At an age when most of her peers were busy in holiday homework, Aneesha Madhok had written her play, Aliza-Free. Aimed at creating awareness about the lives of the visually impaired, Aneesha staged the play in Delhi with a 16-member cast. Soon, the 17-year-old moved to Los Angeles to pursue her education in theatre and screenwriting at the University of Southern California. On graduating, she played the lead in Christopher Vened’s play Infidel, where filmmaker Bill McAdams, Jr spotted her and cast her as the main lead in Bully High.
Like all parents, Aneesha’s parents too were not very keen on a career in acting. “They thought it was good as a hobby but not as a career. But I knew since the age of four that performing was my calling. Finally my family realised that this is what I’m meant for. Since then they have supported me for which I am eternally grateful,” she smiles.
Aneesha, who was born in Kenya, moved to Delhi as a child. She auditioned for the first time for a school play—Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. “I was really excited because I got to miss Maths class to audition for it. I remember I was nine years old and I let out all my emotions because in real life I would be quiet and shy. It was liberating.” While in college, Aneesha became the president of the university stand-up comedy club and performed around Los Angeles. On her summer break to India, she ended up as finalist on Queens of Comedy 2017. About her stand-up shows in India, she says, “I have to mind what I say, though. My grandparents worry that rishta nahi milega.”
Bully High is about a Muslim girl who gets bullied. Could she identify with the character? “Yes. In elementary school, I was bullied for my beauty spot above my lip. This other boy used to tease me about my upper-lip hair. It did not end there. In high school, a girl spread rumours about me and accused me of saying nasty things. I want to talk about all this in hopes of inspiring kids out there being bullied,” she says.
Aneesha also wrote and starred in a short—The Dancer Girl—which was inspired by her life. It won the best drama short at Calcutta International Film Festival, Universe Multicultural Film Festival, best student short at Los Angeles Independent Filmmakers Showcase, and was the official selection at Feminist Media Film Festival. It is her dream to work with Rekha, Naseeruddin Shah and Boman Irani someday.
Your mentor: My mom
One film you can watch in a loop: Rush Hour
Your dream role: I am writing it
Your fangirl moment: When I saw my favourite Israeli musician Idan Raichel perform live
Delhi or Los Angeles: Los Angeles.Sorry Delhi, I still love you though.