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SANDHYA AND DEEPIKA CHAT ABOUT SQUASH AND THE SILVER SCREEN

`I hardly think of school'


Deepika Pallikal is just 13, while Sandhya is 16 going on 17. And they have already had a taste of success.

Deepika played her first international tournament in London when she was in the sixth standard and decided squash was her future.

Since then she has been traversing the globe, winning several titles — the German Junior Open (2003 and 2004), Belgium Junior Open, Scottish Junior Open, Australian Junior Open, French Junior Open, Indian Junior Open, the National Grand Finals and more.

At present, when sport is all about glamour and grit, Deepika with her `model' looks will be endorsing products for some of her corporate sponsors.

Pretty Sandhya's success story reads simple: from an ordinary schoolgirl she became a star overnight. "Kadhal", one of the biggest hits of the year, just happened.

Going by her debut performance, one feels she's a natural before the camera.

Life for her now is about signing autographs and responding to the lights-camera-action calls.

She has just wrapped up a movie in Malayalam and will soon start shooting for a Tamil flick with Simbu.

Girlie giggles, light-hearted chat... Chitra Swaminathan listens...

Sandhya: The Take Two is quite like my celluloid encounter. I don't know anything about squash.

Deepika: Believe me, I have never watched a Tamil movie except for bits and pieces of "Pammal K Sambandam".

But when I get back home today, I will watch "Kadhal". (The two burst out laughing). Did you ever dream of becoming an actor?

Their launch

Sandhya: I never had such fantasies. One day a family friend asked my parents if he could suggest my name to a producer who was on the look-out for a fresh face for his film.

Though not really excited, I went ahead and did a photo shoot. And the next thing, I was selected. But my parents were in a dilemma. Later, they let me take up the offer.

Deepika: Did you feel inhibited before the camera, particularly doing romantic scenes?

Sandhya: The first few days I felt odd, with people thronging the sets during outdoor shoots, while a romantic scene was being picturised.

My co-star Bharath made me feel comfortable. How did you take to squash?

Deepika: Actually, I started playing tennis.

Later I joined a squash summer camp in my school (Good Shepherd) just to pass time, but developed an instant liking for the game.

I started practising before and after school at the Squash Academy here.

My mom is an ex-cricketer and my dad was also into sports during his college days, so they have been supportive. Also my coaches Cyrus Poncha and Major Maniam help me better my game. I believe you are appearing for your board exams (Standard X) as a private candidate. Do you miss going to school?

Sandhya: Initially I did. Now I enjoy my work so much that I hardly think of school. Of course, I am in touch with some of my school friends. I am going to appear for my board exams in September.

Despite hopping in and out of shoots, I want to continue my studies.

Deepika: My Principal and teachers have been extremely accommodative.

My friends lend me their notes whenever I am away playing tournaments.

Don't you think youngsters can go astray watching films such as "Kadhal", which depicts a schoolgirl falling in love and running away to get married?

Sandhya: The film actually tells them it is too early to think about romance. It shows in the most realistic way, how miserable life can get.

So, do you miss hanging out with friends?

Practice is fun

Deepika: I am not the party type. I try to catch up with friends whenever I feel like taking a break.

I have got used to the daily routine — waking up at 5.30 a.m., going for practice, rushing back home to go to school, returning from school and setting out to practise again. Anyway, we have fun during practice sessions and it helps me unwind.

Sandhya: I too had a ball... cracking jokes and being pampered during the shooting of "Kadhal" and "Alice In Wonderland" (Malayalam film). Now I even tell my parents that they need not accompany me to shoots.

Deepika: When going for international events, I too tell my mom not to come along.

But, that has never happened. It's true, their comforting words and care do help you face challenges.

My mom ensures I have a healthy diet. Though working, she finds the time to even shop for me. I love accessories.

Look at my ears (she pushes her hair back), full of rings! I want to pierce my nose and belly button too!

Sandhya: If I had my way, I would wear the simplest of outfits.

I also hate make-up. Despite the demands of the profession, I think it's a great feeling to be recognised.

Deepika: Oh ya, you feel so good when friends call up and say, `I read your interview. You look great in those pictures.'

Sandhya: I hope they start telecasting more of squash. Then they will say, `What a great shot it was!' (Both laugh aloud)

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