Jacqueline Fernandez On Friendship, Love and Life
2011. That was the first time I saw Jacqueline Fernandez. It was at Malhar and she happened to be judging the street dance finals at the St. Xavier’s College fest. I overheard how all the boys from the security department wanted to be her ‘bodyguards’ even though it was only a college festival and she really didn’t need that much security. I am meeting her once again, exactly four years later. I can say this with the precision of a surgeon’s knife, because I have googled a snippet from the archives of a leading daily that had featured Jacqueline at Malhar, four years ago, on this very day.
Her call time is 3 p.m. and the location for this massively orchestrated shoot is at the Essajees warehouse on Reay Road. It is almost as if I have stepped onto the sets of Edward Scissorhands — into that scene when Dianne Wiest creeps into the haunted castle and is welcomed by huge chandeliers and strange artefacts. This is even more hauntingly beautiful. While vintage bathtubs, statues of stallions and Ganeshas stand unperturbed, the team preps the set, gleaming Louis Vuitton cases are carefully babysat, a circuit trips, and the photographer complains that he may have caught the flu.
I can sense a build-up of tension. But Jacqueline arrives well before the call time. I wait for the hustle, yet everyone moves like well-coordinated robots in a factory. So, I move along with these machines looking for her. And there she is — in a perky orange polo T-shirt, grey tracks and flatforms.
“I want this chandelier!” shrieks Jacqueline as she strolls through the warehouse in an embellished jacket layered over a pristine white gown. She is enamoured by the entire depository, the birdcages in particular, and takes breaks to explore in between shots. Is her penchant for the birdcages symbolic of her being the master of her own choices, and yearning to soar?
Even though she started her career with Aladin (2009), Murder 2 (2011) and an item number in Housefull (2012), it was Kick (2014) that really kick-started her career. We are always told that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but her dual role in Roy (2015), her gig as a fitness ambassador, her stand on animal cruelty which also landed her a PETA award, and her extremely adorable Instagram posts are signs that sometimes, with people, the whole is more than just a sum of its parts.
The part that really stands out right now is Jacqueline working her way through the shoot. Photographer, Rohan Shrestha, doesn’t really need to direct her, because she is to the camera born. As Rohan shoots to the tunes of Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler, Jacqueline pouts and purrs and her amusing antics are well-hidden in between frames. So, while she is doing her thing, her father, who has accompanied her to the shoot, scans the scene, hawk-eyed like any father would, when it comes to his youngest daughter. The large man, with tattooed arms and rings on his fingers (which I almost mistake for a knuckleduster), lingers around with a you-don’t-wanna-mess-with me look. The crew is understandably hesitant to even make small talk.
I discover that patience is a virtue — and her public relations agent finally gives me a heads-up. I have less than 15 minutes! I scurry through the rickety stairs, hoping to ninja my way through this time-crunch. Unlike some celebrities who would be eating samosas behind closed doors, Jacqueline is religiously munching on an apple, while getting a mani-pedi done. She’s kicked that they got her favourite Scholl massager, and the two parlour girls are fan-girling to such an extent that things keep slipping out of their fingers.
While a pedicure is happening on the side (just for those who are keen on knowing, Jacqueline likes her nails super short and round), I begin by telling her about the Malhar incident and strangely she remembers wearing a Topshop dress. Jacqueline admits that back in the day, her taste in fashion was not quite blog-worthy and that her friendship with Sonam Kapoor has been more than just a saving grace. The backstory of this friendship goes like this: “Sonam once invited me for the screening of Mausam. While I couldn’t be there because I was out of town, I was chuffed that Sonam Kapoor had invited me. We kept in touch…I turned to her for fashion advice because I was a disaster. She even told me that.”
Jacqueline is talking to me about her friend, who was being brutally honest, and that’s probably what she needed. “Sonam just used to be there all the time. So I would always take a picture of myself and send it to her and ask her if it was right. She would tell me to change the nail polish or take that belt off, or that I’ve over-accessorised. She always helps me out. All girls need that.”
She tells me that these friendships haven’t evolved overnight. “There are just certain people I have come across who I genuinely feel very strongly about.” This is a big deal for Jacqueline because she confesses that she is a guarded person, not only with friendships but even when it comes to discussing relationship issues. And I can tell, by the way she curates responses and fields my questions, giving me fewer loopholes to play with. “I was awkward when it came to my relationships. I was never able to fully discuss my personal life with anyone.” The mani-pedi girls began polishing the rough edges just as Jacqueline has in her life too. “I am a little less guarded now. I know that it is important to discuss and share because your friends and family may see things that you may never see.”
“My first crush was when I was about 14. I’ve had a crush on a lot of boys, and usually they were boys who would never date me.” (I mentally question these boys and their choices.) “I was a little more of a tomboy,” she confesses. “Also I did not know how to be around guys. I had my first boyfriend when I was 16 and that lasted for a long time.” Just then her dad cuts in, “What is this first date you are talking about? Come home and we’ll talk about it!” Amidst all the giggling that follows, I hear Jacqueline faintly go, “Oh my God, this is so awkward now!”
As her father moves out of sight, Jacqueline admits that he is the hero in her life. “He taught me a lot by the way he conducts himself. He is extremely generous and always good-natured.” While her siblings moved to different continents, Jacqueline stayed back with her father, who is now visiting her since her grandfather recently passed away, and with whom she shares a close bond. “I think my greatest asset is never giving up, like my mom’s and dad’s. I have seen them manage a full house with four kids, work two jobs, and deal with lack of sleep and different kinds of responsibilities. So, that kind of will to keep going keeps me going.”
She tells me that she isn’t seeing anyone currently but her ideal partner would be someone who she wouldn’t have to change for. “For me, it’s really mostly about the chemistry and comfort that you share with this person. It’s nice when a guy is able to make you feel really loved and secure. But there are also little things like…I wish he could cook, and I hope he’s funny. I hope that he is as hardworking and as serious about his career as I am. He needs to be athletic, someone who understands health and fitness because I am like that…and we can motivate each other.” Even when she is talking about what she wants, there is a part of her that wants to give in return.
John Abraham is her current fitness buddy. “The best part about doing a film with John is that I have my own personal dietician and gym instructor, and he is very motivating and keeps you going.” Varun Dhawan is another close friend, and she talks about him with as much enthusiasm, “I know Varun for a little while now, but it’s like I’ve known him forever. When we shot for Dishoom, we travelled to Morocco and he was my partner in crime. I would drag him shopping everywhere, and I discovered that he’s quite a shopper too!”
I can tell that Jacqueline is in a happy space. We share our thoughts on love, boys and discuss Osho quotes. She tells me about her pet peeves when it comes to boyfriends. “He should never smell! He should never be rude or derogatory to anyone. He should never make a scene in public and he should have good table manners.” And then we debate over the infamous enigma: do opposites really attract? “I think opposites attract for a little while, but like-minded people tend to stay together.”
My next question is about love hacks, and what makes a relationship really tick. “It’s so important to be yourself in the beginning. We always tend to cover and mask, we either try to impress them or get them to date us. But what we don’t realise is that in the end everything gets revealed.”
As the time ticks by ominously, a rapid-fire ensues. Her dream date? “Anywhere in Paris is a dream date. Even the flight there would be so romantic!” Her wedding dress would be…“either Elie Saab or Marchesa.” She goes on about lace, sheer fabric and how ethereal she would want it to be. What would her dream wedding look like? “In a really remote beautiful vintage church in a scenic Mediterranean European village or by a mountainside.” Before I throw out the next question, she takes a breather and says with utmost certainty, “And lesser the people, better it is, because it’s a day when I don’t want to worry about people that I don’t want there.” That’s when I realise it doesn’t matter whether Jacqueline has it all figured out. The fact that she believes in something is what eventually counts.
Then, as I’m about to leave, she digs deeper into the archives of her life and comes out with another nugget, “We really try so hard, we live for other people, and it is calculating and it is exhausting. I’ve been a victim of that; I have probably tried to be this other person for other people. And after a while, I know that this is who I am, and it’s so much better this way. And, the more you discover yourself, you realise that it’s okay to be you!”
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