In an industry of image-spinners working overtime with equally image-conscious stars, a conversation with Nargis Fakhri feels like a unique experience. She doesn’t really care. She doesn’t care about creating a perception that would help her get more work, or strategically say something that would translate into meetings with industry bigwigs.
By her own admission, she doesn’t have a social life in Mumbai. Uday Chopra is her closest friend. So is Varun Dhawan, whom she’s kept in touch with ever since they worked on David Dhawan’s Main Tera Hero (2014) together.
When HuffPost India met her for a chat at a studio in suburban Mumbai, she was struggling to let out the 'perfect' belch. We're happy to report that she succeeded in this endeavour.
But the point is: most actresses in this town wouldn’t appear in front of a journalist (forget doing something as natural as burping) unless their eye-shadow matched with the colour of their dress. In B-town, you’ve to be well-put together and abide by unwritten norms that dictate how a star should talk, look, and behave with the media.
Not Nargis. “It was bubbling inside me [the burp]. I had to get it out," she said. "Sparkling water, I tell you. But don’t mistake this for my character in Azhar (the upcoming biopic on former Indian cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin) — she’s very classy and elegant."
"Unlike me, of course," she added, with a giggle.
She essays the role of Azharuddin’s second wife, the glamorous model-turned-actress Sangeeta Bijlani (Hathyar, Tridev). However, she wasn’t first choice — the makers initially wanted Kareena Kapoor Khan. After she turned it down, the role was offered to a number of heroines, before Ektaa Kapoor (the film’s producer) finalised on Fakhri — an odd choice, given her New-York-bred, Pakistani-Czech background — although there is some synergy between her and Bijlani’s professional credentials (both are model-turned-actors).
Quite predictably, she was clueless as to what lay ahead. “I really didn’t know what was happening, had no clue about the subject as you know I’m not from here. I didn’t know who Azhar was, what he’d done. I agreed because I felt I could portray the character well. I have done the best I can with the source I had: Bijlani’s previous films,” she said, nonchalantly.
In the film, she had to kiss Emraan Hashmi, who is playing the former India captain. "He’s done that a lot. For me, it was pretty gross. You see that moustache [points at the film’s poster]? How do I know that’s not made from pubic hair? I had to kiss that. Not once. SEVERAL TIMES. The moustache was annoying as hell,” laughed the actress.
With Azhar less than a fortnight away from release, does she fear a repeat of Rockstar (2011)? Fakhri, after all, was slammed by audiences and critics for her debut performance in the Imtiaz Ali directorial.
Nargis in a still from 'Rockstar'
“They ripped into my butthole. That didn’t feel nice. Now imagine you get a second one, when you didn’t even ask for it in the first place,” she says, bursting into laughs. “But then Madras Café (2013) happened and they were suddenly appreciating me. I think people need to understand the context in which other people exist. You don’t know what happened to me after Rockstar — it was hell on earth. Everybody tore me to pieces. If they knew my background, they’d say ‘God, she’s got big balls for even trying this'. But nobody said that. Everybody was happy trampling all over me,” Nargis says.
“So, I don’t really care what people say about Azhar. Rockstar was so bloody traumatic that nothing can put me down,” she says. “There were some who loved me in the film and said that they cried when I cried. I got to give credit to myself, my co-star, and Imtiaz for that,” she said, thoughtfully, before jokingly adding, “I think Katrina Kaif would understand my pain as she too was slammed into pieces – we two girls should sit down and have a girl-on-girl cry together. I’m into hugging and touching, don’t know she’d like that though.”
"Bollywood is a part of the larger journey — I don’t spend a lot of time here and hardly have more than two friends. My real friends are in the US, Europe, Dubai, and Thailand."
Bijlani, being Azhar’s second wife, was widely perceived by conservative Indians to be a 'home-wrecker' (by that logic, so was Azhar himself). What’s Nargis' stand on infidelity ? “I’d move on. I am in love with you, yes and it’s all very good, but I cannot be in love with you after you’ve cheated. There’s way too many hot people out there! I’d move on in a heartbeat, really.”
Easier said than done? “Oh, no. I really have done that.”
About her alleged boyfriend Uday Chopra, she says they are consistently in touch. “He’s family. Although he’s in the US quite often, so we’re usually chatting over Skype. Uday is one of my best friends,” she says.
Nargis says she’s ambitious as a person, but the Hindi film industry isn't the only place where she aspires to excel. “Bollywood is a part of the larger journey — I don’t spend a lot of time here and hardly have more than two friends. My real friends are in the US, Europe, Dubai, and Thailand. And I’m gone there all the time,” she says.
Does that not make her lose out on plum projects? “I don’t care if it does. I’d say Bollywood is nothing to me, but it surely is something as it really helps me do other things in life which are far more important.”
Before we take her leave, the conversation moves to her next film Housefull 3, the multi-starrer comedy starring Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh, Abhishek Bachchan, Lisa Haydon, and Jacqueline Fernandez. The film’s poster released earlier that day, and I tell her that the three women look quite gorgeous together in the same frame.
“Really? I thought that was a very slutty poster.”
Never change, Nargis.
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