Milind Soman turns publisher with an e-magazine on cinema and culture. The former supermodel talks to Sudhish Kamath about his fitness and film pursuits
Model, actor, producer and now publisher, Milind Soman has worn different hats ever since he started modelling 25 years ago.
He has always made news — from the time he shot into the limelight as one of India’s first male sex symbols with Alisha Chinoy’s Made in India, got into legal trouble for posing nude sporting just shoes and a python along with Madhu Sapre, started acting with Mouthful of Sky and Captain Vyom, produced Rules- Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula and ran a record-breaking 1,500 km in 30 days earlier this year to spread environmental awareness for NDTV’s Greenathon.
Last week, he launched his baby, The Big Indian Picture, an e-magazine on cinema and culture.
We caught up with Milind while he was holidaying in Goa for an email interview.
What was your rationale behind starting The Big Indian Picture and what exactly will your involvement in it be?
The thought of The Big Indian Picture had been with me for a long time, perhaps five-six years. I guess the desire to see Indian cinema explored and shared on a wider platform than just glamour, film reviews and gossip made me realise that if I wanted to see it happen, I would have to make it happen. The time seems right, as the wave of independent cinema, young, visionary directors and mainstream producers willing to back them, has been gaining a lot of support in India as well as the world over. TBIP will widen the conversation on cinema to include not only the people in front of the camera and the film makers themselves, but also everyone affected, influenced and inspired by cinema, from writers and artistes to politicians and social activists, and everyone in between. When we say cinema, we don’t mean just Hindi films, but cinema from every corner and language of India. At an international level, this will also be an eye opener to global audiences, who so far have seen Indian cinema only as ‘Bollywood’. The Internet lends itself superbly to this endeavour, as any particular subject may be illustrated with text, video, images and audio to create something that is by itself a work of art. The response has proved that this space is something that has been long awaited.
My involvement will be to facilitate the very talented team that has come together, to live up to the mandate and the vision of the big Indian picture.
How would you describe your journey from a model to actor to producer to publisher? What have you been in the pursuit of all your life?
I have moved a lot, but also not really, from one thing to another. For example, I don’t swim anymore, but all the lessons I have learnt as a competitive swimmer in my youth, still stand by me in my day-to-day life. I am still as passionate about my wellness now, as I was when I was 15, though perhaps for different reasons. I am as involved in production, acting, fashion and fitness as I ever was. The lessons learnt at different times, about myself, about people and about life are things that I don’t forget. To me, whatever the activity, it is all about enjoying the energy of the moment and all that it has to offer. Everything that I have ever done has opened a new door to learning and experience. I have always walked through those doors, and kept them all open.
I don’t know if I am in pursuit of something or running away, but I love to explore, and that is what drives me.
You have been one of modern India's strongest male sex symbols long before it became mandatory for the leading man in Hindi cinema to look good without his shirt... What does this tag of being called a sex symbol mean to you?
As a competitive swimmer, I was always comfortable with my body, and when I started out as a model almost 25 years ago this helped me in a profession that was all about the way you looked. I neither hate nor love the tag of sex symbol, but it has always been good for business. To the people who confer it, this tag may mean anything, good, bad or ugly, and of course even this changes with the fashion of the decade. However, the tag tells me nothing about myself, to me it has always meant money. Nothing more, nothing less.
How seriously do you take yourself as an actor? We hear you have a role in the Tamil film Maattraan next.
I take everything I do seriously, even if it’s a walk in the park. I try to do my best in all that I do and out of all that I have done, acting is probably the most fun, with the least responsibility. I have never viewed acting as a career, I have no strategy and no ambition in this regard. I have rarely refused a role if I like the people involved in a project, so not surprisingly, the exciting characters I have been offered have been few and far between. But I would like to do more, this is the beginning of a fascinating time for Indian cinema and hopefully I will be offered more interesting roles.
How easy or difficult is it for one of the most attractive men around in the country to find love? Or maintain relationships?
I find love everywhere. And so can everyone else. Maintaining a relationship is another matter altogether, and has very little to do with beauty or sex appeal. Finally it all comes down to a real recognition of emotional compatibility on the one hand and on the other, perhaps more importantly, the willingness and patience to work toward common goals.