Compiled by Nisha Susan
Did you secretly love Katrina Kaif in Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti because she reminded you of all the improbably sprightly and ‘forward’ heroines of Old Bollywood? Now you have a chance to look forward to more of Kaif-in-Jha. The filmmaker’s forthcoming movie Satsang is, we hear, a ‘searing’ exposé (our favourite kind of exposé) of religious organisations and their money-making rackets. Goodbye to Kaif’s political white and say hello to spiritual saffron. What will remain the same, we’re told, is Kaif’s all-natural, no-make-up look, which will occupy many million column inches and pixels.
WHO’S AFRAID OF THE SUN NOW?
So Abhay Deol said he’d never endorse a fairness cream. We were like yaay but in a muted way. But when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan threatens to sue a magazine for whitening her skin in a photo, we need to sit up and ask, ‘What’s up, sister?’ It’s unfair to Abhay but that’s how the Indie-film cookie crumbles. Her spokesperson is quoted thus, “She believed these things don’t happen anymore. Not in this day when women are recognised for their merit, not for their skin colour.” Yes, now that Bachchan no longer models for a fairness soap as she once did comfortably.
Sometimes you feel vaguely sorry for those who have to grow into adulthood in the cock-eyed public gaze. Here is Prateik Babbar on the verge of his first big movie. He went to the Sunburn Festival, strolled around in a lungi with surma-ed eyes. In a fit of energy, which we will not attribute to anything, he even tried to climb a stage while a performance was on. The friendly neighbourhood media, of course, decided to gush imagining with aunty-fondness that this was all him pursuing his rockstar dream and the clothes some manner of goth-gone-native.
Salman Khan might have to retire from the Most Way Out Personality on Twitter position. He has competition from a very surprising quarter. Uday Chopra has gone from posting rather charming pictures of birds (albeit referring to them as chicks) to a new manner of exhibitionism. He has (this really is the Kalyug) somehow hooked up his running shoes to Twitter. Now, every time the muscle-bound creature runs, an update pops up for the masochistic world to enjoy. “Ran 9.64 km on 3/1/2011 at 10:51 am” was the shoe’s most recent quote.
Girls can be very distracting’
PRAVESH RANA, Model/TV Anchor
BY NISHITA JHA
Were you a popular kid in Nirpura? Describe your life there — did the other kids fear you because you were the inspector’s son?
I was pretty popular in school, but I was in a boys’ school, so too much attention wasn’t too good (laughs). But almost everyone in that village was from the police, so I didn’t get any kind of special treatment. The kind of background that I come from, there are three options in life: farming, police or the army. I was born in Nirpura, stayed till class three or four and then my dad was transferred all over UP — Moradabad, Bareilly — we moved with him throughout so I’ve actually studied all over the state. For my final school years I was in Meerut, but for summer vacations we used to keep going back to Nirpura. I never knew what I would end up doing in life till I graduated, but of course I had the three options in my mind. Eventually I realised they were not for me. I have two younger sisters and two younger brothers, so maybe they can choose those options! (laughs). In spite of being a cop’s son, our dad never let us really use his name for fun. In fact, if we were up to any mischief, our biggest fear was that our dad would find out. Even if I was about to get into a fight, I would be more afraid of getting thrashed by my dad than getting thrashed by the guy opposite me.
What was the transition like when you shifted from there to study at Delhi University? What did you miss about home and what were you glad to escape?
The sudden special attention from girls made me feel a little uncomfortable, I couldn’t understand how this had never happened before and who I had suddenly become or started looking like. I played basketball till national level through school, so I was used to going away for sports camps and events. I was never under the shadow of my family and parents; they never stopped me from exploring things. But when I came to Delhi and started living alone, it was initially kind of difficult, because suddenly you are all by yourself, and Delhi has people from all over the country, from all kinds of backgrounds. Being a hosteller had its advantages — I had friends from every community, North Easterners, Biharis, Jats, people I would never have come to know otherwise and it became a kind of support system, but it did take me a while to adjust. I’m still in touch with most of my batchmates, hostellers, seniors, etc. I think the good thing was that my friends and I were not crazy small-towners trying to do something big and grab attention in whatever way we could. We were content in our tight circle. The few times I’ve gotten into fights, I always regretted it later — so I wasn’t under the delusion that the way to look good or be macho in college was to beat people up.
I missed my siblings the most, because when I left they were so small and by the time I came home they were all grown up. My youngest brother was actually taller than me, so it was quite a shock! I missed seeing them grow up and go through the same stuff I had seen. And naturally, being the eldest son had also meant that I was pampered and loved. So, there would be times when I was in college, I was low or feeling ill and there was no one to make you feel loved and encourage you and motivate you to get out there. What made me happy though was that I was able to achieve things that I would not have been able to if I still lived with them. My parents were happier and more proud of me because I was standing on my own feet.
Are you a typical protective Jat brother to your younger sisters?
(laughs) Yes, but we never talk about dating or relationships at home, a certain distance is maintained between me and all my family members. So, it’s not as if I’m the type that would go spy on them and find things out. But if they needed me or were in trouble, I can be as protective as they need.
So who would you discuss girl trouble with?
I haven’t had any girls in my life! (laughs) Ok, what I mean is I haven’t had the time to really get into a relationship totally, give it the time it needs. My focus has been to fulfill my family’s expectations, and girls can be very distracting. It’s not as if I don’t see girls who are attractive, I would certainly go up to them and talk to them and admire them. But I don’t think I’ve liked anyone enough yet to want to adjust my life around them.
You have said that you often consider your father’s moral compass when you make decisions even today. What was the first instance that you felt that in the world that you work in, your father’s moral compass may not be enough?
But the compass is never about specific situations is it? It’s about the idea behind situations. For example, in the entertainment industry, people do anything to get noticed. Recently on the 26/11 anniversary lots of people gave quotes to the media about what they felt and their opinions — what is that but gaining mileage out of a tragedy? I could do the same, I was contacted but I don’t think of it as a PR exercise. What my father taught us in essence was to not try too hard to show off.
So there was the instance in Bigg Boss 3 when you threw all the remaining food in the house into the swimming pool, to teach your fellow contestants a ‘lesson’. Was this consistent with what your father taught you?
I shouldn’t have done that. It was something I did in the heat of the moment, and perhaps it was misunderstood in a sense but it’s definitely something I regret. It was also perceived in a way differently from how I intended it. My intention was to make everyone — including myself — suffer so that we could have a fair fight on an equal platform. They kept telling me that I was a nobody and that they were celebrities, so in some twisted way I wanted them to feel what it felt like to be ordinary and live without luxury. I didn’t want them to win comfortably. I wanted them to have a tough time. But since it was my first experience on television and that too on a show like Bigg Boss, I guess it was presented in a way that was more controversial than I was prepared for. It spun out of my control. But I’ve always been proud of my background — my dad told me when I joined the industry “agar tum kissi se upar nahi ho, toh tum kissi se neeche bhi nahi ho” — I tell myself that whenever a situation like this occurs, when I’m not treated well for the background that I belong to.
From selling mineral water bottles to becoming Mr India and now hosting a popular television show, how does a career graph like that affect your perception of money? Is there something about your attitude to money now that would shock the teenage or younger Pravesh Rana? What was one of the first things that you bought that you really wanted and had to save up for?
When I was younger I would give a hisaab of all my expenditure to my parents, so things have definitely changed. But you know what I think about money — there are three stages: when you run after money, when you and money run together and when money runs after you. I’d say I’m still in the first stage of life, but I stay sane by trying not to let it affect my equations with people. If it came to a point where I was forming relationships on the basis of monetary benefits I would be scared for myself.
When I was 15 I used to die for Reebok and Nike sports shoes — they are expensive man, and it was a dream for a basketballer to own them. I’d ask my dad but be careful not to pester him too much. Now I’m happy to say I own many pairs of basketball shoes and even gift them to my dad when I can! There’s no end to how desires grow, so now the next thing on the list is to buy a nice big house where my family can come and stay with me.
Does the experience of seeing so many relationships turn sour make you doubt the existence of love? Describe an experience on the sets of Emotional Atyachaar that made you realise that you can’t see a relationship in black and white, that there are shades of grey even when one person cheats on another.
In fact the fact that I meet two new people in every show has made me realise that every individual, their circumstances and their relationship is different. You can’t make a general decision based on that about love, which to me is one of the strongest forces in the world. I did realise though that people are way less patient now, and that they stop communicating with each other, which is the fundamental thing to stay connected. For instance, there was this couple that was in a long distance relationship — the girl had lost every single person in her family but she never felt alone because she believed this guy loved her. When she realised that he was cheating on her, I felt terrible — even if the pressure was too much for him, how much does it take to call up someone and say, “This is hard for me. Let’s talk about things so it works for both of us?”
As you have changed, do you have a sense that your family has changed and grown too? (For example, would your family be comfortable letting you marry someone not from your background?)
I wouldn’t spring a shock on them, I’d ease them into the situation by introducing them to the girl first — whether she was from Mumbai, Germany or South Africa — I wouldn’t suddenly bring a phirangi home saying this is your bahu! But rather than making the choice I would ask them first, it’s important to me that they should approve of her.
How much does it matter that people on the streets should recognise you? Does it bother you when someone doesn’t? Have you ever felt that a woman was more attracted to your fame than to you?
It doesn’t bother me yet, but I think it might someday. Mainly, I want people to know me, and not just the Pravesh Rana who is hosting shows or is on TV. I realise that they recognise me because of TV, but often it’s weird when people are attracted to me as friends because of the shows. While Emotional Atyachaar is aired I get thousands of friend requests on my phone and on Facebook — how does that make sense? Sometimes, the strange thing is that the pressure in this industry can crush you. If you are having a bad day, you are about to miss a flight — but if a family catches you and wants a photo with every member how do you refuse? You know they are doing it because they love you, but at the same time you know that if you refuse this is the sort of thing that people will walk away from saying “iss mein itna attitude kyun hai?” So you are stuck. It takes so little to make that perception although that might be the first and last time that the person meets me.