Sunday, 28 September 2008

Up, close and personal with ANJORI ALAGH over an unpretentious dinner in Mumbai.

exclusive by Devansh Patel

There are many celebrities who claim their art is more important to them than fame or fortune. But very few back it up with action, no matter how rich and famous they become. Anjori Alagh is one of them. Bollywood columnist Devansh Patel gets to know her up, close and personal over an unpretentious dinner in Mumbai.

The turn of the millennium saw teen flicks dominate the box office charts. Producers and directors finally recognised the renewed power of the youth market and milked it with gusto. Horror movies, psychological dramas, comedies, even Shakespearian tragedies - all of them made a fortune when released on the big screen. And it was this period that saw the rise of Anjori Alagh. Her last week release in India '1920' got her far more noticed than her debut film 'Life Mein Kabhi Kabhi' inspite of her brief appearance in the film. But, no squeaky cutie and hugely ambitious, she's got all the equipment to grow into a serious actress.

I met her recently in Mumbai during the Press meet of her film 1920. Not an A-lister yet, there was something which was holding me back to go and meet her to question her about her latest film. Unlike other actresses, she wasn't eye candy, girlfriend material, lacking the talent to take on the meatier female roles. Many - the more bloddy-minded among them - work hard to widen their scope, and eventually succeed in earning their peers' respect. Anjori was a glowing example of this. And then when you are told from some Indian journalist that she is a daughter of yesteryears television and film actress Dr Maya Alagh, you stand where you are and question yourself, Is she?. Strangely, for someone whose screen persona is usually so open and simple, it's difficult to accurately describe Anjori Alagh. Sure, she's often feted for her Perizad Zorabian-like girl-next-door appeal. But then, like her mother Maya Alagh, she's also an unconventional beauty with tonnes of talent. Hard to pin down, is Anjori. Harder still when you know her unusually exotic background.

Having spent most of her years in the U.S studying, she surprised one and all by plunging into Bollywood. Her brother-in-law is the head of NDTV Imagine, Sameer Nair, who is today recognised as one of India's most creative and successful media personalities. NDTV Imagine is the new entertainment initiative from television news major NDTV Group. With only two films old, she has an impressive list of friends who are A-list Bollywood personalities like Zayed Khan, Apoorva Lakhia and DJ Aqeel to name a few. I'm not surprised. But what's surprising is the fact that with such a star studded family connection, Anjori could have misused her contacts, but she proved me wrong. I mean, her first film could've been with Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan or a Karan Johar film. Worst come worst she could've done a cameo with all but she went for the complete opposite. She choose to work with Vikram Bhatt directed two films Life Mein Kabhi Kabhi and 1920. So as most journalists would quiz the actress on her film career, I tried going the personal way.

Writing interviews, reviews and stories since last five years as a columnist is like drinking tea everyday. But this is the first time an actress has inspired me to write about her. When I met her for dinner at her favourite South Mumbai restaurant Indigo Deli, she came across as a complete natural. No fake smiles, no fake and cliched lines which celebs often use when they meet any journalist and designer outfit. In her white sleevless top and her blue denims she felt at ease. So when I asked her why a celeb like her was not draped in any sort of glitter, shimmer and shine, she replied, "Do I have to? I love comfort and I am wearing exactly that". No first impression last impression talks. She pulls out yet another stunner when asked what she will be drinking. Now when you are a celeb in Mumbai, you'd but naturally be dining with a glass of red or white wine. To my surprise, she ordered her favourite apple slush. No show off business and that's what will take this actress to her peak in the years to come. I mean, you order what you like. Straight up. Half way through our conversation we order a Pizza with a base as thin as a leaf. Never tried before in London though. Sipping my red wine which I ordered, Anjori now gets a bit more comfortable by sitting on the sofa folding her legs and talking about her favourite holiday destination London. Shopoholic by nature, she will grab anything she sets her eyes on from the high street biggies such as Jane Norman, Selfridges and Zara. As far as designers go, she loves herself covered in Gucci, YSL and Versace. But on the flip side, back home in India, she wears her favourite designer Nikasha Tawaday. The Pizza was delicious but I was more interested in her film career. In an industry filled with hundreds of new comers, Miss Alagh was different. Given her a choice whether she'd like to be known as a good actress or a superstar, Anjori settles for both. The urge in her is tempting. It's not her over confidence but her self confidence which comes to the forefront, and whether she claims both is just a matter of time. It's forty minutes past midnight and we leave. The kind actress drops me off to my place and gets ready for the next big day in her life - Her first chatting session hosted by Bollywood's premiere website Bollywood Hungama.

It was her debut chat where her fans would question her everything and anything, and to look after the proceedings I joined her at her house in Mumbai. It was rather strange to see that she had fans on the other end of the computer. And why not? Her brief cameo was worth a praise in 1920. Questions ranging from 'Did 1920 scare you?, Was the castle in which the film was shot haunted?, What equation did she share with the director Vikram Bhatt? to some very personal question like 'Will you marry me?' were asked. The diplomatic damsel answered every question with ease. Known to be a pukka sanskari (very cultured), she even had a table full of Indian snacks ready on the table for us to munch on. A personal touch was enough for the team of Bollywood Hungama and myself to stay back for a bit long now. Did I miss out on the special masala chai (spiced tea) too? Anjori's personal fondness for wood was pretty evident as her house had furniture to frames to decoratives made from wood. She then has to be a Woddy Allen fan. Crap joke, isn't it? With her big day over, it was now time for my big day in Mumbai - The red carpet event of the film EMI's Music launch which was attended by the A-list Bollywood brigade like Sanjay Dutt, Arjun Rampal, Sunil Shetty, Tusshar Kapoor, Urmila Matondkar, Malaika Arora Khan, etc. And there I was in my black trousers and stripped black shirt waiting to step my foot on my first red carpet event in Mumbai. But wait...I was not alone. It was my friend Anjori Alagh in her black and white Jane Norman outfit gracing the occassion with me too. She was normal but I was a bit emarassed. A journo walking along with an actress at a red carpet event at the Intercontinental Hotel. I even got more embarrased when she revealed that it was her first time with a journo at such an event. So as we both stepped on the red carpet, a pack full of Indian journalists flashed their cameras at Anjori. She didn't black out with the lights and the attention she was getting. She was loving every bit of it. We entered the marquee where the launch was about to take place. We sat... but at an arms length. The music was released and I escorted her to the car.

She went. But her loving gestures, comments and memories linger in my mind even today as I sit on my desk and type this story. In my five and a half years as a Bollywood columnist in the U.K I've met the good, the better and the best of Bollywood stars. Today I met a friend.

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