India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Features
July 15, 2008

A Charmed Life

Text by Shirin Mehta. Photographs by Vishesh Verma

Vivah won her the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Award. She’s got three movies coming out this year. But, instead of sitting around, soaking her feet in perfumed water, actress Amrita Rao is busy enjoying the moment – every moment

Amrita Rao is the wrong choice for a section on ‘pampering’, I am thinking. I prod and nudge for information even as the hairstylist sculpts her long locks into a variety of styles – does she spend days at the spa? Does she indulge in any strange mystical beauty regime? Is her dressing table at home laden with creams and elixirs? No, no, no, on every account! She coddles herself as much as the adopted small town girl she plays in Vivah, the film that jettisoned her into the cine public’s eye. Which is, in fact, not at all….

And yet, her eyes are those of a cossetted cat, purring with newfound success and contentment. Large, expressive, switching from warm to cold. Pity then that her acclaimed Vivah role had her looking downcast, most of the time, missing out on their brilliance. The graduate in psychology, finds delight in our photo shoot, even as we primp her into princess looks. The former advertising model obligingly pouts, hunches, straightens up, looks distant, looks near — she is thoroughly savouring the experience like she is luxuriating in every bit of her life right now. She revels in the sheer regality of the gowns that we have selected for her, almost hugging the luminescent fabrics to herself. “Gowns have a regal charm. Long dresses are so ladylike and elegant.” She is not a jeans person, I discover, proclaiming herself a dress girl. And, she loves saris. And, Oh yes, did we tell you? She is the ultimate indulged artist’s model and muse — to celebrated painter M. F. Husain himself, who is totally smitten by her simplicity and beauty. How did she discover herself on a plane to Dubai with her mother, winging her way to her mentor? And how did she feel when Husain gifted her three of his paintings, dedicated to her, on her birthday, recently? Let’s find out.

She was not an overindulged child “I was not really pampered as a child. And yet, the best part was that my mom always gave me whatever I asked for immediately and without conditions, which is something I will always appreciate. She is still like that. My most pampered moments have been on my birthdays. I never celebrate on a big scale but I feel very happy. Every other day is generic but your birthday is your day.”

She would love to live this day “I would love to wake up with a view of the beach and have a nice long breakfast on the beach. Then I would shower with an aromatic gel, apply lots of perfume and wear clothes I am comfortable in. I would go out to a quaint market, buy fruit, meet a friend for lunch at a café. Perhaps watch a movie or have a long walk on the beach. And then, a head massage to put me to sleep….”

De-stressing would come easy “I would burn an aromatherapy candle, read a Sidney Sheldon novel, sip on flavoured tea and eat popcorn. I find listening to good music very de-stressing — I love light romantic songs from Boyzone, Shania Twain, Britney Spears. Soft romantic Hindi songs, as well. Perhaps I would buy myself flowers and chocolates. And, I absolutely love perfumes. My favourites are Delices de Cartier and Design. And of course the old classic, Poison.”

Mumbai is soothing “The best part about living in Mumbai is the sea — I find it enthralling. I love to take a walk on Bandstand promenade. But if I really, really want to relax, I go to Mauritius which is my favourite destination.”

Is she a people’s person? “If you have good friends who create positive energy around you, it is very beneficial. The people around us determine our future to a large extent. Negative people can lead to uncalled for depression and de-motivation. I find it very relaxing to talk to my friends after a hard day at work.”

Is she lucky! “I have no fitness routine. I thank my mom’s genes, every day. I have discovered over the years that my body is not meant for the gym. I tend to look toned, anyway. If I do dumbbells for just one sitting, I look like I am gyming regularly. For exercise, I prefer dancing – free style, ball room dancing, anything will do. It gives me a lot of happiness.”

She revels in her roles “I have played roles that are close to my personality but the ones that are unlike me are more interesting. This year I am shooting three films – Shortcut, Victory and Mahadev Ka Sajjanpur and I am playing a very flamboyant character, a medical student and a village girl. It has actually been like living three lives in one year. The best part about being an actress is the costume drama and I love it.”

She can’t stop about M. F. Husain “It was my role of Poonam, in Vivah, that caught his attention and attracted him to me. He saw the film seven times! Eleven years after proclaiming Madhuri Dixit his muse, I was now his new muse. He called me and my mom to Dubai and he made a life-size portrait of me. I was very composed until I saw the first colours being put on canvas and then I went crazy. After all, this was the legendary M.F. Husain. At 93, he is still so quick and has an amazing sense of perspective. He has so much energy and wants to achieve so much more. His ultimate goal is to blend art and cinema and while he has not asked, he has hinted at making a film with me. As his muse, he keeps in touch regularly, calls often, tells me what films he is watching, what I should be watching…. It was the old-world charm of a small town girl that caught his fancy.”

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