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Back in the day, a newly crowned Miss India (1984) went on to become the most popular Bollywood actress playing the lead role in films about love – a major source of entertainment and escapism amongst the Indian population. Today, Juhi Chawla is involved in a film (I AM) about child abuse, homosexuality and a woman who wants to use a sperm donor to become a mother. Here’s our exclusive interview Ms Chawla.

You were an extremely popular Bollywood actress, why did you decide to do more Parallel Cinema (alternative)? There is a lot of magic and fantasy in Bollywood and of course it’s a lot of fun to do. Who doesn’t like dancing around trees?  But I as an individual am very moved by the stories that so called parallel cinema directors have the courage to make. It lets me express myself and my soul the way I want to.

You are a film actress, producer and presenter. Which of these jobs do enjoy the most? Why? I love being a producer and a presenter, but I will always be an actress first. Acting has been my first love. It allows be to explore characters, and hence the world, one role at a time. In a strange way, this has helped me discover myself.

I AM is a film that transpired due to funding from social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. How has social networking changed Indian cinema? While changing the way the world communicates, social networking sites are slowly changing the way Indian cinema works too. I AM is one of the biggest examples of this. Never before has such a large, ambitious project been able to materialise via social networks. About 400 people from over 45 cities were able to come together to pool their finances, talents and other resources and create this fantastic film. This is just the beginning.

I am now on twitter, slowly learning the ropes and enjoying every moment of it. I hope to be able to reach out to my fans through this medium as well as have them talk to me about the things they really want to say.

Have you been to Australia before? What are looking forward to doing/seeing here? I have been to Australia before. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The beaches in Australia are really something else. They have the clearest, bluest waters and the most fantastic surfers. The people are really nice too.

What did you believe in when you were 18 you wish you still believed in today? This may sound idealistic but I have been blessed to find that some of the things I held most true in my childhood are still true now. You can trust people. The world is not necessarily a bad place and good deeds do take you far. The one thing which has changed though is that every small problem does not seem as a big a crisis as it used to when I was younger.

Festival Director: Mitu Bhowmick

People still equate Indian cinema with Bollywood. Is this accurate? It’s not accurate but we have all made our peace with it. India has many states and most of them have a vibrant regional film industry of their own and they tell their own unique stories in their own styles and languages. Our festival is a true representation of the same and we have the traditional mainstream Hindi ” Bollywood ” films along with some of the best of regional Indian films.

How has social networking changed Indian cinema? Like everything else social networking has bridged many gaps – everyone and everything is very immediate – film verdicts, film promotions and also connecting with film makers and stars.

What are your top five Indian films of all time? Lagaan , 3 Idiots , Pather Pachali , Sholay and Chak De India.

Mar 9 – 19, Hoyts Cinema Paris, The Entertainment Quarter, Bent Street, Moore Park.

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