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Mama mia!

Drop-dead gorgeous Malaika Arora is also a great sport who excels in good-natured banter

MALAIKA ARORA is sensible (not that she isn't sensuous and not that she'd disagree) and suave. That's why it's worth the risk — I mean getting straight to her. Even if it's getting started from the green room. People in the middle, they always get it wrong. Malaika backstage was simply affable. You request a chat in the midst of her hosting the myAccenture fest last Saturday. "Sure." You ask again just to be sure. "Sure. But could we do it after the show?" You know then it will happen. Malaika does a quick "Chaiyan Chaiyan" from Dil Se and rushes into the green room. The techie boys couldn't get enough of her though. And a hundred mobile cameras flash.

She started walking. One look at the horde and you think the chat won't happen after all. You rush into the green room. Just 10 minutes, ma'm? "Sure." You look at her again. Shall we? "Sure. Walk along."

And you start walking backstage. You really walk fast because the fans are rushing. You walks as if you're part of her entourage. Someone then says left. Then a quick right. Open air and the car's there. She's in and the windows roll up. Someone tries to push you away. You glance at her. "Come inside," Malaika says.

What a relief!

The rigors

The car's engine purrs into life. "Go ahead." Malaika, the rigors of hosting shows live, what's it like? "It is that given moment. It is spontaneity and leaves little room for errors because errors happen. That is also why it's exciting." Hosting on TV? "TV is relatively easier. It is rehearsed. Pre-recorded. There's a script. And you can edit. It cuts room for error."

Does class matter in a hosting career? "Not at all. There is no class or religion. What matters is presence, how best you present yourself."

What about language? English seems to matter? And looks surely?

"You need to know English. But now many channels have come up. In the past, music on MTV was in English, now 90 per cent is in Hindi. So, you can host in Hindi and in other languages for regional music. So, it's really a combination of presence, knowledge, language, yeah, maybe even good looks." You've done Dil Se, Kaante and Kaal is coming up. If more films come, would hosting move to the background? "Let's see. If good films come, I'll take them. But films require undivided attention. You won't have time for others. In TV, there's life other than TV. I've loved hosting. But yes, hosting may go to background if films come. Big screen is demanding. But that is natural."

Shah Rukh now, he brings a lot of energy, doesn't he? "Oh yes, it's fabulous working with him. His energy is infectious. The sets are abuzz with him around. And he is very warm."

What was it for you that first time? On the roof train? Malaika laughs loudly. "Shah Rukh was looking at the sets to detail. I liked that. He would always help people. And when I was not clear, he helped me get my steps. He'd literally tell me, move that way, move this way. My god, he's simply so much energy."

Malaika, do you love Shah Rukh more than your husband? She laughs ever so loudly over the roar of Bangalore traffic. "Oh, no, no, no, we are just friends... My marriage is very secure." Sure? "Yeah. But I should say professions, many times, do put people together!"

So, it must feel nice to dance with Shah Rukh again? "Oh, Shah Rukh again. You don't seem to get over him! Look, you see him as a fan. I am very friendly with his wife. We have a different equation." (In the event, she didn't dance with him: the rain ensured that and the event, Temptations, is rescheduled for April 24.)

Deep down, what's glamour life like? Hanging on to a self-image?

"Once the grease is off, it is a reality check. You are a wife. You are a mother and your child is screaming. And you've think of Arbaaz who may not be home!"

That's when the car drives up to the lobby. You look for a place to sit and you have folks wondering who's this guy fumbling with three sheets of torn paper, a college bag and a camera walking with the dazzling lady in coolers! And in the middle of notes, the clueless seek your pen and secure autographs! Somebody must've told them.

"Anything else you'd like to know?" Malaika asked.

The image

The self-image bit, you say. The raindrops get heavier. Malaika suggests the lift and a walk towards her room. On the lift and down the corridor, she is thoughtful. "I realise it is about putting on a front, playing a character. But you've got to be grounded."

You're convinced? "Of course I am. Today I may have everything. Tomorrow, we don't know. In my field, a lot of young girls come in. You have to step back from the arc lights gracefully."

And then you say bye in the corridor. Ten minutes later you're fumbling with your camera when Malaika steps out with her son. She's lookes surprised to see you there. You tell her that you were checking the camera. That's Arhaan?

You stroke his cheeks. He bawls for mom who graciously agrees to one more shot. And then you say love to Shah Rukh. "I will convey that. Say that to me too." Sure.


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