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July 5, 2000


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'I expect a lot from myself'

Malaika Arora She is hot, she is happening, she is model-cum-veejay Malaika Arora. After her face adorned various prestigious ad campaigns, she plunged into the role of a hostess on MTV.

Meanwhile, she was also spotted in music videos like Bally Sagoo's Gud Naal Ishq Mitha and Shubha Mudgal's Pyar Ka Mausam. But what really caught the audience's attention was her sensational special appearance in Mani Rathnam's Dil Se.. The song had a legion of people following her every move, as she danced with Shah Rukh Khan on the roof of a moving train.

Instead of accepting every offer that came her way, the Chaiyya chaiyya girl preferred to maintain a low profile. However, she will soon be sighted in Guddu Dhanoa's Bichhoo (slated to release on July 7) in another short, albeit spicy, role.

She talks about her career, her marriage to actor Arbaaz Khan and her future plans in an interview with Sukanya Verma.

Malaika Arora How did your career as a model start?

It all started with Society magazine. They had a cover girl issue that I was selected for. The ball just kept rolling after that, one thing led to another and here I am today. I wasn't a ramp model. The pre-requisite for a ramp model is that she should be tall, and I am not tall from any yardstick! I did a couple of shows just because they wanted me there. I will always remember Hemant Trivedi's compliment, "She may be 5'4, but she walks like she's 5'10. It really doesn't matter what her height is."

I did my fill of shows for one year. Even now, once in a while, I do a show. Essentially I am a press/print model. I started out doing ad campaigns, whether it was for print or television.

What made you take up veejaying? How did you get into MTV?

Everything in my life has happened very naturally. It was very unexpected. There was never any forced effort on my part. Since I was known as a model, I got a call from MTV. They needed someone with fast moves to host a show called Club MTV. They told me the concept and asked me to get in front of on the camera. I was initially sceptical, but I went ahead. Before I knew it, I was on and we were shooting on weekends! Everything happened so fast! There I was amidst the music and dance, with everyone screaming! It was definitely a training ground for me. I learnt how to talk in front of a camera.

How did Chaiyya chaiyya happen?

It just happened one day. Farah Khan, the choreographer of the song, knew me. She and Shah Rukh were watching a video, Gud Naal Ishq Mitha, in which I was dancing. And Farah said, "Let's ask Malaika if she will do the song." They called me up and everybody was like, "Do it, it's really exciting." And it was as simple as that!

Malaika Arora, Preity Zinta and Manisha Koirala What was the experience of working with Mani Rathnam and Shah Rukh Khan like?

I think the manner in which the song was shot was a novel experience. I knew for certain I could sleepwalk through the song and still look good because Santosh Sivan was the cinematographer!

Farah is a brilliant choreographer and she knows the kind of person I am. She gives me steps that compliment me. Mani Rathnam is a brilliant director, the music by Rahman was great and having Shah Rukh for a co-star was a definite bonus! He was wonderful. He told me, "Malaika, there is nothing to worry about. Let's go there and have a blast." Fortunately, it turned out really well.

Did you ever trip or falter while dancing on top of the moving train?

Thank God…no! One of the unit members tripped and hurt himself. Other than that, things were safe. We were shooting in Ooty and, everytime we went up there, we would start laughing and lose our balance!

For the first 24 hours of the shoot, I was quite happy being down. They would say, "Malaika, come." And I was like, "No, I am fine here." It hit me when I got there that I had to actually go up and dance!

Next day, it was towards the evening -- they wanted to shoot in the evening light -- that I went on top and did the shot in one take. I was so shocked after the shot, I couldn't believe I had just danced on top of a moving train! It was an absolutely unforgettable experience.

Malaika Arora Were you flooded with offers after Chaiyya chaiyya?

Yes, lots of offers did come in, but nothing really excited me. I thought it better that people liked me and remembered me from that particular song. It is amazing that, to this date, wherever I go, people know me as the Chaiyya chaiyya girl.

Tell us about Bichhoo, where you are once again doing a special appearance.

Like I said, offers did come my way but none that I wanted to take up. I am quite happy where I am. The need to do something wasn't there. Bichhoo happened through some people that Arbaaz (her husband and Salman Khan's brother) knows. They wanted him to ask me to do the song. He, in turn, asked them to speak to me directly.

We knew the people and they coaxed me into doing the song Ekwari tak le. At first, it was simply the song. Later, I was told that the role was one in which there was a flashback. There have been many actresses who have done such roles. Shooting for the song was enjoyable.

Ganesh choreographed the number and it has been shot in Water Kingdom. The song was initially difficult for me because there is a lot of Punjabi in it. The song is a typical north Indian one. They would play the song and I would start dancing, but I wouldn't be able to sing! I could never lip sync the lines at all. Everybody used to keep laughing! It became so funny that they had to write the lines on paper and hold it up and I would repeat them word for word! (Bursts out laughing)

Malaika Arora On what basis do you accept a part in a film?

A lot of it is instinct. At the same time, it should be something that really excites me. I have to trust the people I'm working with and, if they can't live up to that trust, then it would be difficult to work with them. It has to be a worthwhile project with a good script and a talented director.

Why aren't you doing full-fledged roles in films?

Nothing has really excited me. The stereotyped notion is that models can't act. Since people have seen me dance and know how I look on screen, that part of my battle has been won. All the roles I'm offered are the stereotypical and cliched glamorous model types. They don't stimulate me. These roles have been done to death. But if there is something I really like, which I think will do me justice and the exposure I'm looking for, I'll definitely do it.

Are there any such role in the pipeline?

None as yet. I am not even thinking on those lines. If something comes my way, well and good. I have many things to keep me occupied anyway.

How do you manage marriage and career? Are you able to concentrate on both?

It is a full time job for me; I am always on my toes! Balancing comes very naturally to me. I don't have to put in any extra effort. At the end of the day, I enjoy the balancing act!

I love my work, so I want to give it my 100 per cent. I love looking after a house, I enjoy being with my family. That's the kind of person I am. I will not do something if I cannot give it 100 per cent or more. I hate settling for anything less and I expect a lot from myself.

Malaika Arora with Arbaaz Khan Is Arbaaz supportive of your joining films?

He is extremely supportive. I wouldn't have come this far if it hadn't been for him. My family has been supportive right from the beginning. Everyone is chilled out. Arbaaz is very relaxed too and that's an added benefit.

Did your sister become a veejay because of you? Will she enter films too?

Amrita is extremely talented. In fact, I think she is far more talented than I am. She is very good at expressing herself. She is one vivacious package! We used to love participating in school plays and Amrita was always asked to enact the role of a drunkard or a mad person! She is very uninhibited, whether it's her family or 30,000 strangers watching her!

We used to call her our very own entertainment channel! I have always been pushing her to display the talent she has. Eventually, she took part in the veejay hunt contest and won. Since she's already seen what I do, it's been easier for her.

How long do you plan to continue veejaying?

It is difficult to say. I would hate to be in a situation where people are sick and tired of seeing me. I like to keep evolving, both personally and professionally. Change should be constant. We all know veejaying is a short-lived career. As long as the time is good, I'll make the most of it.

What are your future plans?

I have a new show called Style Check coming soon on air. It is essentially a style-based show. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed for Bichhoo!

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