|Mehr Rampal: Model Mother
||Q. Once a model, always a model! What is Mehr Rampal doing these days?
I am into the everyday woman’s life revolving around children, home and husband. I also assist Arjun in the preproduction work of an action movie that we are planning.
We are about to have some TV shows, and yes, also opening a nightclub in Delhi. So you can say that the year is packed and looking bright.
Q. Life, they say, is all about, “If onlys.” You would have looked back at the opportunity to replace Isabella Rossellini as the international face of Lancome that could have catapulted you into the Cindy Crawford/ Kate Moss league?
Never! Not even the day after I emphatically said no years back, not even today. I am sure that it would not have given me so much happiness as I am having now. I guess, I am lucky to have been able to take the call when I did, to leave it – not many are able to do it, you know…
Q. Has catwalking become robotic now?
Oh, it has, when compared to the time I walked the ramp in the 80s and 90s. In our time we used to do our own make up, and work for five days a week. During off days, we used to get together and do fun shoots – you know, where we could experiment and try out different stuff by ourselves. Now every model looks and behaves the same, and they work just four days a week. But I guess this is just a phase the Indian industry has to go through – the West has been through this “oh-everyone-looks-alike” phase.
Q. Your walking the ramp again with husband Arjun Rampal was very ethereal; recapturing that something we call ‘Mehrness’.
(Laughs) I was very tired that day and the dress had about 20 frills making it a bit difficult to maneuver in. But Arjun was such a nice husband: he held my hand, literally, and helped me walk
smoothly. Since it was an event by Vikram Chatwal, for the victims of the Mumbai terror attack, it felt good doing it. ‘Mehrness’, or whatever you would call it, was not what I brought alone to the scene - it was always teamwork. Like, say, Mickey Contractor never made me look the same in any two shows or ads.
Q. What went wrong with Face One, the modeling agency you had started and later, wound up?
I’ll just say that it was too ahead of its time, and people didn’t catch up with it. It was a good concept on the lines with what was offered internationally, where a model’s career would be totally taken care of. I don’t think I’ll try it again now, because I have no idea how much a model should charge for a particular campaign. I am out of the whole scene – and happy about it.
Q. Looking back at I SEE YOU – the movie you produced with Arjun Rampal in the lead - what could you have done to make it do better? Even though Karan Johar himself suggested the title, the movie didn’t work!
We are still happy with the film. The only thing maybe… we would not have released it in December. It was our first production and we had not gone over budget – that was something everyone appreciated. Karan certainly had only the best of intentions for us when he suggested the title – I guess the movie fared well for itself.
Q. What do you indulge yourself in?
My children - seven-year-old Mahikaa and two-year-old Myra. Arjun has their names tattooed on his arms. And yes, I swim, I like being at home…
Q. What car do you drive?
A Merc and a Corolla. But the one I love most is the BMW Arjun gifted me for my birthday. Both of us love long drives. In fact our driver has the best job in the whole world – we do all the driving, he just has to park the cars!
Q. Where do you invest? How do you manage your savings?
Even now, my mother handles all my savings. I have my own home, and I love to travel round the world. I believe that one should enjoy one’s earnings.
Q. What everyday jewelry do you wear?
Barely anything, except my Sai Baba ring.
Q. Your favorite designer? And why?
Tarun Tahiliani any day! Any woman who has worn a Tarun Tahiliani knows how it transforms her. In fact, I trust him so much that I saw my wedding gown that he designed, only three hours
before the ceremony!
Q. You won’t be caught dead wearing a ________?
A three-fourth pants? I hate my calves and this shows that up.
Q. Do you cook?
Of course! Everybody at home loves my dhansak, which is a very spicy Parsi dal. I care much about calories. Junk food, if we have to, would be bhel and sev puri.
Q. Which are your favourite restaurants in the country?
Wasabi at the Taj, Mumbai. Arjun and I really love the food there.
Q. Did you skip breakfast today? What is your typical lunch? What would be a usual dinner?
As a mother, I don’t allow anyone to skip breakfast. Lunch would be the normal rice and curry that every family eats. Dinner would be something continental, including rotis.
Q. You have played badminton and snooker at the national level, and swam for Mumbai. As a model, you would have been exercising quite a bit. How do you keep fit now, having left it all?
The first time I was hitting a gym was when I was 36. My natural indulging in games ensured that I was toned up till then. I used to hate gymming before, but my trainer Zarine Watson helped me make it a part of my routine. We had started small – with just 30 of us in two rooms of her house; she has around 200 clients today. I basically do cardios and some weights.
Q. Do you think your sporting gene comes from your dad who was once Mr. Bombay?
Oh, tell me about it! He is 71 years old now, and still hits the gym. In fact, the only reason my parents argue is, when they have to attend a wedding on a Monday, Wednesday or a Friday, and papa comes late after his gym routine.
Q. We have been brought up on the legend of Helen of Troy. How powerful is a beautiful face?
Well, it helps to turn heads when you walk into a room. Beyond that, it is your personality that comes out.
Q. Do you want to change the way you look?
Mickey Contractor, my make up person, would always remark that he could finish doing my entire face symmetry in seven minutes flat, but would need 10 minutes just for my mouth – I have the most crooked mouth of them all!
Q. Would you prefer to talk about your experience, if you had a cosmetic surgery?
Why not? I haven’t had any. And from what I’ve seen of those who have got some, it stands out quite obviously.
Q. If you have just ten minutes to get ready for a casual evening out, how would you manage your looks?
Having been a sportsperson, I am using to going out in a normal jeans and T-shirt, with just a brush run through my hair. And my family never complains on the way I look, and that is what counts for me.
Q. How do you relax after a hard day?
Doing crosswords and Sudoku. I was terrible at math in school, till I got this tuition teacher who made me get 100% in my algebra and geometry ever since. Now, I have an obsession with numbers – I add up numbers on any random number plate while driving, and I can finish that in three seconds flat!
Q. You had an attendance shortage while in Sophia College, Mumbai. What stole your time away from classes?
(Laughs out) Snooker at the gymkhana, and then… I had some not-so-very-good friends. My parents never pressurized me about studies, and always comforted me that I could do any missing paper the following year. But then, modeling took over.
Q. Do you help your daughters with their books?
I do, but the school she attends is very good too. Mahikaa came back one day and asked, “Can I also call my teacher Mamma, please?” She loves her school so much that she would not let us take a day or two extra to add to her holidays.
Q. How would you like to be remembered?
As a very honest and loyal person. One of the values I was brought up with was - to never lie.
Q. At what age is a woman the happiest? Wouldn’t you rather be 20 again; back in the limelight?
Never! With my kids and my husband, I certainly am having my happiest moments now.
Q. Do you believe in God?
Yes, it was one of the things you get from your parents. But Arjun is more of a believer than me.
Q. Do you pray?
Not very often – maybe just two or three times a day! And certainly, when I see a dead dog, cat or rat – don’t ask me why.
Q. You are not allowed to enter the fire temple for marrying a non Parsi. How important is religion for you?
Not much. I have taught my children the Parsi prayer though. But some time back, I caught Mahikaa praying to the tooth fairy for a Sai Baba ring.
Q. Love before marriage and life after marriage, they say, are different. What all were your realizations with Arjun?
Love changes all the time. But love will remain as long as you are ready to give the other person his or her own space.
Q. Has Arjun changed diapers? How do you share your parental responsibilities?
Of course, and he loved it. In fact, Mahikaa would wait for him to come back to get hers changed! I step aside when Arjun is there with the children, so both of us get to connect with our girls personally.
Q. How are Tyson and Demi (their dogs)?
They are a part of the family. In fact, Mahikaa calls them her brother and sister.