went to interview Lisa Ray and came back rather impressed
with the workings of her mind, her opinions, her ready
laugh... her Siamese cats. Okay, so the body's there,
of course. I couldn't have missed it even if I wanted
to, because that body - green eyes, amazing bust, sleek
contours and impossible legs - made it necessary for
me to duel with a belligerent security man to gain access
to a flat with varicoloured walls, artfully selected
conversation pieces and great wood work. The person
in the body, however, is strangely nonchalant about
the whole beauty thing.
Lisa Ray, face scrubbed clean, has a rejoinder to make-up
whiz Mickey Contractor's comment that many brides want
to be made up to look like her on their wedding day.
"Poor things!" she says, "They should
see me first thing in the morning." Then, in a
flash of empathy, "Poor Mickey!"
One day, she was gone. As usual. Then suddenly, she's
back again. As usual. Breathtakingly beautiful. As usual.
Curled up on a yellow sofa, in a room dominated by an
obviously much-used computer, Lisa Ray talks of her
latest hiatus. "I took a year off to work with
other aspects of my life. I read, I worked with information
and knowledge... The restlessness drained away. I deliberately
lived an isolated existence, and I learnt to exist with
the self I got to know in that time. I realised that
I am not a people person and I've become reconciled
to that - I no longer have to force myself to be a party
Not that she could ever be accused of constantly painting
the town red - indeed, Lisa Ray seems to personify self
quarantine. "I enjoy spending time alone, and in
a strange way, my reclusive tendency has worked well
for my modelling career. I always find that when I give
myself space and time, I come back refreshed and I can
offer a fresh perspective to my work. It's very important
to take a break..." Canvases, framed and otherwise,
stand to attention in the hall of the vibrant flat -
the home that Nisha Jamwal, friend, interior designer
and business partner, helped Lisa colour to her own
attitudes. Other paintings - from Lisa's own collection
- hang in carefully designated places around the house.
The year away also saw Lisa and Nisha promoting new
artists under the Art Aegis banner. "I can't even
draw a straight line," she laughs, "but that
just makes me more appreciative of art. I was always
curious about the Indian modern art scene, and holding
our exhibition was a very satisfying experience, especially
since we did everything - from hanging up the paintings
to calling everybody for the show." Now Nisha's
back to her other work and Lisa's scorching the print
and audio visual media; art preoccupies them by appointment
only, but it will always be a part of Lisa's life.
the sabbatical, Lisa also went to Canada - where she
was born and brought up. Born of a Bengali father and
Polish mother, she returns to that faraway land often
"to immerse myself in family, take a course or
two, catch up on shopping and friends, realign myself
to that life again. Canada's a great destresser..."
This time, she brought back a whole new way of eating.
"I'm the opposite of a health nut, I love food
and I eat like a sow, but now I'm an enthusiastic convert
to Dr Berry Sears' concept of eating in 'The Zone'.
This largely involves reducing simple carbohydrates
in your diet to lose weight and regain energy. I used
to laugh at other people talking about things like this,
but my energy levels are just soaring... I sound just
like one of those fanatics," she laughs, then hams
on, "Finding out about the Zone has been the most
exciting thing in my life - what a life, huh!"
Nevertheless, it has been an exciting life for the woman
whose beauty first saw her model for Bombay Dyeing at
16, scorch the covers of Glad Rags in the interim and
whose most recent appearance in the video for Nusrat
Fateh Ali Khan's Aafreen almost set the small screen
smoking. But Lisa Ray is nonplussed by all the fuss.
"I'm just a little uncomfortable with the celebrity
circus that goes on here in the beauty context. I think
the beauty business has run out of control in this country;
it's become an unhealthy obsession. I don't want to
sound pseudo, but I really believe that beauty comes
from a combination of things, least of all just good
looks. A confident woman is always going to be better
looking than just a beautiful one."
Of her own beauty, she says, "People don't realise
how much other people work at making you look good.
A lot of magic happens behind the scenes..." And
Lisa believes her USP as a model comes from being a
great canvas for the magic to work on. "I think
I'm completely flexible. I can be made to look very
different every time - that's my special contribution
to any project. I can look young and innocent, or do
a great vamp look; very, very foreign or absolutely
Indian." Still, absolutely Indian or not, this
is one chameleon that Hindi commercial cinema is not
going to win over just yet. "Hindi films are a
completely different world unto themselves - of untapped
talent and too much politicising. Our films need to
improve in quality and production values, to speak the
international language of cinema," she declares.
Of her exit from the late Mukul Anand's Dus, she says,
"I realised that that world was not for me. It
demands dedication; it sucks your life - I was not willing
to give it that. My logic to quit when I did was that
it was better to leave than do a half-hearted job or
leave half way through - it seemed to me the most decent
thing to do... "A lot of models are going into
films," she muses, "Hats off to them. It's
a difficult life and unfortunately people expect too
much from them. They probably work their butts off.
I'm just much lazier, I guess." Lisa tries on a
wedding gown for a commercial to be shot the next day.
Draws the veil over her face and says she feels positively
bridal. She neatly sidesteps the subject of romance,
love and marriage. But she wants to talk about her parents.
"They're very dear to me - we have such a lovely
relationship now that I'm grown up. I think it's wonderful
that they spend half the year here. I love it when they
come down - I don't have to run the house. But I also
like my time alone, so the other six months give me
that. We have a lot of fun together - I've got my computer-shy
father addicted to the terminal. They've both become
my friends and it's a great time of life. One thing
I've learned in life is the importance of nurturing
relationships. If you get it right, you're set - you
can be as happy as a bug in a rug!" "The future,"
Lisa intones dramatically, caressing an imaginary crystal
ball, "the future is looking goooood! God knows,"
she laughs to break the moment, "How do I know?
I'm not a very diligent or organised person - I basically
just flow. There is the big picture, of course. One
day, I would like to write. I write short stories off
and on. One day, I would like to put my experiences
on paper - I would die happy if I did that. Which means
it will happen... Right now, I'm happy doing art. Happy
that I'm as comfortable now in Mumbai as in Canada.
Happy being back on the modelling scene, grateful that
people in the industry don't throw their chappals at
me each time I reappear. That I'm getting a chance to
do more different, interesting work. I would cut my
price for an innovative campaign..." And then there's
the millennium to think about. Lisa does. "Hopefully,
my computer won't get the bug for me... The new millennium
will not be as futuristic as people thought it would
be. I'd like to see it go the other way. Yes, we can't
do without technology, but we can go towards humanity.
I see a trend. If we can work on that in the new millennium,
that would be so cool. "About everything else,