Oct 4, 2019

Rolling in Retro Reality

She’s a stickler for time. She’s a perfectionist. She’s another name for glamour. She’s driven as much by the heart as her sharp brain. But most of all, Rakul Preet Singh is a child of the ’90s

Words: Shourya Jain

Photography Rohan Shrestha



HAIR Kavita Desai


It isn’t fashionable to read classics anymore but if you ever picked any of them up, you would find how amazingly relevant they continue to be. Sitting down to sum up my conversation with the delightful Rakul Preet Singh and the 90s that she’s a child of, one in particular comes to the mind. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens was written in 1859 and was set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and yet I can’t think of a better beginning to define the decade that was 1990 to 1999. So at the cost of being called a plagiarist, here goes.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

It was the decade that gave us the internet and broadened our horizons like never before. In more ways than one, it defined who we all would become in the millennium. So when we had sat down to work on a theme for Rakul, we eventually agreed that Acing the '90s look in the Millennium would be appropriate.

The first time I met Rakul wasn’t here, at The Lalit in Mumbai where we would be doing the shoot. It was at our second anniversary celebrations, the first ever Just Urbane Awards on June 1. First impressions are often the last impressions you have of a person and mine were a bunch of adjectives. Poised, elegant, glamorous, nonchalant yet attentive and punctual. There was a quiet sparkle in her eyes that said more than she did.

Here, at the Kitty Su of The Lalit, my first impressions are reinforced by her quiet observation of all that’s going on around her. The Libran from 1990 connects with our theme straight off the bat. “I really liked the concept of the shoot. Somehow it never goes out of style. Retro is always fun, it always takes you back to your era and I haven’t done a shoot like this before, I mean in the recent times. So it was really a lot of fun to bring the 90s' elements together with contemporary accessories and create these looks,” she says.

Despite the casual nonchalance, there is no mistaking that what we’re dealing with here is a strong personality, betrayed by that firm shake of the hand. Very few things in life can unsettle this woman. “Everything is great yaa, life is great and beautiful; I’m living my dream. I’m doing what I always wanted to do. Every day is a revelation of what you’re going to do next. I think life can be as beautiful as you want to make it. I’m a spiritual person so I never understand these questions of what is better or what is worse in this generation. It’s a learning every day. It’s an understanding of yourself every day and it’s living your dream every day.”

“Thank god, it’s not freezing in here,” she says as she walks into the Kitty Su. She saunters around the deserted club for just a bit to take in the ambience before heading straight for the first shot. The connection between ace snapper Rohan Sreshtha and Rakul is a revelation as shot after brilliant shot follow with the actor and photographer working in perfect sync. There’s a lot to be learnt from the way the duo works together to create the fabulous shots you see here. Learning and education incidentally are subjects close to Rakul’s heart.

“You know, education is perceived very differently in India. Of course education helps you in being the person that you are, how confident you are or what you do in life but the practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge are very different things, you know. I may not have used the mathematical theorems that I learnt in school but what it taught me is practicality of things, being quick at what I do and better management of my time. I think the emphasis of our education system should move from marks oriented to better and deeper understanding of concepts and aptitude; focus on talent and creativity definitely needs to be incorporated in the learning process,” she tells me.

As we move deeper into the topic of education, I realise that there’s a reason why Rakul Preet is the brand ambassador of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign in the state of Telengana. “Te-lang-gaana,” she corrects my pronunciation of the name of the state that has been crucial in her career. This is no actress paying lip service to a public service campaign. No, Rakul is a believer whose faith in the campaign is as much out there for all to see as her opinion, and she has a very well defined opinion about most things in life.

“Firstly, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative is not just confined to educating, it is more about creating awareness in the interiors or different parts of the state, it is about creating gender equality for the girl child. Whether it is concerned with their freedom to education or freedom to work. So our job is to make them aware of their rights and about the several reforms and schemes that the government is introducing for their betterment. And we’ve been quite successful in improving the numbers in raising awareness amongst them. In fact about six months ago, I was informed of a tally of all the Beti Bachaos done in every state, Telangana was leading in the stats of dropping numbers of foeticides. So there is a huge improvement, but I don’t think it can change in a year or two, it is an ongoing process, it is a process that each one of us should believe in, whether we live in cities or villages. Our first priority lies in trying to provide education to every child at the bottom level,” she declares with the kind of passion that can only come from a complete and unshakeable belief in what you’re doing.

One thing leads to another and we end up talking about politics and governance instead of her movies and her career as I had initially hoped to. At some level I suppose it’s unavoidable because her views on the 24X7 reality show that is Indian politics are firm and lucid. There’s nothing non-committal about her. She clearly belongs to the group that support the current government and are not afraid to show it. “See I think the Modi Government has tried to bring in a lot of change in its first term and it always takes a while to bring about such changes. A few people did react negatively upon not seeing immediate changes but I think to put things into perspective and to bring a certain sort of system in the entire system it takes a while and our Prime Minister has tried that and I’m sure he’ll continue doing it in the coming years and bring about a lot of visible changes. I do hope people understand that it is for the greater good and I wish them all the luck. They’ve already extended their support to the entertainment industry by reducing the GST slab which is great.”

Meanwhile lunch arrives. An omelette made of six egg whites with bell pepper, mushrooms and green chillies with negligible oil and no added milk. Everything is precise for her. No dilly dallying over the menu. A girl who knows exactly what she wants, even if it’s just lunch. Besides she is a stickler for time, something I learnt when I first met her a couple of months ago, and hates to waste any of it. Not given to ceremony, she grabs her own plate and continues getting her hair done not wasting a moment. Working lunches are a regular phenomenon in her life, I guess. As for being a slave to the clock, well, blame it on her love for sports and her background.

She smiles dignifiedly, “I’m a lot into sports. I’m an army kid. I’ve travelled a lot. My dad never let us bury ourselves in books. Equal importance given to each aspect of a learning curve. I used to play golf at national level when I was in High School. I learnt to play golf in Deolali, in fifth grade. By 11th and 12th I was living in Delhi and playing the IGU, Indian Golf Union Juniors, the Ladies’ Circuit. But then I knew I didn’t want to play professional golf so I still play socially. With the kind of schedule I have, I still try and play at least once a month.”

At one point I can’t help but wonder what her idea of an #EvolvedMan would be like. She is after all shooting for Just Urbane, which is very clearly aimed at evolved men. “Like I said earlier, I’m a spiritual person. I think a person is evolved when he understands the meaning of life in true sense and understands himself. You know everyone is running in a race trying to compete with each other while not understanding that you are your only competition. When you’re able to forgive and move on and are happy and you understand that success is a state of mind. I think when you’re able to do all this that’s when you’re truly evolved.”

So what do our evolved audience have to look forward to from their favourite star? Her next projects for the 70mm screen involve the Telugu film, Manmadhudu releasing on 9th August and Hindi movie, Marjaavaan that will hit the theatres around the country on October 2.

As the shoot wraps up and we’re all ready to pack up, I quietly ask her what she thought about being recognised as the Trendsetter of the Year at the inaugural Just Urbane Awards. Her answer is as unconventional as the rest of her. “I know that I was awarded the URBANE Trendsetter of the year but I personally don’t like going by the trends. I wear what I’m comfortable wearing and feel good in. You must own it! Feel comfortable and yourself in whatever you’re wearing and you’ll look your best.”

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