Joined: 26 August 2006
"PEOPLE PASS COMMENTS AND MAKE FUN OF MY HEIGHT"
TELEVISION'S LITTLE WONDER
Tall, fair, drop dead gorgeous – that's what everyone expects a TV actress to be, at the very least. Because in today's times, it is not just your acting skills that are essential. A strikingly beautiful face with a body to match, is as much a necessity. After all, it is the lead actress that provides the show with its much needed glamour quotient. So where does that leave actresses who aren't conventionally good-looking or 5'5'' tall or don't fit into size 4? Out of the running, you may think. Not really. That's what debutant actress Juhi Aslam has proved to one and all.
Standing tall at 3'5'', Juhi is not your typical TV actress. In spite of her short height, she has bagged the lead role in Baba Aiso Var Dhoondo. And in no time, she has made a place for herself in the TV world and in the hearts of millions of viewers. Showtime catches up with this unusual actress.
"I had never dreamt of pursuing acting as a full-time profession. I was just like any other girl. I was doing my Bachelors and then intended to study medicine. In fact, I always wanted to become a doctor. In my second year holidays, this casting coordinator approached me and asked me to audition for a certain serial. At that time, I didn't really think much about it. I just recorded my performance at home on the mobile phone and sent it for the heck of it," Juhi recollects.
"About a month later, I got a call from the show's producers. They asked me to come to Mumbai. Once I came down here and met them, they told me that I was selected for the main lead. I didn't know how to react. Most of all, I was nervous. You see, at that time, I didn't know anything about acting. I had never done any theatre or plays – acting was never in the scheme of things. But they assured me that I'd do a good job. They told me that I fit the role to the T. That gave me a little confidence. And just like that, I was a part of the show," she smiles.
Thus began Juhi's tryst with the world of glamour. But it wasn't an easy ride. Having bagged the lead role, she had to keep her look under wraps, lest the media got whiff of it. "Considering the subject of our show, I was the surprise package. So the makers were very clear that my look and identity should not be revealed till the show was telecast. They were afraid that if the media got hold of me, then the surprise element of the show would be lost. So Paswan Sir, who is the writer as well as the producer, decided that I should put up at his place. That way, my identity and look would be a secret till the show started," she takes a breather and continues, "So I stayed at his place for almost two-and-a-half months. He is a wonderful person and took very good care of me. He didn't make me feel as if I was away from home. Even now that I've shifted to my own place in Mira Road, I go to his place whenever I get the time."
The rest, as they say, is history. No sooner was the show aired that it became a hot topic of conversation. Everyone was talking about the show's protagonist and the difficulties she faced in the serial. Ask her if she faced any trouble in real life owing to her height and she is quick to reply, "Of course, I went through my share of difficulties. Even now, minor incidents keep happening. Like when I go to college or to a function, people turn around and start looking at me. I can feel them staring at me and wondering about my height. Some people even pass comments about it and make fun of it. It isn't easy. What can you do about it? Sometimes even I lose my temper and retort. But I usually try to ignore such things."
Life hasn't been easy for her. Even the most common and everyday incidents would remind of her unnaturally short height. "You know, in college, when we did our practicals in the lab, I used to feel bad because I could never reach for the bottles on the racks. I always had to ask my friends to get it for me. That made me feel a little helpless. Even my teachers would tell my lab partner 'Go, help her. She can't get the bottles on her own'," she reminisces.
But she refuses to let it all affect her. The spirited girl that she is, she sees the lighter side of things. "Just recently, I went to my college for my admission purposes. I went up to the man who was collecting the admission forms. He looked at me and asked me who I had come with. He must have assumed that I was a kid who had come for someone else's admission. I told him that I had come all by myself and I was seeking an admission for myself. He was dumbfounded for some time," she laughs.
A genetic disorder, it has been running in Juhi's family for generations. But not one to fret over it, Juhi turned her shortcoming around and made it her asset. "Earlier, even I used to see my height as a shortcoming. But since the serial has happened, I realized that my height is in fact my biggest strength. People know me, on screen and off screen, only because of my height. It was only because I was so short that I got selected for the role. Had I been of normal height, then I'd have never got the chance to work in this show," she points out matter-of-factly.
The serial has given her immense confidence and it shows as she emphatically states, "You should not hide your weaknesses. And you should never be ashamed of them. I firmly believe that when God gives you a weakness, he also gives you strength in some form or the other. He always balances it out. So look for your strength and work on it."
Having borne the brunt of ridicule herself, she unabashedly lashes out at those who are insensitive enough to scoff at other people's shortcomings. "People who make fun of our weakness should realise that even they must be having some or the other limitation. It's just that ours is obvious and theirs is not. So, instead of laughing at us, they should work on their own shortcomings."
Veering back to her professional life, Juhi still finds it hard to believe that her on-screen character Bharti has been so widely accepted and loved by the audience. This Shikorabad born girl considers herself fortunate to be a part of the enticing world of television, but agrees that it comes with its share of hardships. "When you sit on your couch and watch a serial on TV, you feel acting is cakewalk. But it is far from that. It takes a lot of patience and tremendous effort to act convincingly in front of the camera. Plus, the schedules are crazy. You have long hours and sometimes there are day-night schedules. So it gets quite taxing," she confesses.
But Juhi admits that it has its pros too. "Once you step in the TV industry, your life is made. You don't have to turn and look behind. Seeing my success, my friends back home tell me that even they want to try their hand at acting. They keep telling me, mujhe bhi chance de do. In fact, back home, the entire town treats me like a star," she grins.
Well, she is a star alright. Not so much for her brilliant portrayal of Bharti on screen, but for the confidence and determination she has shown in real life. Anyone else would have crumbled in the face of such shortcomings. Not Juhi though. She not only took her disadvantage in her stride but also turned it into her biggest strength. And today, after achieving stardom and success, this girl stands tall – maybe not in inches, but definitely as a person.
*By Eepsita Guha
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