Whether it’s food or life,model-turned-actor Sangeeta Bijlani keeps it simple
She walks in and heads turn. Some recognise and acknowledge; some wonder what the buzz is about. Sangeeta Bijlani is cool. She has seen it all – as a model, actor and wife of a top cricketer. Glamour and attention don’t mean much. Her new-found love is to serve the people of her husband’s constituency. Mohammad Azharuddin is the Member of Parliament from Moradabad and Sangeeta is his guiding force.
The 360 at The Oberoi is Sangeeta’s favourite restaurant in Delhi. “They have an excellent staff. When you walk in, they all sport a disarming smile.” We discover the warmth soon as a table is set in a quiet corner. “Private”, as chef Narendra Sharma whispers.
Sangeeta has maintained herself well. “I don’t starve myself. I eat every three hours. It is mostly vegetarian. Drink three litres of water a day. I live simple. I think simple,” she stresses. The order, too, is simple.
Lemon soda to begin with and followed by her favourite salad and sushi. “Wait until it is served,” she says even as she lets the chef know her preferences. He reminds us that the salad is a good, healthy lunch. “Summer salad. It has all the colours of a rainbow,” quips Sangeeta. “I can have salads any time.” The salad has pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes.
“Sushi too,” she adds. It is fresh water eel, scallops with unagi sauce and mayonnaise. Chef Sandeep Kalra also suggests the pave of watermelon with mesclun mix and feta. She nods. The lunch order is complete.
Sangeeta, who did 25 movies, loves her association with the film industry. “I enjoyed every moment of my film career. It is a wonderful time to be in film industry today. Technically, the progress has been amazing. The range is much more. Cinema today is more realistic. Even big banners are willing to experiment. The focus of Indian films is international now. I really like watching films. It is a great way to unwind.”
Her personal best? “Tridev. It was a huge hit and the director (Rajeev Rai) convinced me to work in the movie. Cinema taught me to deal with the masses, to be aware of different languages and culture, get a flavour of all walks of life.” How much did modelling help? “It was a stepping stone to get into movies.”
Sushi arrives. “I love it. Yummy,” Sangeeta is delighted.
Great at tea
What would she serve at home for us? “I don’t like to cook but I can cook. I can serve you roti, subzi and daal.” For Azharuddin, it is always “spaghetti”. She smiles, “He also likes the way I prepare tea.”
How does she view the popularity of dance and music in Hindi cinema? “They make the films very entertaining. Song and dance have always been part of Indian cinema and will always be. Even foreigners are now dancing to Indian music. It appeals to them.”
Sangeeta was one of the key poll planners for Azharuddin. “It helped to be an actor when I campaigned for him. I was running a parallel campaign for women and youth. I want to reach out to people. We know we can work and make a difference. Meeting them during Azhar’s poll campaign was a humbling experience,” says this organised lady who is planning to launch an NGO.
Our talk veers towards cricket. “Honestly, I don’t understand the game much but I know it was a wonderful experience to watch Azhar play. He was a great entertainer. He is still so dedicated and passionate about cricket.”
She ran a fitness centre in Hyderabad before moving to Mumbai. “My dad is my guru; a huge influence on me,” she says. “I am giving time to myself now.” She has a three-hour schedule in the morning that includes yoga, pranayam and meditation. “I like spiritual books, too; can read them the whole day.”
“Every time you come back you look prettier,” a hostess compliments as we take leave. “So sweet of you,” Sangeeta blushes. Azhar will be glad reading this!