The actress reveals how Mumbai shaped who she is as a person and as a professional and how it introduced her husband into her her life...
Born to a Bengali family in Delhi, Bipasha Basu lived there till she was eight, then moved to Kolkata with her family. At age 17, she moved to Mumbai and stayed back for the long haul. She won the Ford Models Supermodel of the World contest and was flown to New York where she began her successful modelling career. She returned to Mumbai, got a break as supporting actress in Aitraaz and then as the main lead actress in Raaz. Now, the actress lives with her husband Karan Singh Grover at their spacious, sea-facing apartment in Khar. Bips, as she is known by friends, tells us of her journey so far in Mumbai and why she loves the city.
My first trip
"I first came to Mumbai for a family vacation when I was 10 years old. For the duration of the holiday, we stayed at the Juhu Centaur Hotel (which now is shut and is called the Tulip Star). I fell in love with the ocean and knew I wanted to one day live in this city."
My first home
"In 1996, I won the Ford Supermodel Pageant and life changed for me after that. I worked in NYC and Paris. I shifted back to Mumbai in 1998, before I was to leave for Tokyo. After I returned from NYC, everyone had forgotten me by then. Initially, I was put up at the truck drivers’ colony in Kalina and for me, that was a rude culture shock. I stayed in a one-room apartment with a sweet lady. The area was terrible and my digs were shabby, but I didn’t have the guts to tell my parents as they would call me back."
"Photographer Farokh Chotia was the only friend I had and I would take the bus to go to his studio in town and stay there the whole day. After work, he would drive me back. On the days I wouldn’t go to his studio, I would buy a packet of vegetable noodles and come back home early. I couldn’t step outside after 4 pm. When I complained, Nari Hira took me in to stay with his son and mom. It was very sweet of them to do that and I stayed with them as a house guest for more than a month."
"By then, my modeling work had picked up, so I moved to Bandra where all my friends stayed. First, I stayed as a paying guest in Mount Mary where my landlords, aunt Cecilia and Peter uncle adopted me like their own daughter. They would throw parties and cook for me."
"The decision was always was pretty clear that I would eventually settle down in Mumbai. After Paris, I decided that I couldn’t be a vagabond all my life, I needed roots. Though I loved my modeling work, I was becoming too much of a person that I wasn’t. I was leading a very shallow life even though I was enjoying it. At 18, most of my colleagues were leading a life full of drugs and alcohol. I was very protective about myself and didn’t allow myself to do that."
"At 18, I realised that Mumbai is the place for me to settle down. I had made good friends with normal folks and I loved my work. Initially, life was very tough, especially, as I could never tell my parents how bad it was. For days I didn’t have any money and would subsist on just bananas. Dino (Morea) and I would share Rs 10 thali where I would eat the rice and he the chapatis. As a group, we would go to a restaurant, order one ice cream for everyone and sit there for hours."
Friends in the city
"Soon, I started living alone at a nice 1BHK rented apartment. A bunch of friends would always be there with me. We would have sleepovers all the time. My apartment was like a bachelors pad. I was the Monica in Friends serial but I made some amazing friends since then who became like my family in Mumbai. They are like an extended family. Queenie (Woodham) took me in as her seventh daughter. Her daughters Susanne (Dadhich) and Deanne (Pandey) are my best friends today. It’s the lovely friends that I made who made my journey in this city so spectacular. They supported and gave me the strength to stay on in beautiful Mumbai."
"My foundation was built during those early years in Mumbai and shaped by the wonderful people I met. Today, I understand the value of work, money, who I am and hard work. I am a self-made woman. I have struggled, but always with a smile. Nobody could make do anything I didn’t want to do. I am very headstrong and ever had to bend down to anyone. It is very tough to stick to your true self at that moment, but later on, you can look back and laugh when you understand it happened for a reason. There is no point being bitter and cynical."
‘Just go for it’
"I bought my own home in Khar for the first time. For two months, I searched for a sea-facing apartment in Bandra, but couldn’t find one which was to my liking. My broker took me to see this stunning property on the highest floor where I could see the ocean. Though it was way above my budget my agent persuaded me take a loan and book it. I went back to my rented apartment and cried my heart out. I didn’t know how to make this kind of money. I took the loan and paid the entire amount back in six months. God has been very kind. Living in Mumbai on my own made me realise that you have to take the plunge. If you work hard and believe in it, you can achieve your dreams. Just go for it! Today, I feel very proud of myself. For a girl from nowhere to have a place of her own in an alien city gives me a sense of achievement."
Why I love Mumbai
"I love Mumbai because of the freedom and respect it gives to working women, the diverse cultures which co-exist so peacefully, the ocean and the food. I’m a foodie and Sundays are always family days. My fave haunts are Indigo Bandra, Yautcha, Basilico, Royal China and Bastian for seafood where the crabs are fabulous. They are easy, regular hangouts for me. I love the fact that Mumbai offers all the best cuisines from abroad - from Japanese, Thai and Malaysia to Parsi, Bengali and Moghlai food."
"Mumbai also introduced me to my husband. I love Karan (husband Singh Grover) because we are like twin souls — we believe in enjoying life like traveling and loving nature. Kahan leke jaogi ye sab — we Indian tend to live like robots, save and die and so are unable to enjoy the money we have earned. It’s about the choices you make in life."
"I love Mumbai because you can come from anywhere and become somebody. It’s a very cosmopolitan city. I am a Hindu, but at the age of 18 when I stayed with Christian family, I attended midnight masses. My friends celebrate my festivals. Mumbai gives you the space to be yourself. It’s an amazing city full of different religions, culture and freedom for women."
"Also, I would come back late at night, but was never afraid. I would carry a pillow and hammer with me. I would fall asleep in the cab and took the hammer for protection. Once, some boys started chasing me, but the taxi driver helped me till I reached home and called Peter uncle. Mumbai gave me recognition, independence and opportunities to become who I am today."
"Every year, during the monsoons in Mumbai, my best friend and I would wear gum boots and walk in the rain. In Kolkata, I had led a very sheltered life and could never do such things. Suzy and I would go to Carter Road and get drenched. But in spite of that, we would keep laughing and walking. It was great fun, but attracted a lot of attention too. Once, I hit a man who tried to grope my friend."
What needs to change
"I wish we all come together and really clean the city up. We should realise that Mumbai is our home and we can’t keep destroying it. The roads are in terrible conditions and could improve too. Having said that, I want to add — Mumbai is my home, my only school, where my real growth happened. It’s what shaped me to be the person I am. I have no memory about Delhi and in Kolkata I was just a very bright and studious student."
Check out Bipasha and Karan's pictures as they return from a recent trip in the video right here:
(Text by Upala KBR)
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