Kiara Advani, 22, is Ashok Kumar’s great grand-daughter and Saeed Jaffrey’s grand-niece. She is genuine and sensitive like her mom and strong like her father. She is an optimist, who comes from a close-knit family and values that she can share everything with them, including the sole relationship she has had in her life.
She is a home bird, who loves watching American TV serials. Ahead of her debut film Fugly, we met her at her plush South Mumbai home, where she talks to Bombay Times about her clarity of becoming an actress from the age of two, the warm Salman Khan and how she dreads her brother going away to study in the US. Excerpts:
How are you related to Ashok Kumar? My nana, who is Saeed Jaffrey’s brother, married twice. My first nani (my mom’s mom) was a Britisher. Even though he was a Muslim, he divorced her to marry my second nani (Bharti Ganguly), who is Ashok Kumar’s daughter. While my first nani went travelling around the world, it was my second nani who raised my mom from when she was 13. While my nana died a few years back, my first nani is back in India and we are all one big, happy family.
Your connection with Salman Khan? My mom knew Salman sir as they grew up together in Bandra. He would often tell my mother Genievev Advani how one day he would be a star. They have been friends for the longest time and would go cycling together. She introduced my mausie Shaheen to him and Salman sir and Shaheen mausie dated each other long back. It may have possibly been their first relationship. I have met him a few times at his house for lunch. He is very warm and friendly. My mother had come once on my shoot when Salman sir was on the set to shoot the title promotional song for Fugly. She had actually come to see him and not me, but he thought she had come for me and said, ‘You better give Kiara space. Don’t tag along with her as her mother’.
How did you get Fugly? I was born and brought up in South Mumbai. My father Jagdeep is a businessman and a Sindhi. My mother is half- Brit and half-Muslim. I am thus a cocktail of mixed blood. From the time I remember, I wanted to be an actress. I was Miss Wanting Attention all the time. If my mother was taking pictures, I never wanted her to take the camera off me ever. When I look at my videos from when I was even just two, I would be playing ballerina. My mother is a teacher and runs her own play school, so she was clear that I needed to complete my graduation. I studied at Cathedral School, where a lot of kids go abroad after Class XII. But I was clear that I wanted to be an actress and thus, even though I got 92% in my board exams, I applied only to Jai Hind College for Mass Communication and got in and completed my graduation. I did short courses of acting with Anupam Kher and Roshan Taneja and started meeting the right people through my mom. I gave a few auditions and was getting restless when I got a call from Anuradha Patel (my second nani’s daughter) asking me to send my pictures to one of her friends, Kabir Sadanand, who was making a film with newcomers. I auditioned and bagged my first role in Fugly, where I play a Delhi girl. I was thrilled as I had had no friends or exposure to Delhi and for me, it’s a big thing that I am playing this Delhi girl, that in reality I am not.
Listen to songs of ‘Fugly’ on Gaana.com
Coming from a business family, was your father comfortable with you choosing acting as a career? I come from a protected family and even in school, people assumed that I would be this snooty without-a-brain South Mumbai girl, who came to school in a chauffeur-driven car. In reality, I can totally adjust and wanted to feel local, so, without telling my dad, I decided to take a train once from a far off location, where we were doing a project, to come back to South Mumbai. When we sat in the train, it had been the first station and so the train was totally empty. But suddenly, all these guys came rushing in and we were pushed so badly that we landed in the dabbawala’s compartment. That too, was empty and we were thrilled that we had all that place to us, till Thane came and so many people came in, birds came in, people carrying onions and the whole compartment was totally full and stinking. That is the last time I took the train. It sounds cliched, but my father watched 3 Idiots and decided that he would let his kids do whatever they were passionate about.
Any other connection with the film industry? My parents dated each other seven years before they married and Juhi Chawla aunty and they have been friends since then. She has seen me since I was born. We would always be together on our Diwalis and Holis at either her house or ours. I was the eldest amongst the kids and would be always asked to perform for our parents and would be happy to be the centre of attraction. Juhi aunty is a very warm person and pretty much like my parents, is proud of me doing this film.
Your feelings before your release? Till when I was 13, my younger brother and I used to share a room and we would fight all the time so much so that my mom could not handle us. It’s only when she would go and sit on the side and close her eyes that we would imagine that she had collapsed and then would stop fighting. If we had to go to a relative’s house, she would need to bribe us with extra TV time allowance or with extra pocket money so that we would not fight there. Now, we both have our own rooms but we land up spending more time together. He is younger to me but he is the person who inspires me. He is a topper at Cathedral and is very focused and dedicated. I always wanted him to look up to me as an older sister, but he would always criticise me. But after doing this film, I know that he has started respecting me. He has now become the Mr Know-It-All of Bollywood and gives me all the news. And now that he is going to university in USA, I don’t know how I will manage without him and I don’t know when I am going to start crying. My mom is very excited about my film. While we are all in touch with each other, Saeed uncle lives in London and I met him last when I was just five. He is so respected for his acting and I would love to meet him again after my film.