Actress Minissha Lamba is the perfect combination of beauty and brains. What’s more, she throws up quite a few surprises! This pucca Punjabi craves Chennai-staple curd rice. In an interesting chat with Petal Gangurde, she opens up about being a ‘gully’ cricket champion and admits to have never been enamoured by Bollywood.
“Mumbai is home now but a part of me still misses Chennai.”
I grew up in Chennai and even though I am Punjabi, my upbringing was very South Indian. Academics were important. My parents were indulgent and pampered me to no end but also instilled values and taught me to be independent. I was a very fussy eater as a child and refused to eat brinjal, spinach and pulses. Today, pulses are an essential part of each of my meals and brinjal and spinach are prepared at home on alternate days. Previously I couldn’t stand the idea of eating curd rice but today it’s a comfort food for me and is also one of the things I miss the most about Chennai.
I was so bratty that as soon as I was served vegetables I would sneak it back into the pan or on to my brother’s plate only to be reprimanded for it. I remember being somewhat of a tom boy, playing ‘gully’ cricket and bullying all the boys since I was the only girl who could hit a six. That said there is no doubt I love everything about Mumbai – pace, people, attitude, social life, work atmosphere – it is the most liberating city in India and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Mumbai has been the wind beneath my wings and has taught me to soar.
“Bollywood was not part of the plan, it happened by accident!”
I was modelling since the time I was in school but I had no intention of joining films. It was simply a means to earn pocket money. I participated in dramatics but was interested in cinema only as a viewer. I never thought I’d take it up as a career. Having lived in Chennai, my knowledge of Hindi was very weak. I was also a bit of an intellectual snob who believed that Bollywood movies lacked the crafts that were intrinsic to international films. In the 1990′s when I was growing up Bollywood had stagnated. The films were ordinary, often pointless and lacked flair. After college, when I was all set to move abroad to pursue further education I got a call to audition for my first film – Yahaan, by renowned director Pradeep Sarkar. Before I signed the film, I said to myself, if I am going to act then I will give it my all and if my first film works, I won’t look back, instead I will make this my lifelong career. Maybe subconsciously acting was my calling. And the rest as they say is history. I still pinch myself to check whether or not this is real. I love what I do, every day is unpredictable. I get to travel, wear beautiful clothes, meet interesting people, what more could I have asked for! I always feel that God has blessed me with many good things in life and he gave me so many wonderful opportunities. I never say no to adventure and this is the reason why I was not able to say no to my debut film, because the story was beautiful. When something is heartfelt, you can’t say no to it.
“Don’t make fitness a habit, make it a lifestyle.”
The day I became an actor, my relationship with food completely changed. There were days when I would think of it as the enemy and others when I would seek solace in it. After all these years my body completely rejects foods like pizzas, pav bhaaji and jalebi. I truly believe that there are no shortcuts unless you have exceptional metabolism. With crash diets you will end up feeling lethargic, hungry and irritable. I remember trying the fruits only diet and by the third day I was eating everything in sight. I would eat a bowl of fruits and after 45 minutes I was starving. So it turned out to be counter-productive.
As a child, we eat wholesome meals and our body gets accustomed to it. But then we are also running and playing as kids. So the body doesn’t stock up on fats and carbohydrates because we are burning every extra ounce. When we are adults, we lead sedentary lifestyles taking the lift, driving even to the supermarket down the road, turning into couch potatoes at every given opportunity but eating the same food which is unhealthy. It’s best to watch what you eat as you grow older, take smaller portions, including all the food groups in your diet and some form of physical activity in your daily routine. Exercise forms an integral part of my day but just like everyone else I feel like procrastinating and need to give myself a pep talk 10 minutes before my trainer shows up. Unless I am shooting, I make it a point to take my dog Chloe for her walks without fail. I do a mix of sports with training. I play a game of badminton and go for a swim. I then run on the treadmill for a good half an hour followed by sets of light weights and heavy repetitions for various muscle groups on different days of the week. I try and take as many power naps as possible during the day. I am a voracious reader who finds books on crime fiction and spy thrillers completely absorbing.
I spend weekends with my parents and play with Chloe whenever I am home. This helps me beat stress and return to work refreshed and rejuvenated. I believe that when it comes to fitness there is no formula and I agree that there is no love greater than the love of good food but it helps if you are vigilant from an early age, discover your body type and what works for you in order to not let this love transform into an unhealthy addiction.
“I am not very fond of cooking but if I make up my mind I could give top chefs a run for their money.”
On an average day, I wake up at 6am, start shooting at 9am and return after a gruelling 12-hour shift where I am working in extreme weather conditions. By the end of the day, I am bone tired and have no time to cook. But if I am in the mood I quickly put together a fresh, light and low on oil Greek salad. Since I am such a TV addict, I tend to make a lot of dips for snacking. My spicy yoghurt dips have often gotten two thumbs up from friends who have tried them. I am not the sort to follow recipe books. Instead I experiment on my own in the kitchen. I have fabulous days and then some average ones but luckily I have never been disastrous like I have never added too much seasoning or burnt a dish. Someday, I would love to invite Salman Khan over for dinner and I would also request him to get his famous home-cooked feast of tender raan, scrumptious nalli nihari, delicious biryani and lip-smacking haleem.
When I have friends over I go the whole nine yards, mixing up cocktails and making a multi-course meal. My signature dishes are Burmese Khao Suey, Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, French Toast, Channa Chawal and Burrah Kebab. I have lost count of the number of compliments I have received for them. I am quite the pro behind the bar too, stirring up a storm with my Lemon and Mint Mojito, Very Berry Tonic and Cranberry-Champagne Cocktail.
- Who is your celebrity crush?
I really think Hugh Jackman is the hottest man alive. His looks would make anybody go weak in their knees and besides he is a fabulous actor.
-What is your recipe for romance?
Good food, great music, a bottle of the finest Dom Perignon and solitude.
- What is your idea of an unfor-gettable romantic dining experience?
It would have to be dinner at Wasabi by Taj, a moonlit walk along the Marine Drive promenade and then a drive back home for some alone time.
- For a romantic meal at home, what would you serve?
I would love to whip up some salata marouli, spaghetti aglio olio and chicken in pepper mushroom sauce, accompanied by a bottle of rose wine.
- Who is the most stylish person in Bollywood?
Malaika Arora Khan has the most fantastic style in Bollywood. She has an amazing body along with the panache and personality to carry off anything and everything.
- Who is the fittest person in Bollywood?
Hrithik Roshan and Salman Khan are strong, sexy and seriously fit.
- What projects are you currently working on?
I am working on my next two films titled Democracy and Black Currency.
- Describe your style in three words.
I am an easygoing girl. While I love dressing up, I don’t create a fuss around my look. My style is simple, elegant and classic.
- Which celebrity wardrobe would you like to possess and why?
While I don’t want anything that belongs to someone else, I would love to have fashion maven Tarun Tahiliani to design an entire wardrobe exclusively for me. His design sensibility, textures, colours and cuts are incredibly stylish.
- What will be your dream film role?
There are quite a few roles I would love to essay in films, hopefully they will materialise in the near future. I would love to play the role of a professional spy. I hope someday I would be the protagonist in a high drama romance and also play a historical character in a period film.
- Name a recent film you wish you were a part of.
In the recent past, I thought the movie Friends with Benefits was really hilarious. The script was extremely well written, the setting was contem- porary and I wish I was offered the part played by actress Mila Kunis in the film.
Name one food that you don’t mind giving up.
Pakodas, bhajiyas and all other fried foods.
Which is the most important meal of the day for you?
Breakfast. Nothing like starting the day on a healthy note.
If not an actor, what would you have been?
I would have been a journalist.
List your top three restaurants.
Peshawari at The Grand Maratha Sheraton, China Garden and Wasabi by Taj in Mumbai.
Name 5 things on your bucket list.
Go on a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the QV2 with a loved one.
Own a Maserati.
Live and work in New York for an entire year.
Go on a tourist space voyage to the moon.
Open and perform my own show on Broadway.
You are the happiest when
I am watching an engaging TV show. Right now I am completely hooked on to House of Cards.
One cuisine you feel is overrated
French cuisine since it lacks the flavour that our Indian palate is accustomed to.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up and what is the last thing you do before going to bed?
I drink a cup of piping hot tea as soon as I wake up and the last thing I do at night is switch off my laptop.
As told to Food & Night Life Magazine!