I’m in a happy space of my own: Sangeeta Bijlani – In a tell-all interview, Sangeeta Bijlani talks about her thoughts on the Mohammad Azharuddin biopic, her relationship with the cricketer and her future plans in B-Town
Is age just a number? I can’t help but wonder when I look at the fit and fabulous Sangeeta Bijlani. The former supermodel-actress is ready to take a tentative foot back in the world of films and TV, after a gap of over two decades. A lot has changed since Sangeeta was away. Including herself. Over some tea and sandwiches, she talks about her life, her choices, and her plan ahead. Read on…
You have been in Mumbai for some time now. The general perception is that you aren’t interested in acting. Is that correct?
It was a conscious decision to move back (to Mumbai) and explore other areas of my life. I was travelling a lot at one point and obviously didn’t have the time. My priorities were different at that stage. For some time — or a long time — I consciously kept away.
Were you getting offers all along?
I did get offers, but at that time, I wasn’t keen. Earlier, I was offered Shabd, which I didn’t do. I didn’t want to come to this space and do sensual scenes and seem desperate. Now, it is not a conscious decision of wanting to spread the word that I am interested. But if something really nice comes my way and I feel comfortable doing it, I will take it up because the kind of cinema they are making now is interesting.
Yes, like Sridevi came back with English Vinglish.
It was a fantastic film, and films like Parched and Pink are also being made. So, the industry has become more content-driven and that is very tempting. I am reading a script right now. If it appeals to me, then I may give it a nod.
Would you consider television too?
Television, yes, if it is as a judge on a show. If somebody came to me with that offer, I would take it up. I have started saying okay to things and I have started stepping out. And when you do that, automatically people start offering you work. I have been making appearances and stuff. I am enjoying it. I have got an offer for an ad too, so let’s see.
Apart from Salman Khan’s family, you have largely kept away from the industry. Was that a conscious decision?
I moved out of Mumbai, so I lost touch with people. Also, I just like being in my comfort zone. I have always been a private person. Though I feel I am in a different space right now. I am very open when I talk. I am easy about how things are and maybe because I am in complete acceptance of everything, I have evolved to a different space.
How different are you from how you used to be 10 years ago?
I feel just more evolved as a person perhaps because I feel more drawn towards spirituality now. I had my leanings even when I was acting but not many people know about it. Salman used to tease me about meditation even back then. I used to do it then, but not so much, because I had so much work happening that I used to get very less time. I began exploring it more when my mom passed away in 2005. When you lose somebody, who is really close to you, then you kind of go and search deeper. My dad is also into it; he is like my guru. I’ve learnt a lot from him. I got this knowledge from him.
You lost touch with all your friends from the film industry?
I was never in touch with the film industry. I would do my work and go back home. My mom was always with me. She travelled with me everywhere. Throughout my modelling and film career, she was always with me. It was just a comfort zone; you would get up and she would make my honey almond; she would pamper me with a glass of juice. It was such a comfort zone of having her around.
Star moms no longer accompany their daughters to sets and locations.
(Laughs) Maybe their daughters do not want them there.
Are you ambitious?
Honestly, I have never been very ambitious. I am a very laidback person. Whatever was offered to me, I just did it. I was just lucky that it all fell into my lap…
It’s different now. Everyone is very driven and competitive. And when you are not watching, you could lose a role to another actress.
It happened then, too, on a subtle level. But then, there was enough work for everybody. And there weren’t that many people. Now, every youngster wants to join the movies. It is like they are coming from every city and even from abroad. The girls from abroad are also looking for work in the industry.
A lot is being said about nepotism right now. Did you face it during your time?
No. Now there is a swarm of kids coming suddenly and it’s natural for people to rather go with a pedigree that is from the industry. It’s a tried-and-tested formula. It is more comfortable for the investor, producer and director as they already know them and have seen them. Most importantly, star kids have access. For a newcomer to enter, it is very tough. Right now, I don’t think there is space for a newcomer because this industry is swarmed with youngsters from the industry. You can call it nepotism or their destiny.
There was a time when models were considered bad actors, but today every second actor comes from a modelling background…
Everybody from Juhi (Chawla) to me to Aishwarya came from the modelling industry. Even Salman and Jackie (Shroff). We all did modelling for a few years; it was a great way to make a quick buck. It was exciting and you got trained to face the camera.
Something that a lot of people want to know — did you watch the Azhar biopic?
Yes, I did.
Did you like it?
I would have liked it if it were a biopic. It was fiction. Honestly, except for bits and pieces, they took cinematic liberties in the entire film. So it wasn’t really…
How was it watching yourself on screen with somebody else portraying you?
I couldn’t relate to it at all. I haven’t spoken about it, but I will now. The film didn’t make any sense. I wish they had actually shown the real story because it would have been worthwhile. Even the way they showed us meeting for the first time didn’t make sense. That wasn’t how we met.
Azhar wanted to be portrayed that way. I guess that was the aim of the film.
I don’t know about that. All it did was remind people about the match-fixing controversy.
What did you think of Nargis Fakhri? Would you have preferred someone else to play you?
Initially, they were going to take Bebo (Kareena Kapoor Khan) and that would have been fantastic because there is a similarity between us somewhere. I am not saying she looks like me or I look like her, but her mom used to say, ‘You both look more like sisters’. I remember Bebo telling me that Salman too would keep telling her that we look alike.
Are you in touch with the current lot of films?
I love watching films. I watch almost every film.
Any favourite actor and actress?
I like Alia Bhatt. She is a natural. She doesn’t care how she looks or how her face is because that is not important when you are acting. You don’t just need to look beautiful, which is what’s happening to most of the girls. They have become so stiff that they can’t smile and they can’t express. They cannot crinkle their eyes. My niece, who is 21, also has crinkles around her eyes when she smiles and she has laugh lines. So, why is everybody panicking about how they look? They are doing things and can’t even move their mouths! I understand there is pressure and maybe people, who are signing them want them to be perfect, which is fine, but only to a certain extent. But people are obsessed. I don’t understand what this trend is of making their mouths so plump that it cannot move. Why this obsession? Indian girls are so beautiful the way they are. I don’t know what is happening to the industry.
You have been writing a blog and talking about different things. Would you eventually publish a book?
Who knows? I am open to the idea. I am enjoying writing the blog. I write on paper. I feel the energy that flows with the hand is different. I feel that makes a difference. Then I type it and my friend posts it for me. I still don’t know how to post.
That’s good because very few people write anymore.
I feel there is a magical energy, which transfers from the hands. You feel that and it is like going through. My next blog is about how children, mostly sons, abandon their fathers.
Why just fathers?
It is a current hot topic. I feel that I am already revealing part of my blog, but I feel that no parent should transfer their property to their sons, which is what has happened to one of my friends’ brother. I have written some lovely blogs on love. I have written on marriage, but not trouble in the marriage.
Now that we’re talking about it, are you still married? There is a lot of ambiguity.
(Smiles) Let me just say that I am in a happy space of my own.
Are you in touch with Azhar?
Yes, I am. We are cordial.
How did you manage that?
It’s never happened that I’ve NOT been in touch with him. So, maybe my relationships are like that. I am in a happy space of my own. I have reached a space where I can be a silent observer to whatever is occurring around me. Maybe I have removed myself from that space, not intentionally, but it is a process, which has occurred over a period of time. Maybe because I meditate a lot, I can look at things and just be an observer.
Your views on marriage, infidelity, and relationships have changed a lot, right?
Yes, they have.
They might sound shocking to most people, who do not buy into that.
Yes, but that is my way of looking at life. So, I feel it is okay. It is a manufacturing defect in men. If they are attracted to somebody, they want to be with that person. I feel it is a man’s need to go out, and he will go out. He is made that way.
Would you accept it if you were in a relationship and the guy was cheating on you?
If I do not feel comfortable being in that space, I would move out. If I feel it is okay, I would stay…
You see a lot of filmy marriages like that. Everyone knows that the husband is having an affair with some actress and the wife stays back and everybody questions why she is in it. And whether it is because of the children?
I don’t think it is for anybody. It is feeling the comfort of that space or maybe a known devil is better than an unknown one or maybe she feels she belongs in that space…
You think that’s okay?
I definitely wouldn’t judge somebody. I feel it is okay because you do not know what that person is going through and it is unfair to stand in judgment and say how could you tolerate this and how can you take this sh*t! People are just seeing that part of it and isolating the rest of the life that she spent with that man. She may have spent 25 or 30 years with him and they are like, ‘Remove yourself from that space’. You cannot because your whole life changes then and it is a journey of life where, after a point, maybe even that lady may have isolated herself from whatever that is occurring and she may just like how men compartmentalise their lives. You leave that part and don’t want to deal with it, and that’s okay.
Men just use “we are wired this way” as an excuse to cheat.
Maybe they genuinely are. It is very sad if they are looking from body-to-body because that means they are searching for something within them, which they want to find in other bodies, which they will never get and they will always be dissatisfied because that space they are looking for lies within themselves. You should feel sorry for such a man, and I do.
You don’t feel the need for a companion?
I have that option. We are social beings and we do need people and so it is a need then. It is not about love and sex. I feel love happens when there is a chemical reaction in the brain. At that point, the dopamine levels are high and one is in a drugged state, and believes one is head-over-heels in love. But that happens when another body’s chemical reaction and your body’s chemical reaction gets in frequency with each other and come into that space of vibration. I feel everything is about energy. It is not love. You may call it love, but it is just a trigger in your brain. Then you go through that space and after a point, it is gone. So, you want to feel that feeling again. Some people want to feel that feeling again and take another partner. They want to feel the same sexual feeling they did, so they find another partner and then they don’t get it there and it becomes a routine for them. In the bargain, they lose themselves somewhere. As for me, I feel I am my best companion. I love my alone time. I am not a recluse, I do not isolate myself, I hang out with my friends, I travel, I do stuff and so it is about the frequency. So, that has to occur again, the vibration has to occur. If that doesn’t trigger then…
You are open to that happening?
I am open to anything happening. I am open to accepting people with multiple relationships.
When people go through a break-up or a bad relationship, they become bitter. You have just become the opposite.
Yes, I have become the opposite. And I am not pretending.
I know. It comes across.
That is what Salim (Khan) uncle had told me once: ‘Sangeeta, till 30-35, a woman looks like what she is on the inside. Ultimately, what you are within starts showing on your face’. It is so true because what you feel within does exude with time.