Rebecca Suhrawardi talks to Bollywood Superstar Nargis Fakhri
Nargis Fakhri (@NargisFakhri) is one of Bollywood’s most well-known actresses. Literally plucked from obscurity while modeling in Greece, the Queens born-and-bred beauty was propelled into stardom in a country where she didn’t know the language or even the culture—even though she’s half South Asian. After her debut film Rockstar shot her into the Bollywood limelight, she spent the next eight years finding her way through an industry and a country that she never imagined would be a part of her life. She landed on the covers of magazines like VOGUE and Harper’s Bazaar and found herself shooting on location all over the world.
Along the way, she rediscovered her roots and uncovered hidden passions that helped shaped who she is. Today, she lives between Los Angeles and India and is on another journey of self-discovery as she traverses the landscape of Hollywood and California, learning the culture of what is ostensibly another alien land. In this interview, I sit down with Nargis in her Los Angeles home and we talk about what it was like becoming an overnight celebrity in a foreign country, what California means to her, and her excitement at becoming an angel investor.
we talk about what it was like becoming an overnight celebrity in a foreign country
Photos: Kriti Bisaria
Q: What has your experience been like living in Los Angeles?
It’s definitely a slower-paced life, very different from New York and extremely different from Bombay. It allows you the time to self-reflect because the culture here is all about healthy living, self-love, and self-discovery. There are so many outdoor activities which connect you to nature and ground you. Bombay and New York definitely don’t have that. And there’s the feeling of having space. There’s just more space here to breathe and move around, and people aren’t on top of each other. But it’s very challenging to make friends in LA, because it’s so spread out, and the traffic is so bad, so making plans is tough. And it’s a city of transplants so finding a group to fit into is difficult. It took time to adjust. Overall, though, it’s been a great experience.
LA is a city of transplants
Q: Was it easier to adjust to Bombay?
Bombay was slightly easier being that I as born and raised in New York where it’s hectic. New York is a rush-rush kind of city and everything is open 24 hours, like Bombay, which to me is like New York on steroids—the liveliness and the energy of the people are amplified by a thousand. And there’s the sheer amount of people in Bombay. It’s so overpopulated, it felt like you were always buzzing, which is also similar to living in New York. So there was familiarity. But I didn’t know the Indian culture, so that was challenging. Even though I’m half-Pakistani, which is culturally similar because it was all one country before the British split it up after they decolonized the region. Because my Pakistani father left us when we were young, I was raised fully American.
Q: You shot to fame after you did your first film, Rockstar. Tell us a little about what that was like to all of a sudden be a celebrity and in a foreign country, at that.
It was exciting, confusing, and overwhelming, and at the same time, it was somewhat upsetting because I lost my privacy. I was never trying to become famous, so I wasn’t prepared for that. It was really an accident that I became famous. The director saw me on an ad in Greece, found me out, and brought me to India to be his leading lady. And that was it. Also, being without friends and family was very tough, but I got through it. What I love about it, though, was that I am part of something bigger than me, an art form that is so big and that is forever. Even when I die, my work will live on. And that’s something pretty cool that I would have never imagined for myself.
I love that I am part of something bigger than me
Q: What did you learn about yourself while you were there?
I learned I’m more resilient than I thought. And I learned that whatever I put my mind to, I can accomplish. And living in India taught me that all humans are the same, and that we all want the same things in life. Being there also made me feel closer to my dad and know a little bit more about who I am. There are so many things that I learned that I can’t even list here because it was an experience of a lifetime. And it was an education.
Q: You say it was an education, but you do have a formal education. What is it?
Yes, I studied Fine Arts as a major and minored in psychology. I probably only went to college because my mom said I had to, and I had to make her happy. If it were up to me I would have learned a trade or started a business.
Q: I think being a famous actor in its own way is an enterprise, a business of sorts, isn’t it? So you are kind of a business person.
That’s true, people depend on me and I am a business. I have a team that looks after everything from my image to my investments and assets. I have to sign off everything having to do with my life, and people rely upon me for income because I am their employer. I have to be on top of everything from the expenses for my glam to my basic, everyday necessities. I have to be educated on so many thing like taxes, asset-building and investment opportunities, so that I can be stable and prepare for my future.
Q: Speaking of the future, what are you hoping for yours to look like?
I’m ready to settle down. All of the success that I am so fortunate to have experienced has led me to see what is really important, and that is health and family. One hundred percent. We live in a culture where everyone wants more, and is chasing what’s next, so I’m taking the time to enjoy the little things and go after what is real right now instead of trying to get more, more, more.
Q: Certainly you want more for your career, no? So what does ‘more’ look for you from a professional perspective?
I love Bollywood and will always make films there because India has become my home. I’m dipping my toes into Hollywood, though, and at the same time I’m an angel investor. I have made several investments of which I’m really proud, including CTZN cosmetics which just launched and won an Allure beauty award, which was such an honor for our small brand. But the real goal? It’s to have a true work-life balance. California is helping me figure that out.
I’m dipping my toes into Hollywood, and I’m an angel investor
Actor – Nargis Fakhri @nargisfakhri
Hair Stylist –Ric Brenin @ricbrenin
Make up artist – Maliha J Khan @malihajkhan
Photographer – Kriti Bisaria @kritibisaria
Stylist – Mahak Brahmawar @mahakbrahmawar
Styled with – Bhavyaa Prasad @bhavyaainy and Nora Russel
Production – Yamini Brahmawar @yamini_brahmawar