India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Cover Story
September 12, 2008

Romantic Rendezvous

Text by Nisha Jhangiani. Photographs by CJP. Styling by Nisha Jhangiani. Art direction by Falguni Kapadia. Make-up by Jose Sanchez. Hair by Richard Soldé. All bags and luggage from Louis Vuitton. Location courtesy: Chateau de Chambord is one of the largest castles in the Loire Valley in France. This sumptuous Renaissance palace was the dream project of King François I, who was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. The chateau is a visual treat and provided an ideal backdrop for a bridal feature. Truly the stuff that dreams are made of! Special thanks to Louis Vuitton

Ameesha Patel is walking in the clouds. A devoted boyfriend, interesting new films in the kitty and appreciative murmurs for her curvaceous turn in Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. Verve whisks the dainty star to the charming old-world environs of the historic Chateau de Chambord deep in the Loire Valley in France, where she speaks to Verve on matters of the heart and her passion for all things fashionable

Burberry tote. Check. Twenty8Twelve jeans. Check. Hermès belt. Check. Louis Vuitton cabin luggage. Check. That’s Ameesha for you – a petite package of casual chic, dressed for flight. Paris calls, and our filmi-fatale taps her delicate toes impatiently while we negotiate our way through 60 kilos of excess baggage; hard-top cases stuffed with designer couture lehngas for a runaway bride fashion feature. As she coos sweet goodbyes to her “soul mate” Kanav Puri, we cannot help but wonder whether this fantasy will be one that translates into reality in the near future.

Come morning, groggy-eyed, we stumble out of the dreary Charles de Gaulle airport and gratefully give in to the sinful comfort of our Mercedes vans. Le Bristol’s welcoming arms embrace us in their luxurious warmth; we take a refreshing break before reconvening for fittings.

A turquoise, ruched Prada bag precedes Ameesha’s trim silhouette as she plonks down on the bed, excitedly rifling through the jhumars, bajubands and kadas I have put out for the trial. The shoot is momentarily forgotten as we swoop on tidbits we may want to buy for ourselves; it’s a meeting of shopaholic minds and the association produces rapid results. “May I please try on your watch?” she requests politely, clipping on my steel and gold Bvlgari with practiced ease (the ‘BB 38’ is duly ordered and purchased by her three days later).

A quick run-through of the crimson Tahiliani choli, the cheery Falguni Shane tangerine mermaid skirt and the pale pink shimmering Suneet Varma sari follows – “this is so me”, she murmurs, as the fitted beige bustier and six yards of twinkling sequins enhance her lightly flushed beauty.

I clasp a spectacularly buyable zircon neckpiece on her and Ameesha snaps into Bollywood mode, attempting a mix of demure and sensual poses, in preparation for the shoot the following day. The remainder of this afternoon will be devoted to the streets of Rue Saint-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne. I have my eye on the Dior ‘Karenina’ while Ameesha plans to scout the shelves of Chanel, Fendi and Ferragamo; “I am still enjoying the limited edition Dior ‘Jazz’ bag in pink that Kanav gifted me for my birthday a couple of months ago. I had no idea he was trying to locate this difficult-to-get piece, but he managed to procure it in my favourite colour at the last minute. Isn’t he just the sweetest man?” Yes, you lucky girl, you.

Fast forward to the following morning, 8 a.m. We have loaded all the styling essentials into our 22-seater van; the shoot location is a three hour drive away. Ameesha hops on with us, fresh-faced and curvaceously toned. I marvel at her flat abs, while she credits this enviable sexy makeover to “Kunal (Kohli) and Adi (Aditya Chopra). I can’t thank them enough for casting me in Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. It was a risk, but I put myself in their trustworthy hands, knowing fully well that there wouldn’t be any vulgar representation of the bikini or hot pants-clad scenes. And it worked!”

Her much raved about underwater song must have required a strict workout regimen to create that hot bod. “If I am going to wear a swimsuit, then I better look good in it. For me, being healthy is a way of life anyway. And the way I look on screen is an important aspect of my persona. I’ve been called pretty and beautiful and presented well in movies like Gadar, Humraaz, Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai and Mangal Pandey. But now, people think I’m hot! And I like it!”

As always with Ameesha, the discussion invariably veers back to fashion. The brand fanatic admits, “I got my first Vuitton when I was 16, my first Chanel when I was 18. I would head to class with a Moschino school bag – it could barely accommodate any books, but it looked so good!” she chuckles.

“London and Paris have been my favourite shopping haunts since I was a child. Back then, it was all about dressing up in French brands like NafNaf. I was the pink little child. Today, less is more for me. A nice watch, earrings, no make-up and good quality clothes. I wouldn’t think twice before splurging 300 pounds on a pair of jeans – be it Rock & Republic, dVb Victoria Beckham or J Brand. Otherwise, I indulge in all designers and love local boutiques in any city; what I select really depends on my mood for that moment. Sometimes a classic like the ‘Birkin’ is what I crave, other times I opt for a more feminine feel with flowy dresses, diamonds and pearls. Kurtis and mul Patiala salwars are my choices for comfortable, casual wear.”

Her closets may be stuffed with all the above but there’s always room for more. “I don’t particularly add to my wardrobe every season as I am constantly picking up things I like from my travels. But for this fall, I do wish for a beautiful winter coat in camel or pure white to go with these Burberry mufflers I have. A pair of evening gloves, ideally with some trimming or embellishment, like crystals. And of course, boots are always welcome.” Kanav Puri, are you listening?

“He is a gem,” she enthuses, elaborating on the man in her life. An hotelier who shuttles between London and New Delhi, Puri’s “understanding, flexible nature” appealed to Ms Patel the instant they were first introduced “by a common friend in Delhi a year ago. There was an immediate connect and we have been inseparable ever since. He complements and completes me. There is no doubt in my mind that marriage is the next step for us.”

Whether it’s his habit of surprising her with birthday holidays to the Taj Exotica Maldives, zipping her around the hotspots of London in his “yellow Ferrari with a personalised number plate”, wooing her with fine champagnes and wines, his parallel taste in fashion, “we have similar Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino belts, and funnily enough, have unknowingly matched them with similar powder blue cotton t-shirts and black linen shirts respectively,” or the easy security his family and friends surround her with, Ameesha is contentedly confident that she has indeed found her match. “We are mirror images of each other,” she reiterates. And jumps with delight when we flip through the latest issue of Verve and she spots their picture together in our party pages. “He is so cute!” she squeals, before tearing off the page as a keepsake.

The conversation reverts to handbags. “Please, please can we try and wrap up the shoot on time tomorrow so that I can make it back to the Bottega Veneta store,” she pleads. A coveted chocolate brown hobo is waiting to be snapped up by her and I understand the urgency of the situation. I promise to do our best and we continue our journey in peaceful anticipation.

The Chambord Chateau in the Loire valley is the stuff bridal dreams are made of. A picturesque setting replete with calm waters, lush greens and a tranquil French countryside, it makes for the perfect setting. Ameesha moves into princess-on-the-run gear, weighed down by her Kiran Uttam Ghosh gota lehnga, adorned with elegant Victorian jewels. Does she imagine a real-life scenario such as this one? Will the absence of her estranged family diminish the happiness of this upcoming event?

“God makes things happen for a reason,” she philosophises. “Hardships and troubles help you tap your inner strength. I have learnt to be independent today and the emotional support of lovely friends along the way has made me see the positive side of life. I have been vulnerable in the past but have stood by what I felt was right, and done so with dignity and pride. I sleep well at night and wake up with a clean conscience.” Enigmatic though this reasoning may be, it’s clear that her stand vis-à-vis her parents, remains unchanged and unresolved.

As if on cue, Puri calls to lighten the somber mood. “I am marrying you in jeans and a t-shirt, jaan,” she decrees; one day of lightning quick changes in 10 kilo ensembles has diminished the fairy tale wedding plan somewhat.

As we huff our way up and down the challenging Leonardo Da Vinci staircase to find the best natural light for our shots, I am struck by Ameesha’s unpredictable temperament. An un–acceptable airline seat will result in a full-scale starry tantrum; an irritable expression will make it clear that any unnecessary or prolonged delay in shooting should be quickly rectified. But ask her to change outfits in the back of a car and she complies with a model’s consummate professionalism; wrap up the shoot at 11 p.m. with no restaurant in sight to feed us and she suggests Big Macs from McDonald’s as an easy option; expect a perfect stance in freezing rain on a wobbly boat and she leaps to the challenge without argument. What can I say; she does make for interesting company.

As for the charm factor, the woman can pump it up to astonishing levels on demand. It’s this quality that probably had Roshan senior smitten during the casting days of Hrithik’s first film. “Duggu (Hrithik Roshan) was so shy; he just summoned a thumbs-up on seeing me,” she giggles. Puri seems to have fallen under the same spell too. Even the staff at Bottega yield to her alluring appeals, keeping the store open past deadline so we can race through bustling Paris traffic and pant our way to the pay counter, where her latest purchase sits wrapped and ready to be paraded.

The universe is definitely in tune with Ameesha at the moment. She knows it. And she revels in the knowledge of it.

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