X-The Film, a movie directed by an ensemble of eleven filmmakers – Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, Anu Menon, Nalan Kumarasamy, Hemant Gaba, Pratim D Gupta, Q, Raja Sen, Rajshree Ojha, Sandeep Mohan, Sudhish Kamath and Suparn Verma – was recently premiered at a film fest in New York. In an exclusive chat famous South film actress Pia Bajpai, who is a part of the project, talks about her experience on the international red carpet.

Piaa Bajpai

Piaa Bajpai (Source: Facebook)

Your movie X-The Film was recently premiered on the opening night at South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) in New York, USA. What was the experience and what response did the film get? 

No one (from the team) was expecting an international premiere for X-The Film. It is a small experimental movie where a bunch of directors were doing their own thing. So showcasing it at SAIFF was a big surprise for everybody. One of the directors informed me about the premiere in New York. When I heard most cast and crew members are going for it I thought of joining them too. I saw the film with 500-plus people. And the film got some really good reviews from international media. So it was very exciting and encouraging experience.

But the most special part is that my family was extremely happy and excited for me as no one from my immediate or extended family has ever been to America. It literally took me two days to believe that I am in New York for the world premiere of my film. When one is part of such a project it doesn’t matter if you play a small or a big role. X will always be special because it took me from Etawah to New York.

When is the film going to release in India?

The film’s release date isn’t fixed yet but it is expected to release sometime in January 2015. The producers want to take the film to as many different Indian and international festivals as possible before releasing it. I am sure they will build a good marketing campaign around the film and release it because it got such positive feedback at SAIFF.

X-The Film is your first Hindi film but not a typical song and dance mainstream film. Why did you agree to be a part of an ensemble film? What is your role in the film?

First, I wouldn’t like to really call this my debut film because it’s an experiment. There are eleven directors who have directed small segments with many actors in it. It’s an experimental film and that’s why I liked it.

Even the films that I choose in South are very different. I don’t do two to three films in a year. I only do films that appeal to me. The concept of X-The Film seemed extremely interesting so I felt I should do it. It’s a film that will either click or not click with people, there’s no in between. It is a kind of film that I am proud to be part of.

My segment is titled 17 Presents, directed by Hemant Gaba. He is from Delhi and directed Shuttlecock Boys. I play a 17-year-old school girl who is in love with her classmate, played by Anushman Jha. My character tries to seduce him and does everything to make him fall in love with her. She isn’t scared of taking any drastic step to get him.

Does this mean you are shifting base from South to Bollywood?

Hindi is my mother tongue. I was doing television commercials in Mumbai and that’s how I met Priyadarshan (director) and got my first film (Poi Solla Porom). I have learnt a lot from doing films down South. I don’t know the language yet people have liked my work. But I want to do Hindi films as I am from the north and for my family, they will be very happy with it. That doesn’t mean I am saying goodbye to regional films. I will continue working in South as I look for opportunities in Hindi movies.

Piaa Bajpai Koottam Still

Piaa Bajpai in Koottam

Are there any Hindi film offers in the pipeline?

I have met so many people and know some really good directors in the Hindi film industry. But it’s not easy. It’s tough to get a good role in south industry as well. But I think my timing was perfect. I met Priyadarshan and UTV and everything clicked. So the day a similar situation unfolds here, were the package is perfect, I will do a Hindi film too. Because of my South films experience sometimes I do get calls for Hindi films too. But I have understood that your first film has to be very good. I should get noticed in my first film. It could be with a new director or a big name. All that matters is that I should be noticed and people should watch it. So I am not in any hurry to do Hindi movies. I am doing good films in the South and by God’s grace doing well.

What kind of Hindi films would you like to act in?

I would love to do something like Queen. When Queen released some reporters and critics in South said that if someone remakes the film in South, I should play Kangna Ranaut’s role. They felt I suit the role. Every Friday new films are releasing and new actresses enter the industry so I want to make sure whatever I do I make an impression.

How did you get into acting?

Till 12th standard I was damn confused. One day I wanted to be an airhostess and the next day I wanted to join the police force or army. I also wanted to be a doctor at some point. Finally I took a year to figure what I really wanted. In school I used to participate a lot in cultural activities at school and state level. So I figured I want to act. When I told my parents I want to go to Mumbai to be an actor they said no. But that didn’t stop me at all.

Around that time on Amitabh Bachchan’s birthday I read his two-page interview in the local newspaper of Delhi. I remember he had said something to the effect that if you really want to do something give it a shot and narrated his own journey to the industry. After reading his interview I made up my mind to give acting a shot. So I decided to come to Mumbai and give my 100 per cent. I thought the worst thing that could happen was that I wouldn’t make it and go back to do a regular job. At least I wouldn’t regret not trying to follow my heart.

When did you move to Mumbai and how were the initial days?

I really wanted to learn acting at an institute because I belong to a family of teachers. Acting was a very different profession for me. When I came to Mumbai, in 2006, I didn’t have the money to pay for my acting course. A few people advised me that first I should make enough money for food and shelter. So I started modeling in print ads and television commercials. That’s how I met Priyadarshan and got my first Tamil film in 2008. Even after signing films I continued doing commercials in Mumbai. Today I do a lot of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam film but I continue living in Mumbai.

Stylist Swati Kela shares her experience dressing up Pia Bajpai for the festival events

“Pia was very particular about the costume she was going to wear at the festival. She didn’t want to look like ‘I am representing the Indian culture or something’. Most actresses dress up in traditional attires but Pia wanted a mix of Indian and contemporary styles. So we picked up this beautiful gown by Payal Singhal for the opening night. It is a gown but has that Indian feel to it.

For the Gala Award night she wanted to look glamourous. She liked this striking black sequined one piece by AD Singh. And for the closing night, she wanted to dress slightly more Indian. So she wore this ensemble, again by Payal Singhal, which comprises of a fitted choli, a sheer skirt with a black lycra churidar underneath and a dupatta. Once again, it is an Indian attire but with very modern cut and styling. All the jewellery was by Silver Streak.”

– By Rachana Parekh