British pageant queen-turned model-turned Indian movie star Amy Jackson is a chameleon, happily donning a whole new identity in her second film, “Ek Deewana Tha.”
The old-fashioned love story has now been made three times — in Tamil as “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya,” in Telugu as “Ye Maaya Chesave” and now in Hindi — by acclaimed South Indian director Gautham Vasudev Menon and is set to release Feb. 17.
Jackson reprises a role first played by Tamil star Trisha and Telugu actress Samantha.
“I play Jessie, a Christian Malayalam girl born and brought up in Kerala, who moves with her family to Mumbai. Her family is very orthodox, against partying and very against falling in love. So when she meets Sachin, played by Prateik Babbar, it goes chaotic,” she told India-West from Mumbai Jan. 17.
“The family completely disagree and the two youngsters are completely in love. It’s a story everyone can relate to, I feel, because everybody has had a first love. Everyone’s gone through the ups and downs of first love. It’s a feel-good, emotional story.”
Jackson was born on the Isle of Man and moved to Liverpool with her family at a young age; while still in school, she tried out for Miss Teen Liverpool and won that contest, moving on to win the Miss Teen Great Britain prize and later the Miss Teen World crown in 2008. While working as a model in Europe, she was tapped to star in the 2010 Tamil film “Madrasapattinam” as a British woman visiting India.
Jackson is the latest foreign face to make a mark in Indian cinema, following in the graceful footsteps of actresses such as Yana Gupta, Giselle Monteiro, Barbara Mori, Rachel Shelley, and the half-British Katrina Kaif.
For “Ek Deewana Tha,” she underwent a months-long transformation.
“There is no Indian ancestry in my background,” she said. “I wish there was a bit of exoticness there but there’s not!”
“A few months before filming, the director requested that I wear only salwar kameezes and saris so that I’d be comfortable in the outfits,” she told India-West. “It’s different from what I’m used to: jeans and tshirts and summer dresses. To be comfortable and look comfortable, it was a really big deal.
“I had to look realistic, like I’d been wearing these saris for the whole ride,” she said with a laugh. “The characteristics of a conservative Christian Malayalee girl were very different from a modern day British girl.”
“I have olive skin but they did darken my eyes,” she added. “I wore brown contacts to make me look slightly more Indian. Naturally I have green eyes.”
She spoke her lines in Hindi, but as Trisha and Samantha did before her in Menon’s earlier versions of the film, had her lines in the film dubbed by Chinmayi, the talented Tamil singer and voice dubbing artist. “It’s a very heavy, dialogue-based movie with a lot of intense dialogue scenes,” she said.
Now happily settled in Mumbai, Jackson has hired a Hindi tutor. “For my next movie, which starts in March, I have to speak Tamil — which is another challenge, I suppose!” she said.
Jackson is enjoying the new phase of her career in India.
“When I first arrived, it was a complete shock to the system, but I immediately fell in love with the city of Mumbai; it’s a city that never sleeps. There’s constantly something happening,” she told India-West.
“People are very welcoming, and so nice. I wasn’t sure how they’d react, and they’ve been lovely.”