TEXT: NAMITA GUPTA
PHOTOGRAPHY: LUCKY MALHOTRA
COSTUME & STYLING: RESHMA KUNHI
MUA: KULSUM PARVEZ MAKEUP STUDIO
LOCATION: CONRAD BENGALURU
1. You’re a Bangalore girl. Would you like to recall your growing up days? What was your dream career in your childhood days?
Growing up I spent a lot of time outdoors. Whether it was tree planting, dog rescues or outdoor activities with friends. I studied in Sophia High School and Bishop Cottons for a year, and then went to Christ College and Mount Carmel College. I was working through college and hardly had time to hang out with friends. As a young girl, I dreamt of many careers in different phases of my life, but I remember I wanted to be an actress.
2. When and how did the journey towards being a model and then an actor happen?
I always wanted to be an actress. I actually started modelling at the age of 13 and then professionally when I was 15 years old. I fell in love with modelling and how it made me feel. When I moved to Mumbai, post my win at the Miss India pageant, I got an opportunity to act in Bollywood’s biggest production company – a T-series film and ceased the opportunity. That’s when I signed my first film – Yaariyan. If it wasn’t for my mom snooping through my inbox I wouldn’t have even known that they had written to me. Thank God for her!
3. What are the other things you do that keep you busy besides your modelling and acting?
I am extremely passionate about helping the underprivileged people and our environment. Which is why, I started an NGO with my mother called Care for Me, which helps not just caring for people in every way, but also Mother Earth. I am an actor, a model, an environmentalist, an entrepreneur with my company called We Morph and also a social service worker. When I had won the Miss India pageant, I had decided I wanted to do some kind of social service and give back to the society and I’m glad I’m able to do that.
4. How challenging is it to carve out a niche for yourself?
I guess this became easier for me when I won Miss India in 2010. People took me seriously and I finally had a voice that could be heard by everyone. If you have the right platform and work diligently towards your goal – the sky is the limit.
5. What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
Winning Miss Earth at such a young age was definitely a highpoint then. I was only 20 years old wearing the Miss India crown and travelling the world for meaningful environmental work. And soon films happened and my modelling also continued on the side. Also, becoming an entrepreneur in partnership with my mom at We Morph, a beauty, wellness, aesthetics and slimming company and finally helping those in dire need through the years specially during the pandemic gave me a fresh lease of life and added a lot more meaning to it. People needed beds, oxygen etc and we got like-minded individuals from different walks of life to come together and help those in need. It was very satisfactory and we did whatever we could. I feel I also created history by winning the first and only Miss Earth crown for my country. Nothing made me happier than that special moment. What gives me personal satisfaction on a day to day basis is helping people, animals and those that need help. I hope I continue to always be of help to others.
6. What does family mean to you? How was the lockdown period for you?
Family is of utmost importance to me. I am very close to my family. I spent the lockdown helping those in need of oxygen, ventilators and beds, including packing hot meals for the homeless and needy, distributing clothes and essentials. I love gardening, working out, kicking my husband’s butt, playing video games and pampering my skin and hair and of course hanging out with family and close friends when I’m not working. Every day is different. I’m either working or doing something new. There’s still a long way to go.
7. Were there any kind of apprehensions entering the field of modelling, fashion and cinema or was it a cakewalk?
Each of these industries have taught me different values and each of them have their own learning experiences. I have had the privilege of working with the best in all these industries and I feel truly blessed!
8. What is your vision and dream in this field that you’re in now?
I have found the sweet spot of the right balance between modelling, acting, handling my wellness and beauty company, helping the world around me with Care For Me, my NGO and spending time with my family, of course.
9. How different do you feel you are from the others around and what are the changes you want to bring about?
I feel each of us is unique in our own ways. And we should be happy and content with what we have and feel blessed with each passing day as there are many still struggling.
10. What kind of bond did you share with your parents in your growing up years and how did the bond grow over the years?
I share a very close relationship with my parents, brother and extended family. I have never met individuals that are more loving, more giving and more supportive than my family. They are my best friends and I cannot imagine a life without them.
11. Are you a home bird or a party goer?
I am definitely a home bird. I guess it’s because my life is so social that I find it so special to just chill with my family whenever I can.
12. How often do you take holidays with family or friends?
I’ll take any opportunity to get away on vacation when time away from work permits. I love mountains and beaches and exploring untapped territory. I love adventure travel. I have been rock climbing off the cliffs in Maine, white water rafting in Bali, Skiing in Montana, Camping in California, and ATV riding in Thailand, surfing in Hawaii, jet skiing and snorkelling in Maldives, Sky diving in Fiji, Zip lining in Bali and Pyramid climbing in Mexico.
13. What is your relationship with your husband like? How did you both meet and how long did you date before tying the knot?
My husband is my support, the best teacher and a true companion. I love the relationship we share. We met through common friends when he came to Bangalore for an internship from the US. We dated for eight years before we tied the knot.
14. Are you a romantic at heart in real life? What is the most romantic thing anyone has done for you?
I truly believe in romance. My husband is a true romantic and that’s what makes it special. He is an amazing cook. He surprises me every now and then with a lavish spread of the yummiest croissants, homemade jam, pancakes, panini and pizzas. He took me on a surprise holiday to Maine and planned every single day with a surprise adventure. Something I will never forget!
My husband was in the US doing his MBA and we were unable to see each other for many months. He secretly flew to India and got into a box at my front door (my parents were in on this) and told me he had sent a very important package and I needed to check if it’s been delivered. It was him inside the box.
15. Any crazy fan message or incident you’d like to share?
I get the funniest and weirdest fan mails. I love all my crazy fans messages and I thank them for loving me the way they do.
16. Any memorable incidents you’d like to share with us from your work front?
I got to meet and receive an award from the President of India – Shri Ram Nath Kovind for recognising my achievements and advocacy as Miss Earth. It was a big honour receiving the award from the President.
17. What is your fitness routine like?
I wake up and go for a run with my husband. On other days we do some weight training. We try to do this at least four times a week.
18. What’s your style mantra? And your beauty regime?
Comfortable clothing is my go-to style and styling it to make it look dressy is what I love. My beauty regime consists of cleansing, toning, moisturising and include massages and a steam as often as I can.
19. Who are your close friends from the movie industry?
My closest friend from the movie industry is Sharmiela Mandre. I’ve known her since birth, so we go way back. She is someone who anyone can get along with and a true comedian for those who know her.
20. What is your dream role?
My dream role is an action-packed movie that gets everyone’s hearts racing. Something on the lines of a thriller, but also something that everyone can watch and enjoy.
21. What are the projects you’re working on currently?
COVID really pushed forth my passion for social and environmental work. I’m currently prioritising some project emerging from that experience. I am looking at a Bollywood script and will be announcing it soon.
22. What are your future plans?
I may be moving to the US soon with my husband and I plan on dividing my time between here and there more. I will be coming back for shoots and assignments whenever I can.
Your dream role?
Lead investigator in a murder mystery. Daniel Craig Knives Out-style.
Your favourite movie?
Star Wars (Empire Strikes Back).
Favourite actor and actress?
Daniel Day Lewis and Helen Mirren
Your pet peeve?
Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Hand sanitiser, air disinfectant, charger, AirPods, lip balm and phone.
Yoga or gym?
Indian food or global cuisine?
Closest friends from the industry or outside?
Sharmiela and Shifa.
Beaches or hills?
Veg or non-veg?
Fame or money?
Both. First fame then money.
Indian wear or Western wear?
Straight hair or curls?
The last good film/web series you watched?
A book you’d recommend?
First thing you notice about a man?
One thing that makes you feel beautiful?
Politics, religion, business, sports or entertainment?
Business and entertainment.
Go out with masks or rather stay home?
Your dream man?
Your take on relationships?
A partnership of mutual growth, trust and respect.