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Her life so far has been more eventful than the script of any of her movies: a bit of glamour, a glint of gold, a stint in Hollywood, battle with a deadly disease and the proverbial happily ever after. As she basks in marital bliss, Lisa Ray is quite content with the life that she has lived to the fullest! In conversation with Chandini

Lisa Ray who was recently down in Chennai to launch LifeCell India’s first Dual Storage Service and the expansion of its Storage Facility gave us a glimpse into her future and the current big picture.

Being Reborn

By now, the tale of Lisa’s triumph over cancer has become the stuff of legends. Her candid blogs journalising her battle with the disease have made her a subject of admiration rather than an object of pity. (Lisa Ray was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that affects white blood cells, a rare disease. After being diagnosed circa 2009, she was cancer free the next year, following extensive treatments by stem cell transplant.) Talking about her struggle she says, “I had a stem cell transplant as part of my treatment for blood cancer. Stem cells are the reason I am alive today. Stem cells are not appropriate to treat every type of cancer but it does treat diabetes, heart diseases and some forms of cancers. Stem cells represent the future of medicine. Though people don’t know a lot about stem cells, we need to make it our business to understand the significance behind it. It is just like how mobile phones are so essential today but they were not known a decade back.”

Talking about how she is moving on after the experience she says, “I feel fantastic. I got married recently, I am hosting a very successful show in Canada called ‘Top Chef Canada’ and I am also working on various other projects, I also have a Canadian film coming up soon. What has helped is my learning throughout the struggle and now I am able to tell other people about my fight and meet cancer patients and create awareness among the general public.”

Breaking through
After her heroic fight against the big C, Lisa’s artistic career seemed to have taken a hiatus. She was actively involved in cancer awareness campaigns and propaganda of stem cell treatments. “It was basically not a hiatus as I was actively involved in the entertainment industry but not movies alone. I was spreading the schedules to add television shows and plays. I was involved heavily with stem cell campaigns and they did take most of my time.”

Lisa admits working abroad is not the same as working in India. “In Bollywood people work in bulk. A star may have at least 2 or 3 movies coming up in a year. In Canada where I live and work, we do not work in bulk. A single show is a huge commitment. One single season of a television show is a year of my life’s dedication. Besides I would rather perform for quality than quantity. Even if I was not that ill I don’t think I would commit myself to many projects and would rather work steadily and do my best. This way I have time for my work and for my social campaigns. My life is balanced and it is great! I think that is the sign of success, doing what you do and what your heart tells you to do.”

Between the lives
Already an established model, actress and talk show host, Lisa has added another feather to her burgeoning cap; philanthropist/social activist. Ever since her treatment found her in full swing, she lost no time in taking projects and being occupied. “I just loved shooting for ‘Oh My Gold’. I actually had to spend few weeks in Chennai and it was a lot of fun. I got a lot of appreciation for the series and I am very proud of it. I was asked to do the second season but I was just not able to commit.”

Talking about Top Chef, Lisa admits she does not cook at all. “I don’t cook but I eat! I am working with some of the best culinary minds in Canada for the show and America too. I have always had a passion when it comes to food and I love to eat, I love to experiment with cuisines, I love different kinds of food.” However, Lisa says that even after one full season she has not learned to cook. “I don’t claim to be the best chef in the world but I have learned to start eating in a different sort of way,” quips the doe-eyed beauty.

Bridal Bliss
Lisa Ray married banking executive and philanthropist Jason Dehni in October 2012. Lisa shares that her husband has been a pillar of support since her illness. “He has been very supportive in every way possible. I met him because of a charity campaign and he is involved in so many charities; I love that part about him. The best thing is he understands that part of me as well and he has always been there for me.” Lisa says that her husband is just getting used to her career and involvement in the entertainment industry.

“Well to be honest it does take a toll on our relationship sometimes. This is why it is very hard for me to take on more projects and commit myself to certain things. Honestly I don’t want to be away from him that long either. Maybe on a shorter schedule project or if there is some way to work it out for him to come visit me once and then, it does work. Right now I work at Toronto and I can come home at night, just like he expects so it is simple. Working in India would be a completely different issue. Maybe if I can make up my mind about a project that is worth it, I could convince Jason to come over to India with me. He has visited India and he loves it!”

Bouncing back
Now that she is back on her feet and how, she has a lot of exciting projects coming up. “I have an upcoming Canadian film called ‘Patch Town’ that I am working on and the shooting starts in January. I have another season of Top Chef Canada coming up. I just designed a line of saris along with Satya Paul. I have always had a passion for Indian ethnic wear and I am so proud of my collection. I have ten saris designed after my wedding saris. 5 are specially created designer printed saris, themed around the idea of victory over difficulty; phoenix rising, confidence, chant and so on. They are such beautiful saris and I love them. I did a preview of them in Delhi just a few days ago and I will be officially launching the line in March. It will be available in stores from March. 10% of the proceedings will go to aiding cancer patients and charities that I am working for.”

Though she is currently based in Canada, Lisa admits she would love to come back to India. “I have no plans as of now to work in Indian movies. I got quite a few offers to work here again but due to time and schedule issues I could not do it. Besides now that I am married, priorities have changed and I love being a wife right now. I definitely would love an Indian movie soon as Indian cinema is going through quite an exciting phase right now.” Theatre is however not ruled out in the near future for Lisa. “I do have a couple of plays coming up and I was recently in a play called ‘Taj’ where I played Princess Jahanara. It was a very interesting play and it was played in Toronto. It was so successful we are thinking of bringing it to roads this year.”

Lisa has never looked or felt more wonderful than she does now. As she balances personal and professional dynamics, the talented lady proves unequivocally that life is indeed beautiful.

Lisa in and on Chennai

“I like a lot of things about Chennai. Between shooting for Oh My Gold and my Tamil movie years back, I did visit the city quite often. I like the food, I like the fact that people take a little bit more time here for life and they are not so crazy and hectic about their routines. I love the saris and of course the gold here. When we were shooting for Oh My Gold, we were taken around to tour the place and I saw some places I have never heard of before. I was truly excited to see female auto rickshaw drivers and I am guessing Chennai is the only city you can find them in. That was just so cool! The relationship between the people and the culture, the people and the gold is incredible. Walking into a jewellery store was so overwhelming. The traffic is bad though!”
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