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Lara Dutta
 
 
 

Lara went through a painful and public break up recently. But there are no scars, emotional or otherwise, visible on that lovely face or bubbly persona.

In fact many were surprised to spot her soon after the split, walking her dog with ex-boyfriend Kelly Dorji!

So one would naturally begin any conversation with her by wondering aloud, what’s the actual status of their relationship?

Lara says firmly but quietly, we are friends. When you have been in a long term relationship and it doesn’t work out, there’s no rule that says you can’t be friends. Kelly and I are in touch – he lives in the same town as me, doesn’t he? I say things as they are. I hate speculations and rumours.

When a heroine turns single, heroes and filmmakers automatically go on the prowl. Has anyone hit on her now that she in single?

   
 

With a laugh she answers, no. thankfully, they still behave the same way towards me as they always did. I am their buddy and they treat me like one. Also, not many men have had the courage to proposition me. Most of my costars are superstars, so they have taught me the art of behaving like one, she grins.

Seriously, I get along well with everyone from Bobby to Akshay to Salman, Govinda and Abhishek, but I think I look best with Akshay, Salman and Abhishek on screen. Also Sanjay Dutt. All these actors are good friends and we have a great time when we do a film together. Akshay unfailingly makes me do something crazy every time we shoot together. Like climbing a building or scaffolding or diving from a cliff. I have singed a new film with Akshay and am training for it too, but will only be able to tell you more about it in a month’s time.

Last year was the defining one. Lots changed for stunning looker Lara Dutta in 2007. Both her personal as well as her professional life was turned upside down.

Few could believe that Lara and Kelly had really split after seven long years of togetherness. Thankfully their separation didn’t affect her career.


   
 

She had an unexpected hit like Partner, which showcased her tomboy image. Then there was her ultra-glam role as the chic Parisienne in the otherwise lackluster Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.

It was a pleasant reminder to filmmakers that the captivating former Miss Universe-turned-movie star (she’s bright and articulate too) was still very much in the reckoning

She nods vigorously, “The film and the role were great breakthroughs for me because Jhoom Barabar Jhoom focused attention on me. The way I was presented made everyone sit up and notice me and I got loads of recognition for my performance in the film. Now innumerable big banners are approaching me with good roles, so the whole experience has been phenomenal. Today people have come to recognize me as an actor which is fantastic!

You suggest to her that it look her pretty long to get noticed by a top banner like Yashraj and a slight frown mars the smooth forehead. “Oh, please. I have been in the industry for what – three-and-a-half-four year and getting a Yashraj film at this stage was just right. I have seen and heard that people wait for much longer to get a film with the banner. So I am happy I worked with them when I did”.

But she is also aware that a certain gesture from her got her the role. My guest appearance in Fanaa catapulted me into the good books of Yashraj, she admits, and helped me land JBJ. Not that we had any understanding or deal, but it did help us get to know each other a bit.

For a film that broke no box-office records, it proved a landmark in Lara’s career, and she refers to it frequently with affection and gratitude. JBJ has changed my position in the movie business. I have become very choosy. I don’t perceive myself as frivolous any longer. Such recognition has come after a long time for me. There have been ups and downs in my career, but thankfully, none of that has kept me down.

Many would claim she is poised to enter Bollywood’s A-list.

2007 has changed the course of my career, which is on the right track now, Lara happily states. Today I do need to make the right choices and keep my head on my shoulders. Every actor has his or her own priorities. Mine is not about being part of the numbers game. My priority is to act, to do good work. When I leave this industry, I want people to remember me as a good actress, not necessarily as the number one or number two actress.

For someone who joined the industry with no film background, I think I have done pretty well for myself, she flashes that dazzling smile without a jot of complacency. After all, I have already worked with Karan Johar (Kaal) and the Yashraj banner. I think that’s an achievement of sorts. If one wants to make it really big, getting the right banners and right heroes is very important, but I never did follow that strategy my focus has always been on what I could bring to a role. Today I truly believe that my time has come, she announces with quiet pride.

My run in the film industry has started and I have figured out which people I want to work with and the kind of films I want to do. All this while, I have been finding myself as an actor. And, I loved the process. I am glad I did those three scene films and item numbers, because now I know what to do and what not to do. I guess a sense of maturity has crept into my attitude towards my work. It was a training period for me, a time to lern the ropes, so to speak, because I am not from any filmi Khandaan.

After Partner, one had expected her to go on a signing spree, and sign at least one film with Salman Khan. But nothing seems to have happened. And after promoting her for Mr And Mrs Khanna, Salman now wants Deepika Padukone in the role! Lara doesn’t like controversies. That’s not true. When Salman and I sign a film, the script has to be good, surpassing Partner. I am sure we will definitely work together in future.

She has, however, signed a film with her other Partner costar Govinda – Ravi Chopra’s new film, Banda Yeh Bindass Hai, which is a remake of the English film, My Cousin Vinny. Yeah, that’s one film I am looking forward to. I am lucky to get a chance to work with such an actor, as it would be a great challenge matching comic timing with Govinda. I take it as a compliment that I got a role where I have to work alongside accomplished actors like Boman Irani, Paresh Rawal and Govinda. I also have Sudhir Mishra’s and Devdas, where I play a modern version of Paro. That is one role I am dying to do.

One hears that after all the hits, she has increased her fee dramatically and is now charging Rs.55 Lakh per film!

I charge what I deserve. And people who are paying me my price are happy. So who’s complaining? She asks.

Lara looked now in 2007, and it’s all thanks to her diet. Lara’s now a vegetarian and she loves having changed over. As she puts it, I am a vegetarian by option, as non-vegetarian food can be harmful in many ways. I am into yoga, she explains, and vegetarian food has helped me a lot. Surprisingly, I thought I would crave for non-vegetarian food if I saw some one else eating it, or that I would just feel like having it – but I haven’t.

Not even at parties?

I am not a party person, I prefer watching a movie rather than going to a party. I love watching films in multiplexes, meeting people and enjoying the whole experience with popcorn and so on. For those who didn’t know, she doesn’t hide behind a burkha either!

So look around you next time you watch a film. Lara Dutta just might be sitting beside you!


 
 
 
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