The Norwegian-Punjabi beauty has sizzled on celluloid…but her on-screen presence was unfortunately confined mostly to item numbers. After a lacklustre 10-year stint in the industry, the sardarni siren found her much-awaited place in the limelight as the runner-up in Bigg Boss Season 5, which aired on television from October 2011 to January 2012.
Raspreet Chahal aka Mahek Chahal, a self-proclaimed 'proud Punjabi' who was born and bred in Norway, began her career in Bollywood in 2003. She landed a lead role in Nayee Padosan, her big screen debut, after winning the Miss Movie International title abroad. She then scored hit item numbers in Chameli (2004) and Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011). After supporting roles in Wanted and Main Aur Mrs Khanna, Chahal has now launched her export clothing line, Mahek Chahal Clothing. The actor shares her journey with HT City.
Chahal was born into a Jatt Sikh family which migrated to Norway in the '70s. As her father was quite conscious of his children imbibing the Punjabi culture, the family visited gurdwaras every Sunday, watched Punjabi movies, listened to old Punjabi songs and spoke in Punjabi too. "It was only during adolescence, when peer acceptance is important that we chose to speak to our parents in English. But the language and culture stayed with us and I am glad that it did," she says.
Chahal says that Bigg Boss gave her a break no big movie could have. "I was the wild card entry and finished second! People had the chance to see the 'real me' on the show sans makeup and minus the third person account! Through TV, I could reach every household and heart. It gave momentum to my fan following and the love that I received from the public was simply amazing. I am in touch with Shonali (Nagrani), Vida (Samadzai) and Sid (Siddharth Bhardwaj) from the house. I think the people who chose me for the show saw a straightforward quality in me with no pretenses, so thank God for that!"
"The biggest names in the (entertainment) industry are doing item numbers, so the 'Shielas' and 'Munnis' are here to stay! If the audience wants it, the producers and directors would too, so obviously you'll see the heroine dancing to their tunes," says Chahal, justifying her string of Bollywood item numbers while adding, "Dancing is my passion and even when I am all dressed up to go out somewhere, I can't resist moving, shaking and grooving while checking myself out in the mirror!"
Chahal's Bigg Boss encounter came with its fair share of controversy and romantic linkups. "The linkup with Salman Khan (the host of Bigg Boss Season 5) was a predictable move by my detractors. People want to break you mentally and when nothing else works, they start churning the rumour mills! I am pleased to announce that I am happily engaged to Danish Khan (a computer engineer from Norway and Chahal's boyfriend of four years), post his big proposal to me on national television (Danish got down on one knee and asked his lady love to marry him on the grand finale episode of Bigg Boss Season 5)! Marriage can wait though, as both of us need some time to build up our careers but it will certainly take place sooner than later. I am not one of those people who will turn 40 and still have no family. So, wait and watch!"
The reality TV star launched her own export-clothing label called Mahek Chahal Clothing in 2010. "When I was in the Bigg Boss house, people saw me flaunting my own style and I guess they liked it. Being from Norway, I know the fashion sensibility of the westerners. They want to wear something subtly Indian - but not too much where they stand out like a sore thumb. So, I have started this venture and we will soon be going online with it."
Chahal says that both mental and physical aspects of health are important to her. After she lost her father and tragically, her young niece (both in 2010), she gravitated towards spirituality for peace of mind. "I find solace in spirituality and for physical health, I start my day with yoga and breathing exercises. I follow a strict high-protein and low-carb diet. And, I must confess, I am addicted to running - it helps me relax, de-stress and think through things in a way that no other exercise can."
Currently, the upcoming entrepreneur is heading back home to Norway on a holiday. And, when she returns to India in July, there's a series of films she will be considering including a Punjabi movie. "I feel this is the day and age of multi-starrer movies. Look at movies like Housefull which had three heroines. One has to have solid backing and political clout to bag a single-heroine movie. I have no godfather in the industry. I have made it (in the ind-ustry) on my own terms and talent. And, I am looking forward to doing so in the future too," she smiles.