Reigning Queen

She first appeared in and won a beauty pageant at the age of 15, and ever since, Urvashi Rautela has been the reigning queen of beauty contests. She has several titles to her name and is the youngest Indian woman to have received most of them. From the controversy surrounding her I Am She win to her recent success in the film Great Grand Masti, Urvashi opens up about her sometimes uphill journey.

How did you get into acting? Was it always planned?
No it wasn’t. I was in IIT and was a very good student. I wanted to pursue something in science or perhaps become an aeronautical engineer. But I was always quite creative. I was part of a dramatics class in school and was a good dancer and basketball player. The craze of modelling and participating in a beauty pageant began when I was very young. So I applied for and won Miss Universe India twice, Miss Tourism Queen of the Year in 2011, and Miss Asian Super Model 2011. It was during this time that the director of my debut film, Singh Saab the Great, spotted me and cast me alongside Sunny Leone and others.

You were crowned Miss Diva in 2015 following a controversy with I Am She in 2012. How did it feel?
The crown has always been my goal. During I Am She: Miss Universe India, Sushmita Sen was my mentor. She had faith in me and that’s what mattered the most. As far as the controversy goes, after I was crowed, the title was given to someone else because of confusion regarding my age. But if I could win a pageant when I was just 17 years old, and beat women who were much older than me, this meant that I was capable of winning again. Age is not a barrier. So I participated again and won the crown again. It was indeed a very proud moment.

Coming from a small town, how difficult was it to move to Mumbai and begin a career on your own?
More than coming from a small town, it’s the upbringing that matters. Luckily for me, my family has always had a broad perspective about life and career. With due respect to the women of India, many of whom believe that a woman’s place is in the house, my family had a difference in opinion. And in fact they always encouraged me to work and do what I wanted.

I lived in Delhi for a couple of years during my modelling days. I started modelling at the age of 15, and that gave me global recognition. Everything happened so naturally and organically that there was never a moment of apprehension. My parents had no problem with me modelling or even acting. If they had ever denied me of either I wouldn’t have done it; I’m a very dutiful daughter.

What made you get into the beauty and fashion business?
I won the Miss Teen India pageant at the age of 15, and after that, offers for modelling and ad campaigns started pouring in. Destiny played a major role in how my career shaped up, because none of it was ever planned. The only acting I had ever done prior to my first film was in my dramatics class in school.

Tell us about your experience working in the Masti franchise, opposite five others.
The experience was great. I worked with some very talented actors who’ve done great work in the past. I love all of their previous films. Even the director was great; I’ve grown up watching Indra Kumar’s films. It was a true learning experience.

So what else is in the pipeline?
There are a couple of projects in the pipeline but none are concrete enough to talk about. But there’s Honey Singh’s music video Gal Ban Gayi that I’m featured in.

Tell us about the Urvashi Rautela Foundation.
It’s a foundation formed several years ago by my parents in my hometown in Uttarakhand. I’m very happy that it has been so successful. Through this foundation, we have established free ambulances in the city for the needy, and alsohelp pay the hospital bills for many underprivileged people. We take care of all the small, often neglected necessities like providing blankets to old-age homes, paying for the education of some underprivileged kids and more.

You were an active basketball champ for years. Ever want to go back to it?
Yes, I’m thinking of getting back to it. In fact, it’ll be great if I can play a basketball player in a movie or act in a biopic of a stalwart from the sport.

Your name has appeared on the top 100 sexiest women in the world list. What type of man are you interested in?
I’m grateful to be a part of this list. I want a man who’s intelligent, mature, someone who respects women and their family, and a giving human being.

What do you do in your free time?
I like to spend time with my family and friends, relax and catch up on my reading, and listen to music.

You recently had an opportunity to crown the winner of Miss Diva 2016. How did it feel to be on the other side this year?
It was an emotional experience because I received the crown last year and I have an emotional connection with the crown. While crowning the winners, I advised them to believe in their dreams and to reach out to the stars to achieve their goals. I’m sure these gorgeous women who will be representing India will do their best on the global front.    --- as told to Niharika