Sunday, 5 February 2012

Amy Jackson: From Liverpool to Bollywood!

India has long held a very special allure for Liverpool and its’ people; from the Liverpudlians who brought back untold riches from the vast subcontinent beginning the early 1800’s to The Beatles’ quest for enlightenment in the land of Buddha’s salvation.  But while Scouser ardency for India never dulled, like all passionate relationships it was often tempestuous.
It’s doubtful however whether that manner of turbulence would ever mar the relationship between the latest Liverpudlian to take a shine to India; particularly due to the ardency with which India has embraced her.
At first glance, Amy Jackson has something of Megan Fox about her.  From the striking blue eyes and billowing brunette locks to the pouting, sultry lips and the oh-so-delicately pointed chin; but without the rather synthetic superciliousness.  The result is a young lady with a peculiarly endearing charm that has already won over Prateik Babbar, one of the hottest young stars of Bollywood and Jackson’s co-star in the upcoming ‘Ekk Deewana Tha’.
Model to Movie Star overnight
Whilst a vast majority of girls of her age are fretting over University fees, optical illusion dresses and the JLS boys, Amy has crammed several decades of work into her tender 22 years.
The daughter of Liverpudlian BBC presenter Alan Jackson, Amy first came to the world’s attention when she won the Miss Teen World competition in 2008.  Two years later she was crowned Miss Liverpool 2010 and came third in that year’s Miss England competition before turning her attentions to modeling; winning a scholarship to the United States and signing with Boss Model Management.
Along the way she managed to win over the attentions of countless young men across the UK with appearances in the likes of FHM and Maxim among others, whilst also gaining 10 GCSE’s and studying English Literature, Philosophy and Ethics in Sixth Form.
The lads-magazine appearances which won her a legion of fans – according to a male colleague, Amy’s FHM Lingerie Special was particularly alluring – also caught the eye of the ambitious young South Indian director A. L. Vijay in 2010.  Vijay was looking for a suitable young actress to cast in Madrassipatnam; a sweeping colonial-era epic about an English Rose who falls in love with a strapping young Dhobi in pre-1947 Chennai – then called Madrassipatnam or Madras Town.
Despite her distinct lack of acting chops A L Vijay says he was enchanted and roped her in to play the role of Amy Wilkinson in the movie.  The superlatively shot Madrassipatnam was a critical and commercial success.  Jackson became an overnight sensation in the teeming and vibrant South Indian film fraternity and won acclaim for her debut role.
“A L Vijay saw me on the Miss England website and was convinced that I had an Indian look even though I was white!  He tracked me down to London, met with me and the next thing I know I’m in Chennai shooting a movie!  It was an amazing experience.  The cast and crew were fabulous and made me feel so welcome.  I was worried about the language barrier but everyone made such an effort with me that I settled in fine,’ Amy says, in a comment made even more remarkable by her mellifluous Liverpudlian accent.
Upwards and Northwards
Amy’s star turn in the award-winning film immediately won the attentions of filmmakers up north in Bollywood and  she was cast in Gautham Menon’s appropriately titled ‘Ekk Deewana Tha’ (There was a crazy guy), a romantic drama written by Menon and with an impressive behind-the-scenes team including lyricist Javed Akhtar and composer A R Rahman.  The Scouser girl who had vowed the lads back home and won the hearts of South Indian moviegoers had now arrived to make her mark in the most prolific, most glittering and increasingly global Bollywood movie industry.
“After Madrassipatnam was released I was inundated with offers for more Tamil movies and different bits and pieces in India,” Amy lilts.  “Gautham contacted me and said he would like to cast me in his next movie which was a Hindi speaking role.  The look of a Christian Malayalee girl fit quite nicely with me in the character so I agreed.  It’s been awesome and I hope that audiences will embrace it.”
Much like India’s independence struggle provided the sweeping backdrop to ‘Madrassipatnam’, love, in all its’ passionate, ambiguous glory provides the epic narrative of ‘Ekk Deewana Tha’ as Jackon’s character Jessie Thekkekutu and Prateik Babbar’s Sanjay find, lose and re-discover love.
Of Shalwar’s and LBD’s
Whilst fortune has favoured the young lass from Liverpool, her rising stardom has involved plenty of hard work.  “I had to learn all the mannerisms, the accents and even the way you walked around in a sari!  A month before filming began I started walking around everywhere I went – whether it was in Liverpool or in India – in a Shalwar Kameez or a sari.  I can tell you this; it ain’t no LBD!”
And of course learning to communicate in Hindi was a most daunting thing.  “My word, it’s an awfully beautiful language but an absolute chore to learn.  I would sit for hours with the assistant director and go through the lip synching because I was going to be dubbed afterwards.  It was horrendously difficult but something that I enjoyed thoroughly.”
What’s more, while her role as an English Rose in Colonial India in ‘Madrassipatnam’ had been closer to home, ‘Ekk Deewana Tha’ was quite a stretch for the inexperienced actress who had previously enthralled millions only with the ease with which she carried off a frilly bikini.  “I play a very conservative girl in the movie which was extremely strange because my parents gave me a lot of freedom and I feel I am very independent.  It was a real eye-opener, particularly because the way in which the life of this character mirrors the lives of most girls in India.  I also found the divide between Christians and Hindus quite revealing as well and some of that personal surprise manifested in the role.  But I think that it’s a story that everyone can relate to – everyone’s got problems with love, whether they are in Liverpool or Mumbai!”
A pleasantly convenient love, free of exasperating moments maybe as rare as a stunning, blue-eyed Liverpudlian catching the imagination of Bollywood but Amy Jackson’s Karma seems to be on an eternally positive circle at the moment.  Aside from winning over vast portions of India’s often fanatical movie-lovers, Jackson has also won the attentions of her – no doubt infatuated – co-star Prateik Babbar; son of former Bollywood actor turned politician Raj Babbar, and the star of a string of recent hits including the blockbuster Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, the critically acclaimed Dhobi Ghat and the multi-starrer ‘Aarakshan’. 
Recent promotional appearances have confirmed the undeniable chemistry between the two young stars – a fact which will no doubt help the movie become a success whilst also raising both their profiles amongst audiences who have a history of being enamoured by young love between budding thespians.
But whilst it is fast becoming a sort of open secret, Amy Jackson remains coy about it all.  “Prateik is absolutely fantastic.  I saw Dhobi Ghat before we met and he was incredible in it.  I remember the first day we met and he put me completely at east,” she coos.  “That was important of course in getting the chemistry right.  And he’s super dedicated.  We are very close and he’s very special.”
As the gleaming lights of Bollywood and a life of riches and global fame beckons for Jackson, it is apparent that her roots in unpretentious, hardworking, and preternaturally creative Liverpool have helped keep Amy firmly grounded; allowing her to take in the wonder of India and Bollywood without losing any of the excitement in a pretentious, booze-addled haze.  “I’m having the time of my life.  I absolutely love India because this country and everyone here are so welcoming and warm and empathetic.  It’s staggering and a bit surreal.  It’s definitely not sunk in yet.  Growing up, Bollywood was nowhere in my radar.  I was into sports!  Even modelling came about by chance and that in turn opened doors for me in India.  I have to pinch myself continously.  It’s hard work but worth it.  And I have a good support network; my mom, dad and my big sister are my go to people.  And of course Blackberry Messenger!  I’m just an average girl from Liverpool.  And I’m in Bollywood.  It’s unbelievable but I’m loving it!”
‘Ekk Deewana Tha’ is released 17th February 2012.
- Poonam Joshi

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