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It's not right to lie, says Miss India

Tanu Shree Dutta, beauty queen, was in the city this week. She tells PRIYADARSSHINI SHARMA, in a chat about her life and views on beauty issues.

— Pics by K.K. Mustafah

THIS HEADY business of beauty! Board its flight and one can soar to unreal, imaginary heights, far away from the trying day-to-day business of living. But not true with beautiful and young Miss India, 2004, Tanu Shree Dutta. She has her delicately coloured burgundy head of hair firmly resting on responsible, shapely shoulders and her pedicured, dainty feet stuck firmly to the ground. In Kochi to inaugurate a jewellery show, Ms. Dutta, spoke pearls of wisdom as she sat surrounded by diamonds and platinum, gold and silver.

Not evasive on any issue, even the tricky query on the Lakshmi Pandit fiasco that rocked the beauty pageant this year, had a ready answer from Tanu Shree, "It is obviously not right to lie about anything in life. This is for everybody, especially for us youngsters to learn." And on the fool- proof method of entries and audition to a pageant of this stature, Ms. Dutta defended the selection process to this beauty contest. It was so sound that such a thing had never happened before. And what would she have as an answer to activists who brand the contest as `sexist'? The beauty queen, displaying an untutored poise and diplomacy said, "Even from a layman's perspective this is not such a bad deal. So many winners of beauty pageants have become the pride of the country. I don't feel it denigrates the woman. In India we respect the fact that skin exposure on stage does not go down well, so swimwear rounds here are not on stage." Stressing on the fact that her duties as Miss India take most of her time she was candid enough to admit `that all of us cannot be mother Teresa as she is incomparable' but being in a position of vantage she uses her platform for doing charity work. " At this point of my life this suits me the most." And though the profession of a doctor and a teacher are most noble, " every person can make his/her profession noble by the amount of sincerity one puts in to it."

And yes, beauty is as beauty does. Ms.Dutta is " trying to make my profession as noble as I can."

Smitten by her predecessors, Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai, Tanu Shree had a one-point-agenda of becoming a model and following the footsteps of her icons. So she moved out from being a small town girl of Jamshedpur, to the college kid in Pune and finally the big star in Mumbai. "Yes, it has been a big learning experience for me and it has not been easy," says Ms. Dutta. " It is always difficult to stay away from parents. I used to be homesick. Initially I had no contacts. One had to do everything oneself from paying telephone bills to cooking. There were no friends at that time." And so she worked hard and steadily, lonely but not lost. " On the college campus I used to be ready to model for shows without any money, because that is where my interest lay. I wasn't gorgeous looking that somebody would just approach me. I had to go and ask them, please, please take me. But I was good at academics so teachers would recommend me many times. Once I got recognised, then things were easier."

And recognition came with a Big Bang. Before her tryst with the world of beauty, Tanu Shree had had her date with music. Having learnt singing and kathak at the Tagore Society, her catchy and bubbly Hindi music video " Saiya dil mein aana rei" became a buzz line on young lips. With that she made her mark in music and acting and then the unbelievable happened. She became Miss India, Universe, 2004.

But if Quito, Ecuador was exciting and fun, Kochi is where Tanu Shree was all set to holiday later this month. " Then this inauguration came up. But believe me, this is not the only time for me here. There is no one in the world who has not heard of Kerala. In Bahrain the Prime Minister of Bahrain said that the people from Kerala were very hardworking and that he loves them."

Basking in the lights and glitz of the awesome experience and with the ramp still burning before her, the arc lights are waiting to be turned on. Acting is very much in the offing, " even a Malayalam film, if the case may be" but college harks her back. "I am going to complete my studies" says the eager undergraduate and tells how she cracks the question paper as she goes full steam into studying one month before the exams. " I took Rapid Classes for a month in accounting and though accounts has been difficult for me, I put in 16 to 17 hours of studies in the last few weeks before the exams. At present I am able to balance both family and career, my duties as Miss India."

And so she maintains a fine balance between her different worlds, her dreams and hopes, not ruling out anything, except that "certain things are better left to destiny and luck."

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