called in for an audition. "I knew this was it.
 
It was one of those days when everything was just perfect. My performance went exactly the way I had imagined," she recalls. The same evening she was told she had been chosen for a role in Aamir Khan's TZP. Much was said about her sublime performance. "The film opened up a lot of possibilities for me. I feared getting similar offers that would require me to portray similar emotions. I did not want to be casted in the same mould," says the actor who was later seen playing a seductress in Madhur Bhandarkar's Dil Toh Bachha Hai Ji and movies like Firaaq, 10ml Love and Love Breakups Zindagi. She will soon be seen playing a mother again in her upcoming movie Ankur Arora Murder Case, a medical thriller written by Vikram Bhatt. Her later releases include an international film Qissa with actor Irrfan Khan. In future, she wants to play varied roles.
 
"I have been fearless. I keep ducking the stereotype. Anything that offers me a chance to play a real person, I will do it as long as there is a good story to tell. That's the best part of being an actor – you get to literally live so many characters," says Chopra, who clearly wants to be seen as a thinking actor. Well-travelled and well-read, Chopra, grand-niece of Khushwant Singh, is also writing a book on Bollywood. She also has a strong opinion on female foeticide and has been involved in projects for its eradication and for promoting education for the girl child.
 
We ask her opinion on child sexual abuse (our main story this month). "Unfortunately, two of my friends faced some incidents which impacted them deeply. One of them recovered well but the other hasn't been able to. The solution lies in awareness. It's important to talk to the kids as friends and give them the space to share whatever they experience since it's mostly known people and friends who are the off enders," opines Chopra.
 
Her own childhood was 'idyllic'. She grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, where her father was the principal of the India International School. "It was very beautiful. We travelled a lot during that time and that gave me a lot of exposure and a knack of picking up languages easily," shares Chopra, who is proficient in Persian, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi and Telugu.
 
We also see her in a plethora of television ads – over 250 – like Philips, TVS, and most recently Tanishq, her husband's favourite. Much in love, she talks of him as a true companion. "He is sensationally funny. He knows how to squeeze life every moment and never misses any opportunity to enjoy... he's truly in love with life. And he is my biggest critic. He thinks my best is yet to come," she gushes. Seeming in a happy space as of now, Chopra sees herself donning a producer's hat too, even as she plays more meaningful roles.
 

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