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PICS: Bikini model Anjali Lavania opens up

Last updated on: May 16, 2011 18:18 IST

PICS: Bikini model Anjali Lavania opens up

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Abhishek Mande

Kingfisher model and now an aspiring actress, Anjali Lavania tells us how she got that body to kill for, the men that turn her on and her movie in a language she doesn't speak!

The caf is buzzing. As the afternoon crowd shuffles in and the waiters busying themselves for yet another busy lunch hour, she sits in one corner unassumingly.

I almost don't notice Anjali Lavania, a Kingfisher swimsuit model who's just signed a Telugu movie with Pawan Kalyan, an actor who goes by the curious title of Power Star.

Lavania doesn't tell me whether she'd heard of Pawan Kalyan before she signed up with him but she does seem to be enamoured by the industry in the South.

"They're very, very warm and welcoming," Lavania says before gushing over the director's script narration.

She confesses that she wasn't sure about whether she'd take up the offer at all but tells me that by the time she heard the script and her characterisation, she'd made up her mind.

Lavania however will not be the lead in the movie. The heroine is her senior from the Femina Miss India batch -- Sarah Jane Dias.

She refuses to discuss her film but is happy to chat with us about everything else.

The model has just returned from a spiritual trip to Tiruvannamalai about which she's been very excited.

Lavania says that she's very spiritual and that 'the energies around her' guide her to take the right path.

And so far, she's never had a reason to complain.

Also with a set of supportive parents who've stood by her choice of career, Anjali Lavania is a happy girl.

She stays with her parents in Mumbai and is living as she says, 'my mother's dream of becoming an actress'.


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'I am living my mother's dream'

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So did you always want to be a model?

Well, my mother Neetu Kumar was a model back in the day. She'd done quite a few campaigns and won beauty competitions in Kochi, from where she came. She'd even got offers to do films in Malayalam but by then she got married.

When I was in college, I began winning modelling competitions at inter-collegiate festivals. As a prize for one of these competitions I won an opportunity to get a portfolio shot.

Around the same time I met Marc Robinson, Hemant Trivedi and Achla Sachdev (who formally introduced me to modelling).

Assignments began to trickle in and soon I was doing a good amount of modelling work.

I opted out of my college (Jai Hind) during my first year of graduation to focus on work. The second year, I completed via distance education but I quit my studies in the final year.

My mom has been insisting that I complete it because it's just a matter of giving one examination!

Soon after, I went to New York. My sister lives in Boston so my parents were not very worried.


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'Modelling came to me but what I really want to do is act'

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Did you have any leads before heading to the US or did you just land up there?

Well I had gone the previous summer to San Diego for a shoot with Hemant (Trivedi). I was vacationing there and I applied to a couple of modelling agencies.

By the following January I got my visa and I left for the States. I was there for about six years. For most part I was in New York but for a small period of time I was in Los Angeles before returning to NY and then finally to India about a year and a half ago.

What was it like working in the West?

It was fun and I suppose I learnt a lot about myself. Rather ironically I learnt and started doing Yoga when I was in New York!

The thing with New York is that it beckons you. There is so much energy you just get sucked into it!

While I was there, I also tried my luck in Los Angeles (where Hollywood is). I studied acting at the Baron-Brown school of acting.

Modelling came to me but what I really want to do is act.

While in LA I met people tested waters (in the hope that) when the time is right I might end up there.

During the six years I was there, I never got the opportunity to visit India and I'd begun missing my parents a lot.

Also, my sister was delivering her first baby. So I thought it would be a good time to return home to Mumbai.


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'I was sceptical of participating in a reality TV show'

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So you're a Mumbai girl

Well you could say that. My father was in the Navy (and had a transferable job) so I've travelled a lot with him -- everywhere from Vizag to Kuwait. But every few years he would be posted in Mumbai, so I've spent more time in this city than in any other.

I've changed a lot of schools but the three years of college that I did were in a single college.

And how did Kingfisher Calendar come about?

When I returned to Mumbai about a year and a half ago I realised that most of the girls were already selected for the calendar.

The only way I could get in was by participating in the Hunt for the Kingfisher Calendar Girl in 2009.

Initially, I was sceptical of participating in a reality TV show. I'm not very comfortable with the format and I don't watch a lot of reality TV either. But since the only other option I had was to wait for another year, I thought I might just give it a shot.


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'The entire nation was watching me'

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It's funny you should say this because your competitor Himarsha Venkatsamy (who won the show that year) also said something similar. Was it really that gruelling?

Yes it was hard work! We are not used to cameras following us around all the time. I am usually slightly more reserved so it was a little difficult. It also made me more aware of what I do and what I don't because the entire nation was watching me.

Because of my work in the West and an album I once did for Pankaj Udhas, I was somewhat comfortable before the cameras.

But till I actually started the show I didn't realise how much the cameras follow you! On the flipside the show wasn't about how well you get along with the other girls.

It was more about the tasks and how you handle the tasks thrown at you. If the show was about being stuck in a room with a camera being pointed at me, I doubt I'd have made it that far.

(Lavania didn't seem to remember the video she shot for Pankaj Udhas. Strangely neither did her agent who was with us throughout this interview. Rediff Reader Surbhit Dwivedi pointed us to this video that stars Anjali Lavania: Karwatein Badal Badal from Jaaneman)


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'Reality TV makes you who you are'

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What was the reality TV experience like?

I believe reality TV makes you who you are. A few weeks on the show and the whole country gets to know you and either falls in love with you or doesn't.

In my case, I was told that I was only a single point behind Himarsha. So Atul (Kasbekar who shoots the calendar each year) decided that I could be part of the calendar as well.

One of my biggest learnings during the show was to learn to make people around me comfortable. It's a competition and the girls can be quite catty.

The other thing I learnt was that the camera catches everything. So it was important not to fake things. It simply doesn't work.

What would you say your learnings from Atul Kasbekar have been?

I got the opportunity to interact with Atul only during the calendar shoot. He taught me to understand camera angles and how to bring out one's best before the camera.

The thing is however vivacious one may be as a person when you are facing a still camera it all boils down to that one single shot.

During the shoot I was put through quite a few challenges -- like climbing a rock three stories high to pose on top of a waterfall (in the 2011 calendar) or pose calmly with sharks (in 2010).

Eventually when I signed up with his modelling agency (Bling) he understood my dream of wanting to become an actress and suggested I try my hand in the South first.

He's really been my mentor.


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'I am taking lessons in Hindi'

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What's the movie you're acting in?

It's a Telugu movie called The Shadow and is directed by Vishnuvardhan who's essentially from Andhra Pradesh but has been making Tamil films.

It will be his first Telugu movie and I get to star alongside Pawan Kalyan.

I believe he's called Power Star Pawan Kalyan ?

Yeah! Well you see in the South there are a few top actors who have this (honorific). Chiranjeevi is called Megastar; Rajinikanth is called Superstar. Pawan Kalyan is Power Star!

Do you speak Telugu? How are you planning to deliver dialogues?

Well they have cue cards there. They'll hold up the card before me while I speak where the words will be written in Hindi and their meaning will be in English. I suppose I will have to take it ten lines at a time.

Do you speak Hindi?

(Laughs) Well, my father is from the North and my mum as I mentioned earlier is from Kerala. Usually, we speak English at home but I do speak Hindi. I am however taking formal lessons in Hindi speaking.


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'Actresses I admire have started their careers in the South'

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Why did you choose to debut in a South Indian movie?

Atul suggested I visit Hyderabad and hear out the script. Initially I was very sceptical but when the director narrated the story and my role in it I just wanted to dive into it! I knew this would be it.

Also I found the people there to be very, very warm and polite. I simply cannot get over how well they treated me when I went there the very first time.

Besides, a lot of actresses I admire have started their careers in the South -- Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya Rai if you go back in time, there are heroines like Sridevi who did movies in the South before getting into Bollywood.

A lot of heroines in the south are not exactly of supermodel size. Are you concerned that you might have to put on some weight?

Well, at least for this movie I don't. So it's good! (Smiles)


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'The key to staying fit is to listen to your body'

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How do you stay fit?

I became more conscious of what I ate and how I worked out after I went to the US because they expect models to be really, really thin!

Despite being slim I was considered curvy there. To work there I had to lose weight.

So I started paying extra attention to what I was eating and how I was working out.

Basically I reduced my sugar intake and had small meals at regular intervals. A lot of people also seem to think that if they avoid eating they can drink any amount of sugary drinks.

Something like this (points to a large glass of milkshake on the table) is as good as a full meal.

I do a lot of yoga and make sure I do the right amount and kind of weight training. Since I don't need huge muscles, I make sure I use lighter weights but do more repetitions.

Cardio is equally crucial but it's important to do what you like. If you don't like running, try walking on an incline or go for a swim or perhaps take dance lessons.

The key to staying fit is to listen to your body.


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'It's your job to make everything look good on you!'

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What was your first ever pay-package like and at what age did you bring home your first salary?

I got paid Rs 3,000 for my first runway show. I was 16 at the time.

What are the golden rules of the fashion business in India?
 
Never complain about the outfit you are given to wear, it's your job to make everything look good on you.
   
Always make sure you step up to the plate, bring in an extra oomph factor to every shot/ runway show.

Don't gossip. Put the time you have to more productive use. Gossiping wont take you far!

What is your personal sense of style like?

Well it all depends on my mood but sexy-chic would be more like it.
 
Do you have advice and tips you'd like to share with readers on how to stay and look beautiful?
  
Work out, eat right and stay away from sugary drinks. More importantly be confident and don't compare yourself with others. Your inner beauty will make you glow.


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'Dare to live your dreams'

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If you could work a regular job, what would you want it to be and why?

I'd probably be a writer. I maintain what I call a dream journal where I write about my dreams. I am also writing my memoirs.

What career advice would you like to give youngsters looking to get into the glamour industry?

Dare to live your dreams, don't let people discourage you if you truly believe you have what it takes.

Any mundane chores you perform in your spare time?

Grocery shopping and standing in queues to pay bills!

Do you cook? If so, what's your specialty?
 
Well I love cooking kadai chicken and lasagne.

The one thing that scares the living daylights out of you

Snakes and all kinds of reptiles!


Image: Anjali Lavania

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'Is your dad a terrorist? You are such a bomb!'

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What is your favourite cuisine?

I am a foodie. I love all kinds of cuisines.

Your favourite drink

Margarita

And your favourite hangout?

Anything near the sea!

What kind of music do you enjoy?

Well it could be anything from Alternative and Rock to Hip-Hop and Electronica

Which is your favourite movie of all time?

Can't pick one but I love Jerry Maguire, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Vicky Christina Barcelona and A Fish Call Wanda.
 
Your favourite book is...

Again, cannot pick one: The Alchemist and Primal Fear

Makeup you can't live without?

Lipstick

The defining moment when you realised you were famous?

When I was part of the Hunt for the Kingfisher Calendar girl, I began getting recognised and people started sending me fan mail and I got thousands of Facebook requests. Finally, I had to open a Facebook fan page just so I could interact with them!

What is your idea of a perfect day?

Spending the day at the beach followed by massage, delicious food and dancing!

And your idea of a perfect date?

Outdoors, great wine and a stimulating conversation

What men turn you off?

The chauvinistic kind who can't stop talking about themselves!

And ones that turn you on?

The thoughtful, witty, romantic ones!

You can't leave home without...

My Iphone.

The first thing you do when you check into a hotel

Check out the view

What has been your most memorable vacation?

It was in Hawaii when I went swimming with Hump Back whales breaching a hundred feet behind me!

The one place that took you by shock

Bangkok. I hate that child prostitution was so rampant there.

The one place that took you completely by surprise

London! Contrary to popular belief, people were friendly.

The one weirdest travel experience EVER!

Going all the way to Vegas and not visiting a single casino!

Five things that single women travellers must keep in mind while travelling in India.

  • Always wear comfortably covered clothing.
  • Ignore stupid comments from roadside Romeos
  • Hold your bag in a way that doesn't encourage pickpockets.
  • Respect the local culture
  • Do not trust strangers 

The one gadget that you'd absolutely kill for
 
SixthSense -- it is wearable gestural interface device that can make any physical object around us to be used as interfaces. Check out the video of this gadget! 

The corniest thing anyone has ever said to you EVER!

Is your dad a terrorist? You are such a bomb!

Finally, what are your future plans?

I love modelling so I will continue doing that. But I am also working towards becoming an actress. I am taking acting lessons. Hopefully I will get a break in Bollywood and who knows someday I might end up in Hollywood!


Image: Anjali Lavania

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