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Lisa Ray hates being called a sex symbol.

Remind her of her famous swimsuit magazine covers and she gets upset. "I was only sixteen then, today my priorities have changed", she protests. The shift in priorities is in more ways than one. Lisa was skeptical about doing films at one time. Twice before she had signed films and backed out. Apparently she is, or so she claims right now,third time certain. She's shooting for Vikram Bhatt's new film in which she plays a lawyer. Covered from head to toe, she's enjoying this new avatar immensely while perfecting the make-up on her otherwise flawless face. She speaks candidly about her much-delayed foray into films.

You have been offered so many bigger films earlier. What made you decide on Vikram Bhatt's films?
I never had any intentions of doing films. But I guess things changed for me, it was a combination of many factors that made me take up the film. Vikram is a great director, he's young and we communicate on the same level. For me that's important. The entire unit is very young and enthused and the story is very interesting.
But still, at the end of the day, it was just instincts that led me to do this film. There were many bigger films with top heroes offered to me, but I must say I'm very happy and much more comfortable as I feel that this is a right choice. Aftab is doing well and he's very enthusiastic and I feel much more relaxed working with someone new as compared to an established hero right now.

So now that films have become a full-time career for you is it bye to TV and modeling?
It's not that I'm jumping into the whole arena now. It's very difficult to say whether I will or will not do more films at this stage in my life. I don't want to commit myself either way. But I have no intentions of jumping into the mainstream film world fully because I'm very happy with my other advertisement, television and modeling work. Films are a very time-consuming profession, so I don't think I will get into them full time. I will continue doing everything else that I am already doing. I don't see myself as a full-time film actress.

Does seeing models like Aishwarya, Sushmita and Namrata doing well in films comfort you?
I'm very happy for them but none of them are examples or motivations for me. My motivations have always come from within me. Just because they are successful is not reason enough for me to join films.

Did Vikram Bhatt insist that you take some sort of formal training as an actress?
No, not at all. But I had already done all sorts of classes much before. When I was doing Sanjay Dutt's film a couple of years back, I had already attended acting, dancing and action classes then. And Vikram did not see it necessary for the role. I do everything my director tells me to do because I have complete faith in Vikram. Because I'm completely new to the line, I rely totally on my director and the unit around me.

What are you going to do about your English accent?
I will definitely work on my accent but right now I am only concentrating on the filming. See, I do speak Hindi, I understand the language perfectly, so it's not such a big problem. My accent is slightly anglicised but it's not an issue at this stage of the film. Right now, I have to perform, be good at my expressions in the scenes. So, I'm coping pretty well. I don't have a major language problem at all. You have to understand, I'm also a first-time actress. Every aspect of filmmaking is new to me.

Even today, your Gladrags pin-up girl image is so strong in people's minds. How does this feel?
That is there but then isn't being glamorous a requirement for any Hindi film actress as well? I definitely think so and I also strongly believe that I'm not only glamorous but I also have brains. My role in Vikram Bhatt's film is not externally glamorous so I can't say what people feel about me. But I've been receiving all kinds of roles to perform as an actress in films.

Does the sex-symbol tag ever get to you?
Do you really think that's all I'm known for? I think I've moved beyond it and I've managed to evolve and now I am accepted as a versatile model who can deliver the goods. That's my victory. I've broken the stereotype image in people's minds.

You've always interspaced your professional life with long personal absences. Do you think this sort of erratic temperament will work in Hindi films?
I did it out of will. Out of choice, I took a year off from work at my peak as a model. I went to Canada even while tons of offers were pouring in. I could have made a lot of money, but I didn't. I refused all work for one full year. Frankly, I've always played by my own rules. There has been no set pattern in anything I've done so far in my life. My instincts and happiness have always ruled my mind and my decisions. I've always gone by my gut feeling and till date, I've not regretted anything. But right now I'm at a stage where I'm enjoying my work. For the very first time, I'm treating my work seriously as a profession, which I never did earlier. Then I was too young and immature and I wasn't even settled in India. Now, I've finally taken a decision. I live here and my complete life is here now. My parents have come here from Canada and they live with me. And also, I've decided to take my work seriously. My choice to work again is entirely mine and I've been lucky enough to stay on top the whole time. I feel that's happened because I've always re-invented myself with changing times and because I'm not over-exposed.

Who among the current generation of actors do you admire?
I watch only good films' because there are a whole lot of crappy Hindi movies made. I liked Aishwarya in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, I've always liked Kajol's performances. I like Ajay Devgun as an actor and I admire Aamir Khan's work a lot. I saw Kaho Na Pyar Hai and honestly I think it was just OK. Nothing to write home about. Films like Split Wide Open and Hyderabad Blues suit my sensibilities much more. I'd like to work in such movies too.

How has the industry in general reacted to you?
I've always been detached from the film industry so I haven't really looked around for reactions and opinions. I'm very happy with the work I'm doing that's it.

You don't like to play by the rules but that is the only one way for an actress to succeed.
But I don't want to be a Hindi film actress. And I don't think I am a Hindi film actress. I am doing only two films and that does not make me full time film actress. I am not looking for a long term career here. I'm not even looking at competing with Aishwarya or Sushmita. Films are one of the many things I'm doing.



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