Language does not seem to be a barrier for this blue eyed beauty who is the cover girl for JFW’s 100th edition. In a candid chat, Amy Jackson talks about her British upbringing, her relocation to India and her love for acting.
It all began when she won the Miss Teen World contest for the year 2009. Director A L Vijay who spotted her on the website of the pageant brought her down to star in his 2009 hit ‘Madrasapattinam’ alongside Arya. Despite being new to the industry and of course the language, she wowed the audience and critics alike with her performance and soon, landed her next movie in Hindi with none other than director Gautham Menon. This was the remake of his Tamil Hit ‘VinnaithaandiVaruvaaya’. Although the film failed to recreate magic, it was clear that Amy was here to stay because a few movies later, she landed Shankar’s magnum opus ‘I’. The rest, as they say, is history.
Amy is a part of two worlds – one is in the UK where she is largely unknown and one is India, where she has to have two security guards flanking her every minute of every day because she creates a flutter of activity wherever she goes. “I find it funny because it is no longer possible for me to just walk to the local grocery store to buy a packet of milk although it is much easier back home. I am still not all that recognised over there! It was a big decision to come to India, specifically Chennai for Madrasapattinam. I am close to both my parents and they are the sort of people who let you do your own thing and the freedom I got from them is almost too far from being real! But when it came to this decision, they had their fears but stood by me when I said I wanted to give it a shot. My mum even travelled with me the first time I set foot in Chennai. Madrasapattinam was a dream role and I will be ever thankful for that.”
When director A L Vijay spoke to her about playing the lead in his period film, Amy expressed her concerns to him about not knowing the language and not knowing how to act. “I had never acted in my life and when he asked me if I could dance, I said yes. I did not tell him that the only dancing I had done was on my night outs in Liverpool! He said that he would arrange workshops and help me with the script and the language. He told me that he liked the fact that I was English but had an Indian look which would work best for what he had in mind for my role.”
She spent the next few months in Chennai getting to know the industry, the people and the work. “As such the role was extremely challenging because it was my first time in everything. People were extremely patient with me and I thank my lucky stars for that even today.”
She set foot in the country for the first time just before she turned 18 with her mother accompanying her. “I was in India to meet the cast and crew of the movie and also try on costumes. It was my maiden visit to the country and it was nothing like I had ever seen or imagined. There were cows wandering through the city and it was quite alarming for mum more than me! At one point, I remember her screaming because a cow came right in front of the car. Then there was the food problem. I had to get used to it and at the start; I did not like anything because of all the spices. I loved having Indian food back in Liverpool but it felt so different here. It was real.”
While her friends spent their Friday nights getting dressed up for the local parties, Amy spent her days working close to 20 hours trying to learn the language. She was jealous of her friends and homesick. But all that changed when Madrasapattinam became a huge hit and Amy became a star overnight. Offers started flooding in and soon she found herself signing more and more movies, even rejecting some. She was so in demand that she didn’t even have to audition for Shankar’s I.
It was Amy’s fifth Indian movie and her first with Vikram. The film took three years to make and she took this time to get familiarised with the city more. “I love Chennai. This is where my career began and there is a sense of belonging in this city which I don’t find anywhere except back home in the UK.” Working with Vikram was one of the high points for Amy who had heard a lot about the actor and the variety he brings on screen. “Vikram is the most professional star I have ever known, he inspired me a lot and to this day, I try to emulate some of his habits into my system. For all the three years that we worked on the movie, he was so dedicated to the role and he would usually be the first person to arrive on set and the last one to leave. It would take him a few hours to get the makeup on and a few more hours to get it off of him.”
Her latest outing on screen with Akshay Kumar has been widely appreciated especially for her role of a fighter which she manages to pull off quite comfortably. “I have always been a tomboy growing up and still practice kick-boxing on a regular basis. So getting into the skin of a fighter woman was not as difficult as I had imagined. It was quite fun shooting for the film and I had a lot of fun on the sets.” Ask her about her co-star Akshay and she quips, “Oh he is the Khiladi of Bollywood. I learnt so much from him and he is also quite the prankster and of course, I have been a victim of most of his pranks but in all, it was a great experience.”