June 29, 2010

Richa Gangopadhyay-former Miss India USA
Mirroring Bollywood’s model obsession, Tollywood, erstwhile importer of heroines from Kerala and Mumbai is currently smitten with beauty pageant contestants. From Miss Andhra to Miss India and even a Miss India-Australia, beauty queens from across the globe are donning the grease paint and raking in the moolah in mana Telugu films.
In an industry that ranks looks higher than histrionics for heroines, it’s hardly surprising that as many as eight girls are ready to hit the silver screen: Taapsee, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Poonam Kaur, Richa Gangopadhyay, Vimala Raman, Suhani and Deeksha Seth, all beauty queens turned actresses, believe walking off the ramp onto a film set is but a natural progression.
“Modelling gets monotonous but in cinema, you can innovate and it is a different character each time. Beauty pageants expose models like us to filmmakers who are always looking for fresh faces who are ready to hone their acting skills,” says Taapsee, winner of Miss Fresh Face at the Miss India contest two years ago, who acted in Jhummandi Nadham starring Manoj and is on a movie signing spree with two more films in her kitty. Richa Gangopadhyay, former Miss India USA and Vimala Raman, former Miss India Australia, are doing two movies each in Telugu now.
Actress Suhani, Miss Andhra 2005, awaiting the release of her Telugu movie Sneha Geetham, knows that potential visibility is a definite draw for pageant contestants, “I got a lot of movie offers immediately after I won the Miss Andhra crown.”
Actress Shreya Dhanwan-thary, former Miss India Beautiful Smile, agrees, “Pageants help one learn how to groom oneself. Though acting depends on the individual, these contests help models get a lot of opportunities.”
Though traditionally, beauty pageant contestants have had their eye on Bollywood, T’wood is alluring for a number of reasons — money, fame, less competition and actresses say the roles are meatier. “In every way, Tollywood offers better roles for ramp models,” says Poonam Kaur, Miss Andhra, now working with Venkatesh in Chandramukhi and Nagar-juna in Gaganam. She explains, “In Hindi movies, there are heroines from film families. Here only the heroes come from film families, they don't promote their daughters so the competition is less.”
T’wood directors claim that apart from the competition, it’s the bigger bucks that T’wood offers that brings these girls to the South. “Newcomers are paid more here so this is a natural destination. Most of them won't get this kind of remuneration in B’wood.

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