Vaishali Desai

“I want to be known as a legend” ~ Vaishali Desai

If newcomers in Bollywood have it hard, then most star children believe they have it even harder. Vaishali Desai is one such actress. You last saw her debuting along with Jackky Bhagnani in Kal Kissne Dekha but this actress-model has been on the glamour circuit for a while now. Previously Vaishali wore the Miss India-International crown, has been the face for many popular products on the market including Tanishq, Ponds and Sunfeast Biscuits where she shared screen space with Shah Rukh Khan. The young actress is also Manmohan Desai’s grand niece and is determined to live up to the reputation her uncle has left for her. Friendly and ultra accommodating, the Vaishali speaks to Roshni Magazine about being yet another star child, her modeling days and moving from Bangalore to Mumbai with great hopes to make it big.

You’re officially now one movie old! How has the response to Kal Kissne Dekha been?
For the film, frankly speaking there has been a very mixed response. But on a personal, and on my performance, I got calls from all over India and across the world, appreciating whatever I got to do in the film. People have liked the way I’ve looked, my acting and my dialogue delivery. So basically, it’s been a fantastic response regarding my performance.

And have the offers been rolling in?
(Laughs) Well, you’ll have to wait and watch for that. It’s just too early to talk about anything but yes, I’m looking at a lot of things. Keeping my fingers crossed.

For all those that don’t know you, you are not only the grand niece of Manmohan Desai but also an acclaimed model and Miss India International. What made you take the plunge from modeling to acting?
I would say that for me, being in the glamour industry has been very accidental. I never ever thought that I would be a part of this industry. I never imagined. My cousin-brother wanted to try his hand at modeling and someone noticed me. They asked to walk the ramp and I did that which became a hobby I loved doing. And then Kal Kissne Dekha happened which Vivek [Sharma] Sir actually misplaced my number and got it finally through a common friend. One day suddenly he called me, so mom and I went along to meet him. He asked me if I would be interested in the film, then I went in for an audition and in less than two days, they finalized me.

What did you have to do to prepare to face a camera and act?
Well frankly speaking I didn’t do any kind of preparation except for my dancing skills. I’m trained in Bharatnatyam and Kathak. Kathak I’ve lost touch with after doing Kal Kissne Dekha but yes, I am professionally trained. I’ve also dabbled in different styles of dancing – Salsa, Jazz, Jive; a bit of all. Acting wise I’ve done nothing except my theater background which I was in school and then college. So me as an individual, I’ve not really prepared and I were to tell people what they really need to do then I would say that now cinema has grown a lot and its not so methodical these days; its very realistic cinema. I think you just need to be as natural and spontaneous as you can; if you’re talented, then you have a long way to go. But I think its also essential to be lucky – you need to be at the right place at the right time.

How did it feel when your performance was thoroughly appreciated by critics and audiences?
It felt really nice. I actually watched the film with a live audience on the first-day-first-show! And I was really nervous. I walked out of the theater before the film ended because I was going to get! But you won’t believe it. Every person that walked out of the theater had something nice to say about me; whether it was my looks or my performance though I didn’t get to do too much in the film but still, whatever people got to see, they really liked me. So my nervousness just disappeared in a few seconds. It was great!

How does it feel when you are called yet another star kid?
It feels nice in a way because you know for a fact that you’re here to stay and you have a strong backing so you can always fall and rise again. But then people always compare you to your ancestors which is not fair because I think everyone is an individual and I feel that a legend or a superstar is just one. You cannot have another Amitabh Bachchan or another Manmohan Desai. You need to form your own identity. Sometimes critics do write things like, “They are born with a platinum spoon” which is not true. We work very hard and I think we are the most pressurized lot because we have to live up to the expectations of not only the audience but also of the film industry and also your lineage.

Which title do you prefer – model or actress? And which is easier?
I would say actress. I love modeling and it’s much easier. Acting is something that if you don’t strike a connection with the audience, I think then it’s very difficult to last.

Now that you’re done with one movie, what is one important lesson you will always learn?
I would say I’ve learnt a lot after my first film. I come from a protected background and yes, the industry has different way of working. I’ve learnt to be professional, to be patient, and to be a little smart and not to take everyone as your own or emotionally attached. Just do your work, leave it there and go home.

What are some things or people that inspire you? Who are your inspirations?
I know it sounds very cliché but my Mum has always been my inspiration and my pillar of strength. Acting wise I would say, and I’m being very greedy, but I would want to be an amalgamation of Rekha, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit and Madhubala! (Laughs) That’s all. I’m not asking for more! (Laughs)

You also had to move from Bangalore to Mumbai. What are three things you miss about Bangalore and three you love about Mumbai?
I miss my house in Bangalore because we have matchboxes here in Mumbai. I miss my ancestral home. My Father keeps shuffling a lot between Bangalore and Mumbai, so I miss him a lot when he’s not here. And I miss the South Indian food. But I would say Mumbai has given me a lot of opportunities; my brand name Vaishali Desai is because of Mumbai. The other thing is I would say the people here have a lively go-getting spirit; Mumbai doesn’t die, it’s always alive no matter what. And the third thing I think the food again. You can eat any kind of food. I love eating the rasta (hawker street) food.

What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a water baby so I love swimming. That’s how I stay fit too. I love reading books which I’ve not been able to do in the last two-three years. I sometimes cook for my family and loved ones. Shopping at times, going to the spa – girly things!

And a dream you have yet to achieve?
I would say known as an actor with quality rather than quantity. And maybe to be a legend someday! I was a gold medalist in my academics, which not a lot of people know but in every field that I’ve been in, I’ve always excelled so I hope that in my current field too, I excel.

~ Roshni M.
(September 2009)

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