Fate scripts a fairytale… From small-town ‘celeb’ to the World at her feet
From Bareilly to Bollywood... from a small town to the big kingdom of fame and fortune. It’s what many dream of night after night and also aspire for every waking moment! For me, it’s my reality!
As dramatic as it sounds, my journey to this exact moment in time is like a fairytale, a story scripted by fate. We were a typical middle-class family and I was much loved and very, very pampered. I am the daughter of two committed doctors who served in the Indian army. I spent my childhood in various parts of the country with ever-changing dreams that are characteristic of youthful ambition.
As I hit my teens, a new ambition began to cement itself in my mind... aeronautical engineering. I was fascinated and suddenly very sure of what I wanted to be. And then fate started to play its hand. A short family holiday to the US resulted in being offered to stay on and study there. I was overjoyed and my parents gave in, wanting me to have that experience. Many exciting things happened when I was there and also so much learning. But one fine day, I knew that it was time to come back home to my parents and, just as suddenly as I arrived, I left!
Back home in Bareilly, where my parents had retired to, I was a mini-celebrity – the “USA returned” girl, who was pursuing a dream of being an aeronautical engineer. Fate intervened yet again, joining hands this time with my younger brother Sid, who convinced my mother to send in an entry for the Femina Miss India contest. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but a few months later, much to the shock of my entire family and myself, I was crowned Miss India.
With the crown also came maturity. I grew up in a matter of days as the magnitude of the achievement finally dawned on me. I suddenly felt like I had the hopes of an entire nation on my shoulders. My competitive juices also kicked in and while I went into the Miss World pageant for the experience in itself, I also didn’t take anything for granted and gave it everything I had. When that crown was placed on my head, I knew my world had changed irrevocably and I knew that destiny had so much more in store for me.
And that turned out to be the world of cinema. I had no experience, no friends, no godfathers and absolutely no idea what to do. I was a rank outsider and I knew that if I decided to do this, it would be a difficult journey. But since opportunity had knocked, I had to take the chance. I dived headlong into it, hated my first few days, felt like leaving but stayed on to complete the commitment I had made.
But then as the days progressed, I decided to be open to what was happening with me and sure enough, I felt myself falling in love with making movies. It’s been a whirlwind ride, ups and downs, failures and successes but it’s been so very worth it. I got through it all with the unconditional support of my family. They stood by me and behind me every step of the way, ready to offer advice or just stand silently in support of any decision I took. They gave me the strength to make it happen.
I have also had the fortune of working with some amazing people, directors, co-actors, writers, lightmen, spot dada’s, stylists and so many others who took a chance with me and who have also taught me so much. Today, I feel lucky to be in a position where I can push the boundaries of what I do... whether it’s films like Fashion and Saath Khoon Maaf or even to break the mould and do something as diverse as Khatron Ke Khiladix3 on television.
The audience has been very kind to me and I know that I am here today because of them. This journey has been tough but it has also been very rewarding. Every morning, I jump out of bed waiting to get to work, falling more in love with what I do with each passing day.
Bareilly to Bollywood... it’s not an impossible dream. You just need to have faith in yourself, stick to your values and give it everything you’ve got. Nothing comes easy but at the end of the day, when you look at what you’ve achieved, it will be worth it.