With three films coming up, showstopper Dipannita Sharma Atwal talks about life, travel, movies and the one addiction she is never going to overcome.
16 years in fashion and industry and Dipannita Sharma Atwal is still ‘most wanted’ by designers and doing things her way. With three movies scheduled to release this year, she is as understated as ever, making time to be the showstopper for her favourite designer or to walk the runway for international labels like Valentino and Fendi or to even, till recently, be involved in yacht tourism. Her movies are all thrillers, and she admits to having a weakness for this genre that can be traced to her first movie back in 2002, December 16, alongside fellow model, Milind Soman.
She has an appetite for crime thrillers on TV as well and investigative murder mysteries – Hannibal, Castle, Criminal Mind and 24. “I am all geared up for House of Cards,” she says excitedly, referring to the American political drama with Kevin Spacey. When not bungee jumping or squeezing in some time for jet boat rides, Sharma watches Alfred Hitchcock reruns. It is an addiction she enjoys feeding and, back in 2008, Sharma actually took part in the AXN reality show, Fear Factor, when she climbed a glass wall and crawled up the 17th floor of a building.
Case of opposites
On the other hand, Sharma also likes to unwind with her beloved collection of Tintin and Asterix. ‘‘I sometimes laugh out loud while reading Asterix, especially at shoots. These guys are my heroes,’’ she grins. At 37, our heroine is comfortable in her skin, even if she shares that it took her a while to come to terms with her broad forehead. ‘‘I grew up disliking it until I was told it’s a sign of intelligence,’’ she chuckles. Married to a third generation entrepreneur, Dilsher Singh Atwal, Sharma intends to satisfy her wanderlust and soon, start a grooming school, a boulangerie and write a book. It will go beyond the ‘‘candyfloss of the industry’’ and show its positive side. ‘‘Back when I was a model, I never touched alcohol, cigarettes or did drugs. And that goes for many others as well,’’ she insists. But first, let’s talk movies.
Known for her roles in the award-winning My Brother Nikhil and Ladies v/s Ricky Bahl, which also starred Parineeti Chopra, the leggysupermodel currently has a full calendar. “I am working on Pizza which is a horror/thriller, a remake of the Tamil film, with Arunodhay Singh and directed by the famous editor Srikar Prasad’s son, Akshay Akkineni. Then there is Ikka, another thriller, plus a socio-drama tentatively called Take It Easy,’’ she shares. Her roles, she reveals, vary from that of an über glamorous woman to ‘‘a simple housewife.’’ Happy with the work coming her way, she has no intention of being typecast.
As for the long break after her last screen appearance, 2012’s Jodi Breakers, she says, “It’s about getting the right offer. As far as genres are concerned, I wouldn’t limit myself, but rom-coms and thrillers are my favourite.” Yet, B-town competition leaves Sharma cold. “I just worry about doing a good job with what I have chosen. The only thing I have the liberty of ensuring is choosing my roles carefully, big or small,” she adds. Crowned Miss Photogenic at the Miss India pageant she participated in many years ago, Sharma has certainly learned the art of being politically correct.
The Guwahati lass stays true to her roots, having recently walked the ramp for Deepika Govind in New Delhi, a designer who showcases Muga, Pat and Eri silk, all Assamese staples and Sharma’s favourites. About the evolution of fashion in the country or the limitations, Sharma has her views. “The fashion world is as affected by the commercialisation of everything and the economy, as any other industry. Sometimes the new designers can’t push boundaries, and I don’t blame them because times are such,”she confides. As for this generation of models, she finds them well prepared. “I wish I was as well groomed. I started my fashion career in 1998, and back then I used to roam in jeans and T-shirts with frizzy hair and no make-up!” That said, designers love her for her work ethics and congeniality and besties in the industry include fellow models Nethra Raghuraman and Fleur Xavier. As for looking stunning at 37, she puts it down to ‘sleep’.
‘‘I need ten hours of sleep. Also, when I was young I did not have a life. I wouldn’t go out partying. I did not do 100 movies, never had a tight schedule and I think that is paying off now,” she says. As for surviving the pressures of her professional world, Sharma has pointers. “One thing about the glamour industry (fashion or films) that I learnt early is that you have to be in control of your life. Because the minute you let go a little you will be dragged down into a recurring cycle,” she explains.
Having travelled for years, Sharma says her best culinary experiences were in London and Paris. “In Paris, there is an area dominated by the Polish people and you find the best plain tea cake here. They come in lemon, orange, chocolate and other flavours. In India, a plain cake means nothing to us, but I love the concept abroad. Also unforgettable was the choux pastry that melted in my mouth in London’s Oxford Street,” says the hot cook, who self-admittedly makes good plain chocolate cake and a decent sponge cake. Sharma has few indulgences and monthly spa appointments, travel and road trips are some of them. A memorable road trip was from New York to Miami and then to Canada.
She gives Tokyo a thumbs up, for its warm and helpful people, and recalls how an old lady held her by hand and dropped her at the right platform in a train station when she got lost. “I was pretty embarrassed, and at the same time, wondered if I would ever do something similar for anyone,’’ she recalls. As for turning entrepreneur with the yacht chartering business she shared with her husband, Sharma has plans to start anew. “We are lovers of the sea and wanted to show a side of Mumbai, which is usually forgotten in the rigmarole of city life.” Meanwhile, the school she hopes to start soon will cater to those who are serious about modelling, and the dessert fan also wants to go to culinary school before she sets up her boulangerie.
Greatest fear: The thought of any paranormal experience
Fit factor: I’m not a fitness freak and don’t have a regime. Every year, for a couple of months I take up an activity such as dancing, walking or swimming
Gadgets call: My knowledge of cars has increased thanks to my husband. To me, a car is just a means to travel from one place to the other Character analysis: I’d rather stay away from people who put up a pretence and hide behind pseudo intelligence
PERFECT CITY: I’m very happy living in Mumbai, although occasionally I feel like running away to the European countryside to live in a little house, have fresh strawberry jam and cream, sing songs and go on walks
CAUSE FOR WORRY: The lack of civic sense around, the growing angst and rudeness in society.
DIRECTOR WISHLIST: Rajkumar Hirani and Farhan Akhtar
BEST READ:Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Heroes, about leading men in Bollywood since 1920
1. Bangkok: Siam Paragon is where I shop. They have something to suit all budgets
2. Dubai: I generally stock up on clothes, shoes and bags. I like Jimmy Choo for shoes, Moschino and Salvatore Ferragamo for bags. You get brands that are not in any other country. Strangely, I have never entered the souk there and don’t think I ever will.
3. New York: Everything is on sale and you get great bargains. Plus, there are flea markets that showcase new designers.
1. Greece: The luxury cruises are brilliant as is the Six Senses Spa.2. Bali: The Grand Hyatt resortspecial secured zone where you can take walks by the beach. There are very few hotels in that region and few people.
3. France: One can feel pampered here and even a small store is high on luxury.
By Mrinalini Sundar