She’s been in the news ever since she came into the country. Whether it’s her love life, her behaviour on the reality show Bigg Boss or the Taliban threat to her life, Pakistani actress Veena Malik seems to have become India’s (and Pakistan’s) latest controversy queen. But no one tells the true story, says Veena. Okay. So what is the true story? Over lunch at Jasmine, the Chinese restaurant at Hotel Ramada Plaza, New Delhi, a meal during which she toyed at her food, Veena opened up.
Why are you known for controversy?
You know, it’s very easy to create a controversy, and in a lot of ways, it is not really a bad idea. But I have never tried hard at it. It’s just come to me naturally. I am a star. And controversies are part of a star’s life. People need someone to talk about. Today it’s me, tomorrow it’ll be someone else.
Is it really that simple?
Well, almost. It’s as simple as what gets portrayed in the media. For instance, I decided to come clean about my previous relationships, but some negative stories were highlighted. In Bigg Boss, out of 24 hours, footage of only 45 minutes was shown, which was edited entirely to the benefit of the channel. So how does a real picture really emerge?
But you knew the format beforehand. So why go into the Bigg Boss house?
The Bigg Boss house was like a refuge for me. I was going through huge emotional turmoil when I was offered the show. I had broken off with Asif (the Pakistani cricketer), the match fixing scandal had just broken, and I was an emotional wreck. I wanted to get away from everything. Bigg Boss offered me just that. I could be disconnected from everybody and everything that I knew. So I jumped at it.
It also gave you the opportunity to work in India.
Absolutely. And it was amazing how people accepted me here. I was nominated seven times and saved by the audience seven times. So it gave me a lot of popularity. I love it.
Hasn’t it also given you anxious moments? What about the Taliban threat?
Yes it has. I am anxious, but not scared. I believe in destiny. If they have to kill me, they’ll do it anywhere. Why should I stop living my life?
What did they really say?
One media group in Pakistan has received a threatening letter from the Taliban saying that they will kill me for working in India. We are not sure about its authenticity but Pakistan officials are trying to verify it.
So do you have a lot of security?
Not too much here. I feel very safe in India. But back home, yes, I do have security. And more than me, it’s my family I worry about. I am here while they are there and facing it. So I am scared for them.
Have you ever thought of asking for political asylum in India?
I did, after Bigg Boss, when my own family and friends told me the public in Pakistan was very angry with me. My people told me that I’d be killed if I went back. But thankfully, all that passed.
How does your family react now?
They are okay now. Things took some time to settle down, but I guess they have started accepting me for the way I am. I never really lived with my parents or four sisters and brother. My grandmother brought me up in a small village in Punjab. So in a lot of ways, I grew up far more independent than my siblings. Mere abbu thode Hitler kism ke hain, so while he could dominate my siblings, I was away from it all. I am very different from my family. In fact they took a lot of time to reconcile to the way I was.
How did you get into the glamour industry at all?
To save myself from an early marriage. I took up work and did an ad to avoid marriage at the age of 14. I thought if I started earning, maybe my parents wouldn’t insist on marrying me off. It worked.
Veena Malik has been known for two things recently – Ashmit Patel and shoes…
Ohhh my shoes!!!! How I love them. I don’t go anywhere without them. I just bought six pairs from Aldo yesterday. I have 500 pairs of shoes and about the same number of gowns. I have a separate house for them. I keep only my shoes and gowns there.
And Ashmit Patel?
(Laughs) What about him? Okay, I won’t deny that he is the closest to me. I call him every free minute I have. I share my deepest secrets and fears with him. For a change, here is a man who watches my back and stands up for me. So I am loving it. But we haven’t made any formal commitments. Humne jeene marne ki kasme nahi khai hain… abhi tak!!!
From HT Brunch, March 27
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