Jacqueline Fernandez on the city’s welcoming nature and how it has changed her for the better...
Jacqueline Fernandez won the Miss Universe Sri Lanka pageant in 2006 and came to Mumbai for a photoshoot. She took up modelling assignments in India and bagged a role in Sujoy Ghosh’s fantasy-drama Aladin (2009), which marked her acting debut opposite Riteish Deshmukh. However, she tasted her first commercial success with Mohit Suri’s psychological thriller Murder 2 (2011). The actress, whose last release Dishoom is a hit and her next A Flying Jatt is around the corner, tells us why Mumbai is so close to her heart.
That first time
I came to Mumbai in 2009 for a photo-shoot. When I landed in the city from Sri Lanka, it was night and pitch-dark. I was adventurous at that time. I had no one to pick me up.
I was just given an address so when I came outside the airport, I saw all these autos and taxis lined up. I hailed one and didn’t know where I was going or whether this guy would drop me there. There was no social media or Whats App or Snapchat at that time. Honestly, I was quite scared but this guy dropped me off to this beautiful apartment in Churchgate. I was shocked when he just picked up my bag and dropped me off there after I paid him his fare. I was like huh? I am home safe and dry! I just couldn’t believe it.
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My first home
I was staying with this wonderful couple and it was like home. They were so nice, warm and welcoming and made me a delicious breakfast the next day. That was how I spent my first day in Mumbai. I have always had some lovely experiences here. The people of Mumbai have always welcomed me and made feel at home here.
I was very excited when I saw the city during my initial days. I had never seen a city like Mumbai ever in my life even though I am from Sri Lanka and I have travelled a lot. There was something about it that was extremely different. I felt that there was a buzz, a throbbing energy pulsating in the city— people were just going about doing their own thing and it was very hectic.
Mumbai helped me to achieve my dreams. I come from a place where it’s not acceptable to be an actor. While my family didn’t look down on films, acting was never a career choice and people around me would laugh if I said I wanted to be an actress. I graduated with a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Sydney. When I first came to Mumbai I wanted to get into Hollywood, but that never happened.
Bollywood, by chance
My entering Bollywood happened by chance. One day I got a call from my agent asking me to audition for a role in Sujoy Ghosh’s Aladin. I didn’t know Hindi at all. I was asked to read a script and I don’t know what happened to me — I just mumbled and fumbled my way through it! It was a disaster. I thought there was no chance of me getting the role and I don’t know how, but I landed the lead actress’s role. Even now Sujoy jokes about it saying it was the worst audition he had ever heard in his entire career. And look at me now — today I have completed over 14 films already. I feel proud of the fact that I am today where I wanted to be and this beautiful city has done that. Mumbai has shaped me to be what I am.
Mumbai vs Sri Lanka
Mumbai and Sri Lanka are completely different from each other and I love both of them with all my heart. They are beautiful cities with loving hearts and welcome anybody who comes to them. Colombo, where I come from, is an island city and everything and everyone there is very chilled out and laidback. If I want to relax and chill, I go to Colombo — it’s beautiful. For work it’s always Mumbai. People here are always buzzing around in a frantic way, always working… I love that energy, that atmosphere.
Why I love Mumbai
I love visiting all the healthy and natural food places in Mumbai because I am into healthy stuff. Whenever there’s a launch of any health product I am one of the first to land up there. I don’t feel lonely in Mumbai. I have made some lifelong friends here — Sonam Kapoor, Sujoy Ghosh, Riteish Deshmukh… My parents too sometimes visit me as do my friends from Sri Lanka but I am content and comfortable today in Mumbai. It has taught me to run my own home, pay my own bills and most importantly to fight my own battles. Mumbai has given me my independence, made me become more responsible, prioritise things and taught me so many things about myself. Also, I have my beautiful cat Miu Miu here, she gives me so much love and company!
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