Modesty defines her existence and her comportment exudes practicality. She is a package of great talent with a wonderful heart. Acting is her primary passion, and now she is into film-making too. In conversation with Lubna Parveen, the actress reveals her secrets on fitness, beauty, fashion and much more.
From a shy and introvert girl to a Femina Miss India-Pacific to an actress, how challenging and fruitful has this journey been for you?
It’s been a very long journey indeed. As a child, I faced a lot of chaos and pain of the separation of my parents. Also, because my parents came from different cultures, I always felt that I was out of place and was not normal…like the rest of the children. I had to keep myself grounded and had to speak my mind to come out of all that and be confident. One of my teachers, Namita Srivastav was the one who told me, “It’s ok, if you are not like everyone else. And you need to understand and celebrate that. As long as you are honest and truthful, it’s fine.” And that has kind of carried forward in everything that I’ve done in my life so far.
What is the secret to your natural glowing skin?
I think it’s a combination of both inheritance and personal care. One could be blessed with beautiful skin but to ensure it continues to be beautiful one must take care.
What do you do to maintain such beautiful hair?
I haven’t experimented with harsh chemicals and I don’t do treatments like perming and permanent straightening. I trim my hair regularly, condition, and use a conditioning mask to help maintain its health. Regular intake of vitamins and minerals that help with hair growth also help. Also I shampoo with natural nontoxic products.
What is the secret to your waif-like figure?
How I wish my figure was waif like! Let’s just say I have learnt to wear clothes that flatter my body type the most! It’s always good to recognise your weaknesses and build your strengths.
What is your typical workout routine?
Over the years I have tried various routines, as a regular gym workout bores me. I’ve done kickboxing, functional training, cross fit, yoga, and dancing. The secret to pursuing a workout routine is to find the one that stimulates you. So, I alternate my routines and I find it’s the best way to hold interest in a good workout.
Are you into alternative forms of fitness such as yoga/martial arts?
I do yoga and pranayam. I meditate by doing the sudarshan kriya.
Fitness essentials that you would recommend for everyone…
As important as it is to eat healthy food, it is equally important to exercise and meditate to maintain good health.
Do you follow any specific diet when on shoot and when at home?
I can’t resist food! I’m a foodie. But when I’m working towards a certain optimum level for my body, I try to stay away from any food that is far away from its natural form. So I’ll eat vegetables in the form of a salad rather than in a cooked or fried form. I eat grilled chicken, steamed fish, healthy and natural food. But I eat every two hours, so it’s at regular intervals.
Veg or non-veg and why?
I have just started off on a very nutritious diet plan that is mainly vegetarian but includes egg and small portions of non-veg.
Do you believe in weight loss supplements and crash diets to lose weight quickly?
Not really. I avoid all unnatural supplements. And I am totally against crash diets. They are hazardous to health and have absolutely no long-term benefits.
What is your advice to girls who are on the size zero bandwagon?
So long as they are at their best physical health and have arrived at a lean toned figure by eating nutritious food and regular exercise, I’d say keep it up! BUT if they are at a size zero by starving and no exercise, my advice would be, looking good temporarily is going to cause permanent damage! Eat, workout and be fit.
How do you de-stress?
Time for myself is absolutely essential. Recharging your batteries by just doing things that make you happy and relaxed is so important. I paint, cook, read, write, do pottery, each of these activities make me feel good. The truth is there is always time as long as you want to make the time.
What is that one thing you wish you had more time for?
To travel to more places of my choice, to explore without having to rush back to work…
“I paint, cook, read, write, do pottery…”
What do you like doing most when you’re off from shoots or on vacation?
Reading, writing, painting, walking my pet, playing with my friends’ children, swimming…
Describe your experience walking the ramp for talented designers such as Manish Malhotra and Khushali Kumar.
Their clothes make me feel beautiful. When on the ramp, walking under the spotlight with all eyes on me gives me a heightened sense of beauty and grace.
Which are your favourite designer labels and why?
My favorite designers are Ritu Kumar, Gauri Nainika, Shantanu Nikhil, Tarun Tahiliani and Rohit Bal. I make it a point to always name Indian designers, simply because we have abundant talent in our country and it leaves little room to name international brands.
Which designer epitomizes your personal style statement?
There are many designs and styles that reflect my mood and style. I enjoy wearing Indian designer labels just as much as I enjoy High Street Brands… Ritu Kumar, Gauri Nainika, Cue S and N Drape, Am/Pm are some of the many Indian labels that are very close to my personal style. In High Street brands, there is Zara, Bebe, French Connection, Warehouse and River Island.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is a reflection of social dynamics. Trends and colours are a reflection of the times and psyche. Fashion is transient. Style reflects personality, character and carriage.
What’s your take on fur/animal skin for fashion?
I am totally against it. I recently endorsed a PETA campaign against use of exotic skins for fashion.
Accessories you can’t do without… What are your makeup must haves?
My bag has loads of makeup... For someone who prefers minimal makeup and a natural look it may come as a surprise, but I just love makeup and find it hard to resist adding newer products to my collection! My handbag though would always have a few products that I can’t do without - Body Shop lip stainer, Passion Fruit lip gloss, mascara and kohl pencil…
On the ramp or on-screen… Which do you prefer/enjoy more and why?
There is no comparison! Film/Cinema breathes life…there is so much more to it than just looking good. It is forever changing you, challenging you, making you grow. Cinema fulfills me.
With so many movies to your name, how easy or difficult was it for you to establish yourself as a successful actress?
Nothing is easy. Every choice I have made has taught me new lessons. I think I’ve managed to hold my own simply because I have never compromised.
Where does that poise, calm and confidence come from? How much effort did it take to acquire all of this?
Thank you! I would credit the poise to my up-bringing and the confidence to the faith my loved ones have instilled in me.
If not a model or actress, Dia would be…
Love: What makes you feel alive.
Commitment: What keeps love a constant.
Ideal man: One who is worthy of such commitment.
Fitness mantra: Eat several small meals a day. It works like magic!
Favourite dish: Hyderabadi Biryani, Nalli Nihari and Haleem.