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Take TWO

It's a homecoming, says Jaya Prada, who is set for her second shot at stardom.


She has walked the earth for four full decades. Yet, Jaya Prada radiates the appeal of a 17-year-old. Laugh lines mark her peaches-and-cream cheeks. Yes, she has enough reason to smile. For, she is all set for her second shot at stardom. And hopeful of a second take in Parliament as well.

"It's a homecoming of sorts," Jaya Prada says. "I'm back where I belong after a hiatus of about five years. And that is a huge gap in showbiz parlance. So much has changed."

Nevertheless, her camaraderie with the camera will continue with films such as `Sipahi', `Deh' and N. Chandra's untitled film, besides the Bengali film, `Swapne Dekha Raj Kanya'.

`Khakee', her comeback film slated for release later this month, has Jaya Prada paired opposite the Big B (Amitabh Bachchan). "Though it's a brief appearance, I couldn't resist the offer to act with Amitji. He's proved lucky for me. All our films together have clicked."

Jaya Prada's name unspools a montage of stereotyped images on the screen. But now, she's keen to move beyond the confines of clichés. "I don't want to be stereotyped. I want to play roles that are relevant to our times -- not the stereotyped darling daughters, doormat daughters-in-law, magnanimous moms or slit-eyed mom-in-laws. I want to portray strong characters - maybe even ones similar to Indira Gandhi," she says. That she is on a different octave is evident as she continues, "Politics has hardened me. I'm no longer that introvert who did what others wanted me to do. I'm ready to face challenges head-on. Politics has given me the confidence to move on, undaunted by setbacks. And that's precisely why I want to do meaty roles in films that express social concerns."

From what she says, it's clear that Jaya Prada is determined to do roles akin to the ones she portrayed in her earlier films such as `Sargam', `Tohfa', `Mawaali' and `Sanjog'. She entered films at the age of 13 and made her mark in Telugu. About her career, which spans more than two decades and comprises 283 films in seven languages, she says, "I learnt the ropes the hard way and with perseverance managed to be of consequence. I consider it fortunate to have been associated with N. T. Rama Rao — as an admirer, co-star and political leader."

It was on NTR's persuasion that Jaya Prada joined the Telugu Desam Party. But little did she know that the slight departure from her showbiz routine would end in a serious pursuit. "Politics is a different ball game. I'm happy that people have taken me seriously as a politician." And that is a claim you would not dispute, given the fact that there are "positive vibes" from the TDP leadership at a time when elections are round the corner.

"My commitment was total. That's paid off. I look forward to another chance," says the former MP. Films and politics are not just the two things on Jaya Prada's mind. "It's time I took my passion for dance seriously. February will see the unveiling of my dance ballet, `Amrapali'. The show, which will tour India and abroad, will see me in the lead role, supported by a host of models. The two-and-a-half-hour performance will cover a range of dance forms. Twenty per cent of the show proceeds will go to a home that I plan to establish for destitute women in Hyderabad."

The coming months are going to be hectic. But Jaya Prada is `cool'. "I've learned to switch on and off like the arclights," she says. And this, coming from someone driven to the brink several times when happiness played hide-and-seek with her, leaves you kind of relieved!

T. KRITHIKA REDDY

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