As far as playing the gracious host goes, Bollywood has been very welcoming, says Sri Lankan beauty queen Jacqueline Fernandez.
“As far as Bollywood is concerned, I am an outsider, but let me tell you I have never felt more at home.”
Now, the two-films-old actress is eager to return the favour. And what better opportunity than the International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) choosing Colombo as its host destination?
Fernandez, 24, could hardly hide her excitement while she spoke to tabloid! about the awards ceremony scheduled for June. Billed as the Bollywood Oscars, the IIFAs will attract some of the biggest stars from Indian cinema to Colombo.
“The whole of Sri Lanka is very excited. It’s such a great opportunity for us. We appreciate all kinds of Hindi actors and films. Indian cinema is so big there,” said Fernandez, who arrived in Mumbai in 2007 for a modelling assignment.
One thing led to the other and in 2009 she appeared in her debut film, Aladin, a fantasy flick featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Riteish Deshmukh.
“The industry has treated me so well that I don’t feel like a foreigner at all,” Fernandez said.
Case in point: IIFA brand ambassador Bachchan spoke highly of Fernandez at the launch of the event last Tuesday and called her the picture of “grace, dignity and humour”.
“It was an amazing feeling. I was sitting right among the crowd and I couldn’t believe he was addressing me.
“I didn’t really know how to react to this — it was almost like God preaching down at you,” Fernandez said breathlessly.
Though she has won brownie points with the iconic actor, the critics and the masses have not been as kind. Her latest release, Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai, a romantic comedy in which she plays an alien, has received scathing reviews. Some channels have even gone to the extent of labelling her as a yet another pretty, plastic face. “The reception for Jaane Kahan Se… has been lukewarm and it’s good enough for me,” she said.
“You have to take into consideration that we didn’t have a huge star cast, [a big] budget… We didn’t have a lot of things going for us. But we did well.
“Regarding being a pretty face, I have just started out and people are yet to see my scope. I am sure their judgment will be different once I do more movies.”
Refusing to rise to the bait, Fernandez was the picture of poise and was intent on focusing on her accomplishments. “Let’s face it. It’s not easy to enter the entertainment industry. It’s always a struggle, because the competition is very fierce. It’s even tougher if you are coming from outside,” said Fernandez, who is currently taking classes to master Hindi.
“I have begun speaking Hindi to everybody I know — from the doorman to the driver. That’s the best way to learn.”
Fernandez rates her short stint in Bollywood an exhilarating roller-coaster ride. “I will rate my experience in Bollywood as a perfect 10/10. It’s been a whirlwind roller-coaster experience. You know what I love about the industry — it’s not always pretty and is filled with challenges and pitfalls.
“And the best bit is, I am managing it all on my own.”
A film that she wishes she were a part of: “Black. I love its screenplay, the acting, the pace. It’s my all-time favourite film.”
Her go-to outfit: “Dresses, especially floral ones. In a dress, I feel girly and feminine. My wardrobe is filled with cotton dresses. I even team a floral top with denims. Karen Millen has a great selection of dreses.”
Her favourite handbag and shoes: “I love the Chanel quilted handbag in black and Christian Louboutin black pumps.”
Her top travel tip: “When in Sri Lanka, be sure to visit the pristine white beaches. You’ll love it.”
On her link-ups with Riteish Deshmukh: “I have learnt to ignore these link-ups. It’s him today and somebody else tomorrow. Right now, my career is of importance.”