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Little Ms. Sunshine

Bonhomie is her middle name. With her megawatt smile and infectious energy she spreads warmth all around. Her expressive eyes, petite frame and unmistakable aura earn her the sobriquet of dynamic diva. Classic, chic, coquettish, Asin is all this and much more. Lubna Parveen meets the hot and happening actress who has conquered the South and the North with equal ease

Asin is a charming bundle of contradictions. From a giggle a minute girl she instantly transforms into an earnest raconteur while recalling her journey to stardom. And what a journey it has been!

“My school shaped my character and thoughts”
Asin says her personality development began at her school. The bubbly actress is grateful to her alma mater for her all round grooming, especially her flair for languages. Besides her mother tongue, Malayalam, Asin is proficient in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English and even manages a smattering of Marathi. “The complete credit goes to my school. I studied in the Naval Public School from kindergarten till the twelfth standard. Although my parents weren’t in the navy, I got in through scholarship. The school was a mini India filled as it was with teachers and students from all parts of the country. The cosmopolitan culture and the essence of the myriad regions of India shaped my character and thoughts and helped me pick up different languages.”

“My mom’s syringes used to double up as pichkaris”
“The best part of this mix of cultures was that we managed to get holidays for all the festivals. The fun aspect was that we would celebrate each of these festivals in our own way. Not only at school, we even had parties at home, where all my friends used to come over. Celebrating Holi was unheard of in Kerala in those days but we used to and in quite an innovative manner. We had a huge tank in our backyard. We used to fill that with water and all of us kids used to jump into that. We did not have ‘pichkaris’ to play with. My mom’s (she is a doctor) syringes, minus the needles, used to double up as pichkaris. Colours were also not available but we got around that problem too. We used to buy water colours and load the syringes with them. In our own little way we used to recreate the festival of colours. We made sure we had a ball,” Asin recalls wistfully.

“I cherish my growing up years spent in the company of my buddies”
What other childhood memories does she cherish? “My friends,” she states simply. “I have been lucky to make and retain friends easily. I cherish my growing up years spent in the company of my ‘girl gang’, my buddies: the group studies where we focussed on everything except studies, the sleepovers where no one went to sleep till dawn, the gossip, the camaraderie. Although we are settled in different corners of the world, we manage to stay connected thanks to technology.”

The actress confesses she is not very tech savvy. “I prefer to communicate the ‘old fashioned’ way through e mail and messages. I am not on any of the social networking sites though; I find that a little intimidating. But nothing comes in the way of our friendship, not technophobia, not language barriers, not even time zones. My best pal is in New York but I know I can wake her up at midnight if I want to. We are true friends and not because I am a star today. I know that we will remain friends forever.”

“There is no star at home”
How has stardom changed her as a person? With a cheeky smile she says, “It’s a question best put to my parents. They still say I am the apple of their eyes. On a serious note, I think that nothing’s really changed. There is no star at home. I am still the same, loving daughter that I’ve always been.”

“I would like to believe that I am not spoilt but they have given me a lot of love and affection. Though I am an only child I have never felt the lack of a sibling as I have basketfuls of cousins spread across the globe. I value family and relationships a lot. So I am in touch with nearly all of them,” says the actress.

“My dad is my pillar of strength and my mom is my angel”
Like any doting daughter, Asin credits her parents with her success. “They were the ones who recognized my talent and my inclination towards this field and they both encouraged me.”

And is she Mamma’s darling or Daddy’s girl? “I am equally close to both of them. My dad is my pillar of strength and my mom is my angel. I always turn to them for advice and wisdom, in fact, for anything and everything. Their approval is very important for me. I feel all the positives in my life are a manifestation of their blessings, prayers and support.”

“Films were not my ambition”
So, how did her cinematic journey begin? “Films were not something that I planned as a career and it wasn’t a childhood ambition either,” she declares candidly. “I got into modelling at 14, when I was in my 9th standard. I was lucky to be part of quite a few prestigious ad campaigns and magazine covers. The response and recognition I received was unprecedented. Films were a natural progression and there was no looking back after that.”

“I started with Malayalam movies and then I branched out to Tamil and Telugu. It wasn’t a planned strategy by any means. 14 is not an age where you’re trying to figure out your future or charting a career, it’s an age when you’re finishing school,” she asserts.

“I would not have got this scale of attention and affection in any other profession”

Like a cat which has licked the cream and loved it, Asin states with feline grace, “Once I faced the arc lights I found that I had an inherent passion for acting. Language was never a problem for me as long as the script had meat in it, which is why I have enjoyed and still am enjoying my work. Of course, different film industries have different styles of functioning but all of them have welcomed me with open arms. And for that I will be eternally grateful to them. I would not have got this scale of attention and affection in any other profession. You can call me greedy for craving this kind of love and acceptance but each and every fan is important to me and I never want to lose their love.”

“Ripped off all perceptions, Salman, Aamir and Kamal Sir are just basic individuals”
Asin has been lucky enough to have worked with the Who’s Who of the film industry. Was it daunting to work with heavyweights? “I have been very fortunate to have acted with superstars like Salman, Aamir and Kamal Sir. I have a great professional and personal relation with them. I feel very blessed to be able to interact with them. I know that if I need anything, I can just pick up the phone and talk to them. They are wonderful human beings. In fact, ripped of all perceptions about them, they are just normal individuals.”

She elaborates, “From a child artist to a superstar, Kamala Sir has travelled golden miles and is still going strong. I learnt a lot from him while working with him in Dasavataram. Aamir is a very down to earth, intellectual man with a great sense of humour. He is someone who you can have an interesting conversation with. Salman on the other hand, lives life king size. He tries to live up to the image that his fans have of him. He expresses what he feels. He is very forthright and without pretences. In his case, what you see is what he is. There are no false emotions. That’s what I really like about him. And he appreciates the same quality in me as well. I am what I am. I can’t indulge in politics. The only time I am acting is in front of the camera. Salman acknowledges my candour and that is one of the main reasons we both get along so well.”

“I have a 5- point movie selection criterion”
Ghajini, Pokkiri, Kavalan, Ready and many more, her impressive track record speaks for itself. How does she manage to notch up hit after hit? The entire onus is on film selection, states Asin. “I look at movie projects as a whole. I don’t just go by the length of my role. It all depends on the script, my character in the movie, the director, the producer and my co-star. This is my 5-point selection criterion.”

“A positive attitude towards life also goes a long way in imparting inner calm”
Debuting in her early teens must have been quite an ask for Asin, right? Agrees the actress, “Yes, when I started out it was quite daunting but now it’s become a part of the routine. Being in the film industry one gets used to the erratic working hours, the deadlines, the jetlag, the pollution, the harsh lights and the crowd. Ultimately, it all boils down to your passion for the profession and your willingness to give your hundred percent. A positive attitude towards life also goes a long way in imparting inner calm. I think now I’ve learnt how to balance my personal life and professional commitments.”

But don’t the hectic shooting schedules take a toll on her health? ”I am a very healthy person,” shares the perky lass. “Shooting outdoors, under harsh lights or in locations with extreme climate, my body gets adjusted to every condition. I don’t fall sick often. Even if I am under the weather I make sure that my work does not get affected.”

“I shot with a bleeding and swollen ankle the whole day”
Sharing a recent incident while she was shooting in London for Houseful 2 with co stars Akshay Kumar and John Abraham, she says, “There’s one scene where Akshay pushes John and he falls on a heavy, metallic silver tray that I am carrying and the tray clatters to the floor. The take was ok, but in the middle of all this, people did not realize that the tray had actually fallen on my foot; it cut my ankle and in an instant it was bleeding and swollen. I moved to a corner and quickly applied some balm I had with me. Because I did not make a fuss, nobody actually noticed the injury. I shot in that condition until the end of the day.”

“When it was pack up, I called my doctor in London and quietly left with my driver to see him. The same night there was a friend’s birthday party. So I got myself bandaged by the doctor and went to the party. I never told anybody. Unfortunately, my driver who knew of the incident, spilled the beans and then you can imagine how people fussed over me like mother hens,” she chuckles.

“I don’t think there is a super formula for my toned body”

She acknowledges she is lucky to be blessed with high immunity but what is the secret behind her toned body? “I don’t think there is a super formula. I just follow the tried and tested techniques of eating healthy and exercising well to lose extra calories. Yes, occasionally I tend to indulge in tasty titbits when the temptation is too strong. But on a regular basis, I try and stick to a nutritious diet and workout sessions.”

Happy about the fact that she has her mum and dad with her, Asin says, “I love ghar ka khana and Mom packs quite a balanced meal for me if I am shooting in the vicinity. I miss home food when I am on outdoor shoots but then I am not fussy about food at all. As long as I get clean, tasty food I am satisfied.”

And does she help her mom in the kitchen? She declares, “I venture into the kitchen, sometimes to catch up with mom or something of that sort. I am not a gourmet chef but I won’t starve to death either. I know basic cooking. I shy away from complicated culinary creations. I can make a simple curry, dosas, toast, tea, coffee...”

“To me fashion without comfort is quite meaningless”
Her fashion grammar seems faultless whether she indulges in high end designer wear or picks up something from a street shop. What are her sartorial inclinations? She admits, “To me fashion without comfort is quite meaningless. I am a jeans and T shirt girl. And I really love dark denims. Casual or smart, my look depends on the occasion. I don’t fall prey to style trends. I wear what looks good on me and what I am cosy in.

“My dresses also depend on my mood. My personal style may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Sometimes, I feel like pairing a purple frock with yellow shoes. Sometimes I sport a blood red lipstick while on other occasions I prefer nude colours. It’s very subjective. I am not very brand conscious either. When I hop around shops or stalls, I simply pick what I like, be it branded or not. Having said that, I must admit I love D&G casuals. And I have a penchant for Chanel bags. Among Indian labels, I love Anamika Khanna and Gauri and Nainika.”

“I’d rather curl up reading a thriller than shimmy the night away at a nightclub”
Costume changes, location hopping, tricky dance moves, emotional scenes, the nitty gritties of shooting are many. How does she relax after an ultra tiring shoot session? “Just being with my family makes me feel relaxed enough. Besides this, I listen to soothing music to de stress. Once in a while, I try and catch up on the latest releases in theatres and even go out for dinner with friends.

“But my ultimate Utopia is books. I am a voracious reader; I have inherited the habit from my parents. At home we have a huge hall filled with books. It’s our mini library. I make sure that I carry my favourite tomes with me wherever I go. I don’t read books on the sets. I find that a little embarrassing. I do carry my books to the shoot but read them in the privacy of my van or my room. I’d rather curl up reading a thriller than shimmy the night away at a nightclub. In fact, my love for books was the reason I chose literature as my subject of graduation,” she confesses.

“I don’t really know what the male community’s perception is of me. I am not conscious about it either”
Thanks to the overactive paparazzi, Asin has had her fair share of ‘scandalous affairs’ and ‘rumoured link ups’. Does it ever bother her to see her name attached with every other eligible bachelor in town? “Initially, it did. I would wonder from where these ‘investigative reporters’ got their fodder from but now I have stopped reacting. My parents’ trust is the most important thing for me and they know I will never let them down.”

What, according to her, does the opposite sex think of her? “I don’t really know what the male community’s perception is of me. I am not conscious about it either. It’s only when you ask me this question, I start wondering and thinking about it. Otherwise I don’t worry about what message I am putting across to the men out there,” she confesses.

“Immature, juvenile men really turn me off”
And what are the qualities she wants in her ideal man? “I would like my man to be intelligent, smart and witty. Add to this good chemistry and great vibes. If a person has these qualities, then I think he can understand me better. He has to be somebody whose thoughts match my wavelength, somebody who is knowledgeable and it would be a plus point if he has a great sense of humour as well. And of course, I hope I find all these attributes in one single guy,” she replies tongue in cheek.

That is quite a long list of preferred traits but what are the traits she dislikes in the opposite sex? “Immature, juvenile men really turn me off,” she exclaims.

For some time now, there’s been much speculation about her friendship with actor Neil Nitin Mukesh. To this she quickly adds, “I’m single. For now, my girl gang is all the personal life I need.”

“Fame has not changed me at all”
Completing a decade as a leading lady is no mean achievement. How has she kept herself motivated and grounded for so long? The passing years seem to have a lent an extra layer of maturity to Asin. Instead of being blinded by the bling of glamour she says philosophically, “Fame is fleeting. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. It’s not something that you can take for granted. It should not affect a person as it reflects how weak a personality is. I don’t think fame has changed me at all. It’s just the perception of others around me that has changed.”

Always Asin

Hollywood idols: Audrey Hepburn, Marion Cotillard. Both have amazing screen presence and a fabulous sense of style

Literary Love: I love literature. That is what inspired me to do my Bachelors’ in Arts while on the sets of a Tamil film

Fine arts: I love dance and music. I am a trained classical dancer and a piano buff

Detox mantra: Sleep, sleep and sleep

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