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Spotlight > Anu Hasan
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Sunny Side Up!

Chirpy and charming, Anu Hasan believes in living life to the fullest. With a personality to match, this vibrant actress and vivacious television presenter has embraced life with all its diverse hues and intense moments, interspersed with shades of gray.

In a candid conversation with Bina Sujit and Tuba Raqshan, Anu Hasan reminisces about her carefree childhood, the accidental foray into films, tryst with television and the highs and lows of life beyond the arc lights of fame.
“Poor Readers! They have to suffer through the life and times of Anu Hasan”, laughs Anu in her signature style. A successful television presenter, she has interviewed countless celebrities on her chat show. In a role reversal of sorts, Anu faces a barrage of questions with equanimity and answers them with the same nonchalance which defines her confident persona.

Born and brought up in Trichy, Anu and her elder brother Nirmal were poles apart. “I was always exuberant, outgoing and noisy and had a lot of fun and used to get others into trouble. My brother was quite the opposite – dignified and much quieter than me. (He is now settled in the US with his wife and son). At home, people call me Radha. Right from the beginning, people always thought that I was street smart and I would manage whatever I do. But, I was very fortunate because I was extremely loved. I grew up in Kumaran Nagar Colony and was everybody’s pet. All day long, I used to play on the streets and if I was hungry, I would go to some neighbour’s home and they would feed me. They would always have something special made for me since I was a foodie even back then. The colony was like my extended family – that’s how ideal my childhood was, completely surrounded by affection and spoilt rotten”.

Anu Hasan studied in St. Joseph’s Anglo Indian School in Trichy. A very good student, her school days were a saga of sports and extra-curricular activities like dramatics and singing. Surprisingly, it was basketball, her favourite game which decided her choice of college. “My brother was studying in BITS Pilani and while visiting him, I saw their basketball court which had fiber glass boards and a beautiful cement court. I simply loved it. So, I told my father that I wanted to study there only. My father said I can do so provided I could get the kind of marks to get into Pilani. I got the marks and I did my dual degree – a Masters in Physics and Master’s in Management. I was never interested in engineering, anyways.”

Life in college is usually a roller coaster ride through the lessons of life. Anu agrees, “The most interesting incident which shaped my life was in my first year. At BITS Pilani, attendance wasn’t compulsory and it was cumulative grade point average – the flip side of such a system was that if you didn’t do well throughout the year, you have to really do very, very well in your final exams just to pass with a decent grade. As soon as I entered college, it was drama club, dance club, basketball and everything else apart from studies. Since I’d got good ranks in school without much effort, I thought I could do the same in college too. But, when it came to the finals, I realized that I had to do really well just to pass which was a big blow to an 18-year old who was a topper all along. The bigger lesson came from my parents, especially my dad who didn’t scold me or create a scene when I told him my plight. He just quietly stated that he’d sent me to BITS Pilani to learn about life and I had just learnt my first lesson. It was a mess that I had created, handle it – he said. And, that actually shaped me!”

Musing over the days gone by, Anu talks about her parents who played very distinct roles in her upbringing. “If at all I am a healthy, strong adult now, the credit goes to my mother. If I am mentally strong and very solid in my rational thinking, the credit goes to my father. Appa (Chandrahasan) is a great philosopher and though he is a lawyer by education, he was always an administrative and personnel person. Dad is also a partner in Rajkamal films with my uncle, Kamal Haasan”, she explains.

After college, Anu was working with a Pune-based organization called Thermax when her entry into films happened. “One day, Hasini (Suhasini Mani Ratnam) called me and said that she was going to direct a movie and wanted to cast me. Straight away, I replied I didn’t want to act. So, she said, “Don’t want is one thing and whether you are able to is another”. That immediately got my ego affected and I agreed to a screen test. She knew perfectly well how to handle me! Amma and appa weren’t very open about it but when they heard that it was Hasini who was directing, they were alright with it. I went ahead with Indira and that won me accolades and critical acclaim from many quarters. After Indira, I did get a couple of offers but, I told the producers – I won’t do romantic roles or wear itsy-bitsy clothes or dance around trees. And, they said that they would think about it. By the looks of it, they are still thinking about it”, she chuckles.

After Indira, Anu returned back to Pune. At office one day, when she picked a call on her colleague’s desk, Vikas came into her life. Introduced by the aforementioned colleague, Vikas then became a part of Anu’s circle of friends. It was around the same time that her parents were anxious that she gets married and settles down soon. However, Anu was very clear that she wouldn’t marry a stranger. “My ex-husband Vikas was in the army. When Vikas proposed to me, I decided to get married to him, not because I was in love with him, but because we got along so well. Also, maybe I felt that time was running out as my folks wanted me to settle down in marriage. When I told my parents about Vikas, they weren’t very comfortable with it. However, they consented to our wedding. But, within the first 6 months of our marriage, I knew it was a mistake. It was a compatibility issue – being a friend was one thing but being a husband and wife was completely different. I played my role to perfection, quit my job and went with him as an army wife. Unfortunately, I was of the opinion that it was a choice I made and I had to handle it. So, I didn’t tell my parents. For ten years, I never told anybody, except my best friend Kripa who knew that my marriage was not working. I tried all the ways of balancing it out – by spending lots of time, by spending less time. It just wasn’t working. Meanwhile, I started a financial services company in Calcutta so Vikas could have something to come back to from the army”.

Vikas wanted to get into production but Anu wasn’t very keen. “Production isn’t really my forte – I am good at it but I don’t enjoy it. After ten years of marriage I suddenly looked ahead and I saw a life where I was doing things I didn’t like, being with a man I didn’t like and in a moment, I decided that I had to come out of the marriage for survival. A decision which I found very difficult to make in ten years, I made it in two minutes”.

“When I called my dad and told him about my marriage, the first thing he asked me was, “Why did you take so long? You should have told me and come out of it within the first year. Appa directed me to a brilliant lawyer called Sumathi. I went on my own, explained the entire situation and finally, got divorced through mutual consent. I left behind the company which I built and developed, which, by then had more than 150 employees. I didn’t want any of the money, I just wanted my freedom. After ten years, I got out of the marriage with no regrets and no doubts”.

Anu made a comeback in the film arena with Run where she bagged a State award for her performance. She also started her smoothie outlet along with a friend. A chance encounter resulted in her successful chat show, Koffee with Anu. “Now, the programme is in its fourth year and it happened when my friend Priya was on the show and she wanted someone to come and talk to her for the on-TV segment. I agreed and when the channel people saw me talk on the segment, they asked me to come as a guest. But, a few days later, they changed their mind and asked me to host it. Luckily for me, people liked the Anu that I am. I also do a cookery show and am currently planning a travel show which should start shortly”.

Anu met her fiancé Graham, a British investment banker on the internet while they were on the same website. A string of conversations and emails ensured a great rapport. “It was one of those typical internet romances. I gave him a hard time when he first revealed that he wanted to meet me. Now, he tells me that it was very clear to him right from the beginning that I was the one who he wanted to marry. But, I was totally chickened out due to my past experience. Unfortunately, the guys whom I’ve met (other than my good friends) were not very nice and intellectually, they were never a match. But Graham was a fantastic friend with whom I could share all my thoughts. We met at a time when both of us were going through a rough patch in life. Finally, he came to India and we met, spent a lot of time together. And, then I told my parents that I’d like to see if this relationship would work out. As we got to know each other, I realized that this guy was very compatible. I think I am quite westernized in my approach and at the same time, I am Indian enough for a western guy”.

Anu and Graham were engaged in Trichy this February. Apart from her parents and Kamal Haasan, the entire Kumaran Nagar family was there. “It was a very happy occasion for all of us. Our wedding is scheduled for November this year”, says a happy Anu. As of now, Anu does not plan to leave India after her wedding. Graham has embryonic plans of shifting to India provided he gets a lucrative option here. Until then, it would be a lot of shuttling between Chennai and UK in-between her schedules for Anu.

Perfectly poised, Anu Hasan is a firm believer of her self-confidence. “I am an atheist – whatever the power there is, it is within me. I haven’t felt the need so far and life has been fantastic – better than most people. Until I was eight, I used to pray. But I clearly remember this instance when I was at the temple and I saw a man pressing himself up against me. Even at such a young age, I was disgusted and I didn’t like to go to the temple. As time went by, I realized that prayers were more for mental peace. Ultimately, it is you who have to do something about your problem.

Life, for Anu Hasan, is like a hyperbole. “I don’t think there is a medium point for me. Either, I would be on one extreme or the other. I’m ruled by sentiments but at the same time, I can be ruthless! I cannot do the same thing for too long – I need variety in life. Be it films or books or any other aspect of life, I hate tragedies – I love happy endings”, signs off Anu, on a chirpy note.

Weander Lust
Type: The solo traveler
The starting point: I always used to feel that nobody does anything for my birthday. And, I realized that nobody knew how to make me feel happy. Then, I decided that I’d rather make myself feel happy. From that moment on, every year on my birthday, I would travel solo to a strange country. It becomes a whole new adventure.

Voyage pick: First time around, I took a map of Europe, closed my eyes and randomly placed my finger and it happened to be Romania. That was the first destination which I travelled to.
Debut discovery: When I went to Romania, I didn’t stay in Bucharest. I used the internet to find myself a bed and breakfast run by a couple in one of the smaller towns and it was a brilliant experience. I traveled safe and never had any problems so far.

Cherished odyssey: I loved Cambodia especially because I had always wanted to visit Angkor Wat, a temple built many centuries ago by king Suryavarman II. Sprawled across 70 hectares, the entire place lies in ruins and there are points where the forest is actually reclaiming the land. It is a very beautiful sight.

Cuisine culture: I love Romanian food because it is amazing and totally different from what we are exposed to. My current favourite is the trifles which I tuck in whenever I visit the UK.

My Five
I love to read: A lot of romantic books! I still love to indulge in Mills and Boon – that genre of books.

I believe in: Happily ever after! Good must triumph over evil. I hate tragedies or films where people die. I never watch Kamal’s [Haasan] films where he is dying. For me, none of my family should die, even on screen! I love happy endings.

I am: A fitness freak! I love to work out and it makes me feel very happy. Currently, I am planning to resume Kalari more as a fitness routine rather than an art form. My lifestyle is such that I need a high level of fitness for the kind of schedule which I work with. I am totally addicted to fitness.

I look for: Honesty and straightforwardness is what I look for rather than faith or belief in a particular God.

I admire: Haasini [Suhasini Mani Ratnam] has a great generosity of spirit which I’ve seen in very few people. Both of us are very similar in our approach to life but where she scores over me is that she is a much better human being than I am.
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