Tell Nargis Fakhri that she looks like a younger version of Julia Roberts and she says she’s heard this many a time. “They tell me I look like Penelope Cruz too,” she sallies. She has a self-esteem issue, you better believe this! Seeing the raised eyebrow she says, “Everyone has self-esteem issues, even the most beautiful woman in the world. I’ve grown into my beauty. I was a bit dorky, bit unsure of myself. I was always vibrant but also shy. Beauty comes from within. I’ve met some amazing people in their late 40s and 50s and thought they were in their 30s. If your soul is beautiful, you’re beautiful.”
Nargis believes in living in the moment, in making connections, in embracing the world. When she’s excited, there’s a naughty glint in her eye and her voice rises.
She speaks fast in an American twang. She says ruefully, ‘‘Everyone is training me. Ranbir keeps telling me to calm down, he says lower your voice and relax. And I’m like why? Believe it or faint, the best part is everyone who meets me says, ‘Be yourself, be yourself’. And then later they’ll say, ‘Oh but don’t do this, don’t do that.’ And I’m like okay what do I do? Because I certainly can’t be myself anymore. They tell me, ‘You need to get a nice handbag, you need a good car. You’re a star now’. I’m like I’ll get myself a good bike. How about that?”
Well, according to her, if she’s a testosterone twister, the boys are definitely not showing it. She continues, “Guys always tell me that there’s no mystery about me. How will anyone want to date you, when you’re so open. And I’m like that’s me. I don’t need to be mysterious. I don’t play games. This is who I am. Take me or leave me. I’ve learnt to accept myself.”
This Alice in Showland was born of a Czechoslovakian mother and a Pakistani father; Nargis grew up in New York. As a model she travelled the world. It was in a jewellery ad that she first got noticed in India. Then she made a splash in a swimsuit calendar. She smiles, “I didn’t know a thing about India. All I had to do for the calendar was go to an island, look beautiful and enjoy myself.” But when Imtiaz narrated the story of Rockstar, Nargis was enthralled. “I saw the movie before the movie was made. I could envision it. And I was like wow!”
The conversation veers to co-star Ranbir Kapoor. She says she was nervous the first time she met him. “I know a few people in the industry back home and not so many are down to earth. So when Ranbir walked in I thought, ‘What am I going to do with this ego maniac?’ But he came in and said he too had lived in New York and before I knew it, we were talking about whether you’d been to this restaurant or that club. That broke the ice. And I felt, ‘Wow, I’m not in a space with someone who doesn’t understand where I come from.’ Ranbir knows the New York state of mind so that made me feel safe.’’
The media focus on her personal life unsettles her. All those reports linking her up with Ranbir Kapoor have harassed her. “There were times when I’d cry all day. I couldn’t understand why they were writing this stuff about me. I’m an extremely emotional person. I see a hurt rat, I cry. I see children begging on the streets and I cry. I see a good TV commercial and I cry. So I was crying a lot. Then I saw the humour. I’d call him and say, “Hey, guess what, we’re dating.’ I’d read stories about me and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know that.”
Nargis says she doesn’t understand glamour. So she’s a bit scared of the changes that are coming about in her life. She confides, “If all this gets too much for me. I’ll just disappear.” What? Disappear just like that? She nods, “Yes, I can do it. I’ve very few needs. I don’t need praise or money. I just need love from my friends and family. When you don’t need money or all these luxuries, then you’re free. I can take a backpack with just my innerwear, wear the same clothes for a week and go travelling to the Amazon or some place and be happy. What is life if you can’t explore?”
But she loves her job. And some day she says she’d like to marry an Indian. “My mom will have a heart attack,” she laughs. Really? “She loved my dad very much. And when the marriage broke, she was hurt. She loved his culture. I’ve pictures of her wearing kurtas and dupattas. She learnt how to cook his food. She loved Hindi movies and thought they were romantic. That’s how she fell in love with him because he’d take her to these movies. When I went home and asked her to watch some movies with me, she said she couldn’t. My mom keeps everything bottled up. She doesn’t want to come here. Because of memories of dad.
The flavours of the food, the sights will trigger emotions in her. I miss her. I come from a place where there’s a lot of baggage, lots of sadness. I try to use these experiences to become a better person.”
Yet, Nargis hides a romantic core. Love makes her world go round. There’s no one special on the horizon though. “I’m a partner person,” she says candidly. “I’d love to have a partner in my life. I like to make people feel special, my man is going to be my king. I am such a romantic, it’s disgusting. I’m the sort who’ll write love notes and put them in my guy’s pocket. I’ll make his breakfast, put him to bed. Give him foot massages. I’m the ultimate romantic.”
“My head is always in the clouds. I dream that one day my Prince Charming will come on a white horse. Can you put up a notice that I’m looking for him? Applications and resumes are welcome. I haven’t seen many good things in a relationship but I still hold on to hope. I believe my partner is out there and we’ll grow old together.” And like a story book princess, she dreamily glides out of the eatery. The guys give sidelong glances while their girlfriends can barely conceal their admiration. Make no mistake, a movie star is born.