After a long period of expectancy beauty queen and model Niharika Singh has finally found her bearings in Hindi cinema.
Ashim Ahulwalia’s highly-acclaimed Miss Lovely has brought Niharika the kind of praise she has not known so far. It isn’t as if Niharika hasn’t been doing any films. It’s just that nothing had worked out so far.
Laughs the self-proclaimed gypsy, “It feels good to hear and read all those lovely things about Miss Lovely and my performance. It all seems in a distance since I shot for Miss Lovely in 2009. When critics write that I’d find it easy to identify with my role of the desperate and frustrated wannabe actress, I’ve to say it isn’t true. Between 2008 and 2010 I shot for four films. True, my two films with Himesh Reshammiya didn’t work out. But I didn’t sit at home sulking or knock frantically on producers’ doors. I moved on to my other interests. Of course there’s struggle in everything you do. Even the most successful actors of this industry are struggling each day. As far as I am concerned the struggle was not so much to establish myself as an actress but to find my bearings in life.”
Niharika says she has always been a bit of a drifter. “I am a mad nomad. I started my career as a model with local shows in my home-town Dehradun. I then did small fashion shows in Delhi. Then I came to Mumbai where I was signed for two films with Himesh Reshammiya. That didn’t work out. But I wasn’t disheartened. I could also see John Mathew Mathan the director of one of my stalled films A New Love Issshtory struggling. So the struggle in life is relative. Today I’ve got a bit of recognition for Miss Lovely. But I am struggling in commercial cinema.”
Not that Niharika is keenly compelled to crack the commercial code. “It’s not that I can’t identify with commercial cinema. It’s the workings of the film industry that disturb me. The long hours of waiting for stars to show up, and the disorganized system of shooting just gets to me. I don’t think I can handle it, not after Miss Lovely where the atmosphere was completely egalitarian. Everyone from the spot boys to the actors was treated equally. I enjoyed that community feeling while working in Miss Lovely. I don’t know if I can adjust in a more hierarchy-driven way of working.”
She trails off and then adds, “Cinema to me is not just Hindi cinema. I love the work being done in Bengali and Malayalam cinema. I love the idea of exploring characters, like the mysterious girl I play in Miss Lovely.”
Niharika says she didn’t study the porn-horror cinema of the 1970s before playing the wannabe actress in Miss Lovely.
“Firstly, my character remains outside the porn-horror milieu of the plot. And secondly, my director had done so much homework on the period that we actors just had to follow his thought-process. Ashim knew the era in and out. But he never weighed down the film with information.”
Niharika is all praise for her co-star. “Nawazuddin was not known when we shot for Miss Lovely. But it was obvious he was a brilliant actor. I learnt so much from him. Now I am doing another film Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa with Nawaz. It’s his film through and through. I’ve a relatively small role. But I love being part of a good film like this.”
Niharika says she is not a natural-born actress. “Until I signed those films with Himesh and did a Kannada film called Private Number I didn’t know I could act. Even while doing these films I wasn’t sure. I enjoyed acting and writing in equal measures. I still do.”
It was her fondness for writing that got Niharika close to Miss Lovely. “When the casting director came to me with the film I was bowled over. I got to know that several actresses had turned down the role because they saw it as a cheesy sex film. They couldn’t get it. So I got it!!”
The gypsy at heart who divides her time between her home-town Dehradun and Mumbai says love is never in shortage in her life. “I always have someone to love in my life. But it never lasts. Love moves on. I move on. Yes, there is someone in my life right now. Hopefully it will be there for a while.”