“The book runs through the last twenty years of my life, and a little more. These are years that took me from the ramp-to riches-to renunciation,” one-time Bollywood star Anu Aggarwal speaks to Teresa Rehman on her biography ‘Anusual’
1. Is this book a new avataar of Anu Aggarwal?
anuANEW. aNEWaNU. Reinvented. Born Again.
‘Anu in a new avatar’ was an article printed in 1998 in a Mumbai newspaper. It stated how once bitten by the glamour bug people can never leave. But Anu has renounced it all, and gone to a yoga university where simple loose clothing and basic living is her style…
The book runs through the last twenty years of my life, and a little more. These are years that took me from the ramp-to riches-to renunciation. I transgressed through a few avatars. The final one being the current one I am in. Since the book ends with who I am now, the avatar I am in now, I guess it would suit to call it that.
2. What is your book about? Is it an autobiography?
It is a ‘Do not say Die Story’. Pretty much about winning when all seems lost. Well I use my life as an exemplary one to assert the point that we can all rise from our limitedness, grief, raise our human levels of consciousness. My life has been a dramatic human life with acute pain, cracking trauma, evisceration, as well as glorious super success, and a return from the clutches of the death angel. It is a living proof that we can go beyond the human limitations. Not much is impossible. When Mahesh Bhatt captioned a picture of mine for my first film Aashiqui as ‘Expect the Unexpected’ I did not know then that I naturally represent that.
Also I feel gratitude for the love and prayers of my fans, friends, and family – because of them I am here. It is like an accident-prone child I’d walk home with an injury, go to Ma and say “Mom look…” It would freak her out whilst I stood like an unmoving doll. Similarly, I felt I had to share the ‘my new avatar as you call it’ it with our human community. We are all one – I understood from my near-death-experience. I started to write about what I have been through in the last few years of my life people know little about, and of course in that sense it is autobiographical. It is not really an autobiography but it certainly is autobiographical.
3. It is said that you gave up your career in search of peace. What is your take?
Ironically it was when I was on the peak of my modeling, movie, endorsements, launches career – I was restless like never before. I was agitated. When I had it all is when deep down I felt I had nothing. I was lost I was unhappy. Renunciation came as a calling. At this time I had resonated with ‘Show me more’. I already seemed to have been given the best the world had to offer. Born a natural born achiever and adventurer, I for once didn’t know where else to go for it. A thirst, an unquenchable thirst was choking me down. Black mega-sized birds of discontentment flaked my window sill. A glamour doll, a big thing, I wanted to become No-Thing.
And I didn’t know what would lead me to that. In time to come I would find – Peace is my innermost. I have written a poem on that.
4. Please tell us about your stint with yoga?
Yogi state is one where nothing is impossible and how we could peak our human potential. Get the maximum advantage from the life we are born into. Sthram Sukham Asanam said Patanjali and I was captivated. Steady and calm was what I was looking for at the time when bombarded by media, paparazzi and unwarranted public attention. Yogic lifestyle brought about a transformation. A positive outlook to being me, and viewing others minus judgments. In times to come, I wouldn’t be the same person again. It calmed me down. Like pouring cold water on a burning fire, extinguishes it. Yoga showed: We need such little and we city dwellers seem to be ever so dissatisfied with the best of candies we have.
In absolute silence I started studying the nature of mind and the practices to realign it. There is a Tantric saying “Because of the mind the world appears, without the mind the world disappears.” I understood the world seems the way it does, not because it exactly is like that, but because we view it in a particular way. Our own colors of ignorance lace it. Karmic bondages and the role they play in our everyday existence. Advanced Buddhist meditation would give me a glimpse of No-thingness I had longed for.
5. Would you want a film be made out of your book?
Sure! Lights-Camera-Action has been an instrumental part of my life. There is no denying or escaping that. I had a chance to work in some beautiful films (out of the handful I did) and there is no reason why a compelling story such as ‘anusual’ ‘could not be presented onscreen as a gorgeous film.
I began writing poems when seven, and acting in plays, playing basketball, and learning Kathak dance around the same time.
When I signed Aashiqui I’d done so considering it was an art film. Art always took precedence over commercial stuff for me then. But today I understand the necessity for a story to reach a larger audience. Massive impact is about that. The first manuscript I wrote was artistic. It was non-linear. It even had my poems, paintings, drawings alongside prose. Then I understood the necessity of a linear story, a chronological take that would be understood by a wider range of readers.
6. How would you like to be remembered as — an actor, an author or a yoga practitioner?
All I suppose – I am it none, I am a, I am it all. Holistic approach tells we are not a part but a sum of all parts. A reason why when treating a physical/mental ailment in natural sciences instead of starting with the individual problem we focus on going to the root of the problem. Consider the psychosomatic approach. Fresh studies of neuroscience are doing that too. Vedic science and Neuroscience today clap hands. This is encouraging. For us, all in preventive therapeutic yoga, or even Naturopathy.
Acting is my second skin. And I love writing.
7. What are your future plans? Any more books?
Definitely. I have been a personal diary writer since I was 11. Professional Writing is a new art I indulged in I suppose. I recently found my writing is ‘straight from the heart style’ as my publisher HarperCollins would say. And suddenly all the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of my life fell into place. ‘Confessional writing’ is what I started with without knowing if was – one of the first plays I acted in, Kamani auditorium Delhi was ‘My Story’ of Kamala Das. I didn’t know then she was a confessional writer. I was 16 then. Sylvia Plath who I identified with later especially when she talked of women as ‘objects’ of lust and desire I had said. A part of the poem I wrote about male domination:
Too many generations of subordination
you see what you want to see you are
Blinded by ideas of vanity
You won’t set me free…
And my poems, what emotions I tackle, changed with the passage of time. The woman bondage became lesser. Women’s empowerment I worked for all my life changed to Human empowerment. Sufi poetry, the devotional, naked love for Allah, or God or super force started to show up. Again, I would like to rally on the changes in my poetry writing with life’s experiences over a period of time.
And thus came about naked romance:
Enters the eye
Drenched in pure love
The next book will be poems and my watercolor, acrylic, graphic paintings. But then I do have a sequel to anusual I am working on as well…