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Second Coming

Dancer, actress and now Hindi pop singer. Meenakshi Seshadri speaks about her latest avatar

PHOTO: R. RAGU

CHANGING TRACK Meenakshi Seshadri

`Ding dong, baby sing a song... ' Meenakshi Seshadri is trying to do exactly that.

But not one song, she wants to sing quite a few.

Remember how a team of bike-borne goons disguised as cops, led by the handsome Jackie Shroff, sang this line to the heroine of "Hero"? And how she broke into the lilting number that went on to become a chartbuster? Almost 20 years after the film made Meenakshi Seshadri the toast of the box-office and eight years after she quit the marquee for marriage and motherhood, she is trying to make a comeback, but now as a singer. Meenakshi is working on her debut Hindi pop album.

Besides, she is busy marketing a musical documentary on her life and artistic endeavours. This has brought the U.S.-based dancer-actress to India (she visited Chennai recently) with a creative agenda.

"I know many might wonder why a trained classical dancer (she is proficient in Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Odissi) wants to enter the cacophonous Hindi pop world," she says with a luminous smile. "For fun and friends' sake. My two friends in Dallas (one a composer and the other a keyboard artiste) and I work like a band and have been toying with the idea of an album for some time. I believe art spans all genres. Whatever I do should appeal to my senses, that's what matters."

Still a charmer

Despite a long hiatus from the arc lights, Meenakshi has not lost the charm and dew-like freshness that marked her celluloid presence.

She still sounds like the effervescent, a-sentence-a-second Radha of "Hero".

"Maybe the cool clime, my cooler attitude and my kids Kendra and Josh are doing the trick! In the U.S., you play several roles - wife, mother, cook, driver, cleaner, tutor... I also run Cherish Arts, a dance school, do some choreography and cultural shows. To be able to pack in so much, one needs to be constantly charged. The challenges give you the energy," she says matter-of-factly. And goes on to add, "Philosophy apart, life is not as easy as I am making it out to be.

Moving to the U.S. was not just about bidding goodbye to the glamour and adulation, it was more about feeling uprooted and searching for your identity."

So when Margaret Stephens, a docu filmmaker living in her neighbourhood in Dallas, came up with the idea of capturing these feelings on camera, Meenakshi instantly accepted the offer.

"She wanted to observe my life from up close for a few months before starting work. But the process continued for six long years. Her commitment was so touching that instead of being a mere subject I got totally involved in the making of the film too. Violinist L. Subramaniam lent his tracks for the background score and I have choreographed two dance items for the film. It's a never-before-told story in the documentary format," she says excitedly.

Coming from a simple, middle class Tamilian family, Meenakshi was never the quintessential Bollywood heroine. "My mother being proficient in the classical arts, I was naturally initiated early in life. So life revolved around rehearsals and recitals. But, like any youngster, I had varied interests and that's precisely why I entered the Miss India contest. To my amazement, I came back with the crown and soon film offers came along. `But not at the cost of your studies,' my father made it clear. I used to go for shoots with my vanity case and a load of books. That's how I managed to do my post graduation. On the other hand, my mother was particular that I continue dancing. It was the most happening phase of my life. And I thoroughly enjoyed every moment."

Not overtly ambitious, she was keen on marriage and motherhood.

"You need to experience everything. After all, life, like a movie, is full of twists and turns," she says striking poses spontaneously even as the camera went click, click, click.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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