India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Cover Story
September 25, 2014

The Incurable Romantic

Text by Simone Louis. Photographed by Aneev Rao. Styling by Nisha Jhangiani. Make-up and hair by Bianca Hartkopf, Toabh Talent Management.Assistant Photographer: Sudhanva Atri. Special thanks to Emirates Airlines. Special thanks to South Africa Tourism. Location courtesy: Imbali Safari Lodge

From demure newbie to spunky dynamo, Aditi Rao Hydari has come a long way. She is a girl who finds ardour in everyday things and the actor – despite some highs and lows in reel and real life – believes that happy endings, though rare, do exist. Verve engages in a freewheeling tête-à-tête with the blithe spirit who speaks about her passions and pursuits

What truly separates our world from the realm of fairy tales is that the latter thrives on hope. Quite often, we refuse to see the inherent goodness and magic within other people or, most often, within ourselves – which is probably why my afternoon with Aditi Rao Hydari was such a breath of fresh air.

As I wait for our second-time cover girl in her suburban apartment, just days before her departure to South Africa for Verve’s glamorous photo shoot in the wild, I take in the modest yet modish interiors – eccentric knick-knacks dot the earthy living room, where a gorgeous vintage wooden stand steals the spotlight. The space emanates warmth and simplicity, hushing me into quietude as a downpour of rain soaks the greenery outside. Just when I make myself comfortable on a long window seat with a steaming cup of coffee, the front door opens. Breezing into the room in a flirty floral dress – her auburn hair floating over her shoulders – Aditi greets me and plops down beside me, her legs folded under her petite frame. The blue-blooded stunner, with no pretentious airs about her, immediately begins talking nineteen to the dozen about her morning activities and asks me about my day.

When our conversation turns to the theme for Verve’s September issue, her hazel eyes light up. Aditi can barely conceal her excitement as I speak about all things bridal and ask her about love and relationships. Though often portrayed as just an angelic, docile young girl, the actor is actually one tough cookie. Self-assured and independent, she takes life in her stride – and though she unhesitatingly embraces the shortcomings of her world, she still has stars in her eyes. Her passion for romance is amply evident as she gushes about her dreamy ideals and visions of happily ever after. For, despite having been once bitten, she is unquestionably not twice shy.

Finding Romance in Routines
For most people, romance is encircled by flowers, chocolates and jewellery. But Aditi finds it in a regular, boring day that can magically transform into a thrilling escapade, just by the chemistry between two people. “Romance is so much more than just extravagant dates, champagne and shiny gifts. If my partner and I can randomly run like crazy people on a beach or even just sit at home and make each other laugh while doing 100 little chores – that is romantic to me.”

Admitting that people perceive her as highly prim and proper, she says she is actually a very spontaneous person. Aditi insists, “I need someone with a mad streak with whom I can be adventurous, because that is exactly how I am. While classy is good, and a little bit of possessiveness is also good, I should still have the freedom to dash out and dance in the rain. I like to look well-put-together, but I can also be quite cuckoo-bananas!”

Bold Choices
Aditi entered Bollywood without any patronage and, more crucially, without any understanding of image building. Her mixed pool of movies stands testament to the same. She confesses that transitioning from playing a gentle Rama Bua in Delhi 6 to acting in Murder 3 wasn’t a conscious move on her part. When she signed on for Delhi 6, she didn’t fully comprehend the role she was required to play and ended up facing quite a bit of flak for it. She shakes her head, confessing that Sonam Kapoor jokingly reminded her of this when they were chatting recently, after the release of the new Khoobsurat trailer. “When I was doing the movie as Rama Bua, everyone on the set shouted at me. Sonam screamed, ‘You’re my age, why are you doing this role?’ Even Rishi Kapoor yelled at me!” she laughs. “When the role was explained to me, I understood it at some level, but I did it because it was there – I was doing something, and that made me happy at the time.”

She acknowledges that, in the beginning, she didn’t have much choice when it came to picking roles. “People tend to build a particular image about you, depending on your looks. Everybody felt that I had an innocent face, so I would get cast for those parts, which was fine and I rolled with it.” Ironically, this image is precisely what helped her bag a part in the third installment of the tantalising Murder movie series — the makers of Murder 3 wanted an unassuming girl who progresses into a stronger, more valiant character. Aditi is proud of her decision to do the film because it showed boldness in the best sense: in the ability to choose. In the movie, her character says no to a man who is cheating on her and not treating her well enough. She stresses, “It was bold in the message it conveyed, rather than in its visuals, because, in 2014, two people kissing on screen is pretty normal. If two people are in love, they are obviously going to kiss each other; they’re not going to go out and start playing pakad pakdai!”

Great Expectations
According to Aditi, everyone – herself included – has highfalutin notions about prospective life partners. But, when it comes to the important stuff, respect is one thing she cannot overlook. “I need to respect the person I am with, and I need them to do that for me. Plus, I am quite easily attracted to a person who also has their own sense of self-esteem and dignity.”

Having said that, she points out that there is definitely a superficial side to her desires, saying, “I am not some holier-than-thou angel.” The first thing she notices about a guy is his appearance, and good looks are definitely important to her. But, even if the hottest guy she meets turns out to be a not-so-great person, she won’t hesitate to walk away. “I do want to be treated as an equal partner in everything, but chivalry is still a must. I can’t stand any man who behaves badly with people who have less power than him – such guys will never win me over.”

Love’s Yardsticks
When I ask if her parents’ relationship had influenced her notions of love while growing up, Aditi jokes, “Oh gosh, if it had, then I would be a complete mess!” Her parents had actually divorced when she was two years old, which is why she grew up with her mother. “I had the happiest childhood and I was the princess of my mother’s entire family. As an only child, who also sang and danced, I got so much attention that it is a miracle it never went to my head.”

She owes her strong and dynamic personality to the self-sufficient way she was brought up and the balance that her mother created in her life. Aditi never really saw her parents together – something she is grateful for – but the most extraordinary bond she ever witnessed up close was that of her mother’s parents. “My grandfather, the Raja of Wanaparthy, was to be married to a neighbouring princess, but he didn’t go through with the wedding – he was in love with my grandmother. He waited for her and they had the most beautiful relationship. They were identical in their intelligence and equal partners in everything. We used to all joke about them because my grandfather is extremely tall and intimidating while my grandmother is absolutely tiny. All of us were scared of him, but she had him wrapped around her little finger. It was adorable,” Aditi reminisces. She admits that theirs is the relationship she instinctively envisions when considering what she wants for herself. “My grandparents set the benchmark really quite high,” she quips.

Aditi always resolutely declared that making a relationship public was not a big deal – but today she has learnt how detrimental it can be. “I think, now, if you start talking about such stuff, it is all you end up talking about. Everyone has their own opinion on your personal business and no one is interested in your work or anything else.” Having seen it happen to her friends in the industry, she is unsure of whether she could handle that kind of pressure.

What really grinds her gears, however, is that she has many close friends who are male, but no one will believe her even if she is honest about it. “The line ‘We are just friends’ has been misused to such an extent that it has become a total joke!” she says, frustrated. “I studied in a boarding school when I was young, where everyone is in each other’s face – both girls and boys – so I obviously know how to be just friends with a guy. It’s really not that hard. The problem is that I know the difference between friendship and something more than that, but the rest of the world may not…so I prefer to just keep my mouth shut and be private about my interactions.”

Testing the Waters
Aditi believes her instincts about people are pretty good, but still likes to take her time opening up to someone. “When you’re out of your own little protected world, especially in a city like Mumbai, there are so many people you meet who you can’t ever really know. Also, some people are very good actors even off-camera, and I am definitely not one of them!”

She claims that people often have their own agendas, but that doesn’t stop her from believing in them. “I do give a very long rope to those I am close to, because I believe that sometimes people behave differently from how they want to, simply because of their environment. But if you believe in the good that people have, you can bring it out.”

That said, once a commitment of any form has been made, relationships to her are about giving one’s all. “I think a live-in relationship is a good concept to help figure out how your everyday routine works, before taking the plunge. But it shouldn’t drag on. I personally wouldn’t want to do it for too long because, then, complacency sets in – plus you always have an out.” She accepts that in some cases, two people just end up bringing out the worst in each other, but – being the idealist that she is – stresses that true love deserves a couple of chances.

The Big Fat Indian Wedding
Her face lights up as soon as I mention weddings and she squeals, “I love weddings. I adore them more than I can describe!” She complains that she feels horribly deprived living in Mumbai, because Delhi is the ‘it’ place to be during wedding season. I smile as I allow her to gush on, “Mehendis and sangeets are the best. I don’t like receptions – they are the most boring! I love the old style of weddings, with everything happening in a large house where close friends and family live together for the duration of the celebrations…kind of like Monsoon Wedding, minus the paedophiles!” The mad streak she mentioned earlier was beginning to show.

Raving exuberantly about antique jewellery, colour and traditional clothing, she claims that a headpiece or mathapatti is an absolute necessity for her during the wedding season. Describing her dream wedding, she says, “I would love to take over a big haveli or mansion somewhere, either abroad or in India, and have my close family and friends live there. There will be a three-day sangeet, two days of mehendi and just a day for the wedding reception, after which everyone can stay on and have a holiday!”

The Perfect Proposal
She doesn’t know if she would ever propose in the conventional sense, but hopes that it will happen naturally and intimately. “If only my future partner and I could one day just wake up with a light-bulb moment and say Eureka! Let’s get married!” she laughs. “But, honestly, I’d really love for it to just happen over a laugh.”

She says an extravagant proposal is only fun if you’re on a holiday and completely taken by surprise, but even then, she doesn’t want a grand production. “I really don’t want people playing violins and a whole restaurant standing up and clapping for me. I would die inside and wish for the earth to swallow me whole!”

She has faced a few knocks like any one of us, but the dreamer still believes that no matter how much people judge you or pull you down, it is important to keep a clean and open heart. “At the end of the day, we need to like ourselves…not in an egotistical way, but by accepting all that we are. Only then can we fully love anyone else.” Insisting that there is good in everyone if you just give it a chance, she explains that she still has faith in fairy tales and the idea of Prince Charming. Aditi, who is slotted to play a cameo in the upcoming Disney remake of Khoobsurat – as a royal princess, states “I am such a Disney movie, really. People even tell me that I live in ‘My Pony Land’, but that is how I have always been and it won’t change. I trust that you get what you seek.”

Cinematic Passion
Aditi hasn’t ever thought about dating specifically within or outside the industry, but is sceptical about two actors having a successful relationship. “If you think about it, when are two working actors ever going to have any time for each other? It’s different when you’re in college – being half an hour late or too busy working on a project isn’t a huge deal, but in an adult relationship, the distance can really build up.”

Even though she would love to have a beautiful romance, she isn’t proactively searching for one. “I wouldn’t consciously seek out a relationship, because I think these things happen when they are meant to…there are so many factors involved.” Declaring that on-screen love makes her smile, she picks Hasee Toh Phasee as one of her favourites because of its wacky formula and modern approach.

She realises that this passion for cinematic love that she has is probably why she is such a die-hard romantic. “Sometimes I get so taken in by the magic of it all, that I firmly believe that people and relationships like that actually exist. But really, I’m sure they do, they have to!” Considering she is at a good point in her life now, Aditi believes she is ready for love to come her way. “I may not be searching for it, but I would definitely love to be in a blissful relationship with a great guy.”

A FEW OF HER FAVOURITE THINGS….

Most prized possession
The pair of ghungroos that I wore for my first dance concert.

Personal style in three words
Effortless, classic, boho chic.

Feel-good song
Currently, it’s Siempre Me Quedara by Bebe. I start bobbing in my seat whenever I’m listening to it on my headphones.

Most used item in her closet
In the monsoon, my shorts and gumboots – to stay as far as possible from the squelch and the moon crater potholes in Mumbai. Otherwise, boyfriend jeans and a ganji.

Greatest indulgence
Massages… I’m a massage junkie!

The book she keeps on going back to
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

Driving cross-country – one CD she would carry
I’d bring an iPod with 32GB of space…I’m not getting stuck with a single CD on a drive!

Beauty secret
Good genes and cold milk on my face when I wake up.

Night owl or early bird
I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn to go for dance rehearsals since school, so early bird. I love the light in the morning – I usually wake up to go for my yoga class or a run.

Best thing she has ever eaten
It’s a toss-up between escargot in lemon butter sauce and Japanese black cod.

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