Snippets from an earlier Tehelka profile offer a
fascinating insight into the dual world of Rakhi Sawant
‘When she gives
me the word, I’ll find her a husband,’ says
Sawant’s mother. ‘But I’ve told her to work
and make money as long as she can. Once she has children, she’ll get fat’
HEIGHT: 5 FT 5’’
WEIGHT: 43 KILOS
On a black velvet sofa in a drawing room in a sixth-floor apartment
in Goregaon, Sawant sits in a mustard coloured kaftan, reading from
a Christian prayer book. She eats a full meal only on Sunday. During
the week, she has a cup of tea and fresh aloe vera for breakfast, juice
for lunch, fruit for dinner. She exercises two hours daily. She is almost
anorexic. Sometimes, her family doctor has to administer her an injection
for weakness. “He tells me to eat and stop exercising,”
Sawant says. “I’ll eat for 10 days then I’ll stop
in time for my next shoot.”
The bric-a-brac in a tall glass cabinet opposite the sofa seems to offer
some insight into Sawant’s social and psychic scape. It holds
a box of L’Oreal hair colour; a Veet hair remover; a pink china
lady with a blue bonnet; a gold Buddha; a clutch of orange flowers;
a pink candle; laminated photos of Mother Mary, Jesus Christ, Aamir
Khan and herself; a green plastic parrot, and a Philips stereo. Above
the dining table hangs a calendar from a ration shop.
Sawant was in Goklibai School, Vile Parle, when she was offered an item
number in 2000, opposite Govinda in Joru ka Gulam by director Suneel
Darshan. “I was bubbly, very fat, very chubby,” she said.
“But I wasn’t nervous.”
Three years later, she auditioned four times before winning her breakthrough
item number in Chura Liya Hai Tumne (2003). In between, she said, she
studied at Mithibai College and argued bitterly with her father, a policeman,
who despised the film industry.
ACP Sawant would scream, “Studies will count in life, not these
things.” He moved out after Sawant danced in the item number,
Aakhiyon Na Maare in Ek Haseena, Ek Khiladi wearing just flesh-coloured
panties and a bustier.
Marathi people nathi, heroine, is a very bad word,” says Sawant.
“My father was like Hitler. I miss him, but I won’t leave
the industry for him.” Her mother, Usha Sawant, was much more
sympathetic. She had wanted to be a heroine herself and had two offers
in Gujarati cinema. But her husband insisted she remain a housewife.
Usha, a Hindu, addressed letters to Jesus in Bandra’s Mount Mary
Church, beseeching that her children Jaya, Rakesh and Neroo (later Rakhi)
would become filmstars. Speaking of her youngest daughter now, she shrugs,
“She has only a few years left in the industry. If she won’t
wear chote kapde, someone else will.” She adds, “When she
gives me the word, I’ll find her a husband. But I’ve told
her to work and make money as long as she can. Once she has children,
she’ll get fat.”
Sawant’s siblings, Jaya and Rakesh have both had a go at films.
The former gave up after marriage, the latter is awaiting the release
of his debut Hot Money, which stars his sister in a bustier and mini
skirt made of coins. “I’m doing everyone’s films wearing
chote kapde, why not my brother’s?” she asks.
Little sister has made good for the whole family. Sawant earns Rs 5
lakhs a song and Rs 3 lakhs for a half-hour stage show of which she
does an average of eight a month. She has a growing “portfolio”
of apartments — three — out of which Rakesh lives in one.
Sawant is also funding his career.
For all her daring, Sawant has quaint views on morality. “It doesn’t
matter what I wear,” she says. “I’ve worked so hard
to get here, you think I argue over clothes? But I won’t be vulgar.
What’s the point of 17 smooching scenes? In my heart, I don’t
want to do a kissing scene. I don’t expose unless it’s necessary.
I turned down Hawas because it was totally sex, sex, sex. Even Dhoom
2 because they wanted me in a bikini. I stay away from bikinis, because
of the censors. If, after all that work, the public doesn’t see
the fruits, what’s the use?”
Sawant knows what it is to be jostled by crowds and curious neighbours.
Auditioning for Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na (2004), she wore the
tiniest of skirts and t-shirts under cover of a burkha. “We lived
in a bad neighbourhood,” she explains. “People would stare
gandi nazron se.” To avoid this, the siblings were in fact sent
to a hostel, even though their parents lived minutes away from school.
“Since I can remember, I’ve been in a hostel,” says
Sawant. The separation scarred her. “I was very darpok,”
she says. “Something happened to me as a child. I don’t
remember. I was out of school for a year because of this. I could not
talk. Later I made a decision to change. I started doing drama.”
Ask Sawant about marriage and she says, “I want to fulfill my
mother’s dreams first.”
a piece by Sonia Faleiro