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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’’

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.

“For 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.”

from a piece by Sonia Faleiro

Jul 08 , 2006

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