Lisa Ray: Make-up is the uniform I wear to go to work

Updated: May 19, 2019, 08:28 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

In her first book, and hopefully not the last, Lisa Ray survives misconceptions, toxic relationships, multiple myeloma and more

We might just have yet another promising writer in a Bollywood actor, we think, after negotiating Close to the Bone, a warm and detailed memoir by Lisa Ray that releases tomorrow. People are often, not what they seem - Ray, for one, has acquired far more formal acting training than we imagined - and life is as much happy and morbid for the famous as it is for the average Joe, you realise. The "dreamer gypsy", encouraged by her Bengali father and Polish mother "to keep flying" discusses learning to act, finding and losing love, negotiating an eating disorder and surviving a rare form of blood cancer in an intelligent, inspiring personal story.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

The book is vastly detailed. How long did it take to write?
I was first asked to write in 2010. But I had a block, more than just a writer's block. I needed to digest my life a bit more. It's my debut, and I have more at stake than if I was doing a movie. I was an accidental actress, but always wanted to be a writer. I have come back to it [the dream] now.

Your mother calls you and your father "dreamers", but your mother's drive is evident in your person. Who are you more like?
We become our mothers, and I have embraced the reality. I cherish it today. I didn't know what the entry point to my story would be, so to trace my own impulses and decisions, I had to go back to my parents. They are the original rebels. I am practical like my mother, and switch to being creative when I act. I picked up my love for literature from my father.

You talk about never fitting in, and glorifying your differences.
Yes, that's why writing this book was important. It was hard to live like that, waiting for societal validation, for so many years. I have been wanting to live my own truth.

For someone who has for the large part of her career been seen as a hot model, you've spent a lot of time studying acting. Did you stop trying to be taken seriously at some point?
It's an ongoing struggle. The fame happened when I was very young, and unexpectedly. I have a problem with being perceived as uni-dimensional. I have put on shooting make-up and I am talking about my book, which is a serious piece of writing. Why not? When I get glammed up, and transform, it's like a person putting on a suit to head to work. It's my uniform. At one time, I would dress as raggedy as possible, to say, you don't know me. Today, even with make-up, I feel naked.

You talk of Bollywood as being a Gatsbyish world.
It was like the crazy tea party and I was Alice. I was being courted by everyone. Nobody understood that I was just 16 [when I was introduced to films] and that I was dealing with the personal tragedy of my mother's accident. I was coveted, but I had tragedy [to deal with]. So, was I successful? I had to confront that question at 16. It somehow helped me go beyond the idea of success.

You've invested a few beautiful paragraphs discussing the passing of your mother and the idea of grief. Has your idea of death changed since?
It's the great mystery. I don't embrace it, but I don't see it as a great fear. My Tibetan Buddhist practice is about rehearsing your death. As an actor, you prepare for a role, and it's the same with death. My practice has helped me. I ask everyone to contemplate their death because it takes away the fear. If you avoid [the thought of] it, it may overpower you.

What's next for you?
I certainly hope to write more books. I already have an idea brewing in my head. I will continue with my cancer advocacy. I will also be in front of the camera, and spend time with my family. I just hope this writing debut will mean I spend a lot more time writing.

Close to the Bone has been published by HarperCollins India releases on May 20 and is available for pre-order on Amazon

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