mid-day exclusive: Malaika Arora speaks up for the first time since split with Arbaaz Khan
In her first interview since split with Arbaaz Khan, her husband of 18 years, Bollywood diva Malaika Arora talks about being single, her ex-hubby, and turning an entrepreneur
I have known Malaika Arora for several years. Malla, as she is fondly called by friends, still remains somewhat of an enigma. She has been in the news for her separation from Arbaaz Khan, but when we meet her for her first interview since the split, she tells us up front that she doesn't want to use the word 'divorced'.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
What is your current state of mind?
I am at peace with myself. I have seen ups and downs and experienced turmoil, but I am at peace now.
How has your life changed in the past few years?
It has changed a lot. But except with a few friends, I don't discuss my life. My sister often asks me: Does your shadow know what you are doing? But that's me. Earlier, I would push issues [I had to deal with] away. Only now have I begun to confront them. After a very long time, I can say that I feel peaceful.
When you say internal turmoil, you are referring to your separation from Arbaaz?
Yes. I didn't feel the need to talk about what's happened the last few years because the people who need to know, already do. Life has a way of making things fall into place, teaching you and making you stronger. One day you are sitting in your bed and thinking, sh** man! What am I going to do? Everything is just falling apart! You feel like there is no hope and you've reached the end of the road. But then life challenges you. It pushes and tests you, but also prepares you for whatever lies ahead. I definitely feel stronger.
How do you handle your lows?
Everybody has a different approach. While some read self-help books or indulge in some form of self-healing, for me, it's been a combination of things. I rely on my friends. They are my sounding board. I am not very spiritual, but I meditate and focus on my health. I can't take off and spend time alone in a remote location. While I wasn't comfortable with it earlier, talking to people has started helping me. It doesn't matter if you speak to a friend or a therapist. You need to speak to somebody and confront whatever you are going through. Also, my son Arhaan keeps me focused. He is loving and accommodating. So, that has helped me heal. Work has kept me going too.
How has Arhaan coped with the separation?
Arbaaz and I think Arhaan is wonderfully special. He has his own way of assessing things and putting them into perspective. That has helped him, and us. He is focused and level-headed and never allows anything to affect him adversely, whether it's at school or elsewhere. Touch wood!
You still use 'Khan' on your Instagram account. Do you feel single?
Yes, I do use Khan (laughs). God, I haven't thought it [being single]. Honestly, it hasn't been a conscious decision. What has to happen will happen organically. Let's see where life takes me.
Arbaaz and you have been spotted together often, which fuels speculation that you may reconcile. It was only yesterday that the paps caught you at lunch together.
Arbaaz is a part of my family, the father of my child. Certain equations don't change overnight. The things that happened should remain between us. It's personal. We don't have to prove anything to anybody. [Meeting Arbaaz Khan] makes my son happy, and that makes me happy. Come on! For Amu [sister Amrita Arora Ladak], he's like a brother, and he is a son to my parents. What happened is between us.
Arbaaz recently admitted to dating. Do you see yourself dating again?
Oh, okay! I have not thought about it. I am enjoying each day as it comes. I enjoy time at home, my day-to-day life, travelling with Arhaan. We have just returned from a beautiful holiday. I will turn 42 this year, and right now, I want to see my fashion line grow. Separation is never easy on anybody. Only those who encounter it understand it. I am not letting anything cloud my head or my judgment.
Was the separation tough?
Yes, of course. Arbaaz and I have known each other all our lives. It was emotionally difficult, but we haven't really talked about it because we are private individuals. He is very important to me. No matter what happens or where life takes us, Arbaaz will always be integral to my life.
What about being part of his future projects?
You will have to ask Arbaaz in what capacity he'd like me on board. But, I will be involved. I am excited to learn about his future plans. We keep asking him, but he doesn't reveal anything. I think he's working on Dabangg 3.
Are you enjoying the stint as entrepreneur, having curated a fashion and lifestyle line for The Label Life?
Yes, I am. It started off as a nerve-wracking job since I didn't know what I was getting into. When they told me what was expected of me, I didn't quite understand it. It sounds interesting when someone gives you an introduction, but there are many aspects to the role, like understanding numbers. I knew none of it, but, with time and a certain level of interest, I am progressing. I can comfortably say that it feels great. Curating a line allowed me a sense of ownership and freedom. Despite no formal training in the field, I put my keen interest in fashion to use. We [Preeta Sukhtankar, business partner and friend] made a lot of mistakes initially. But, we didn't want to fold up. We decided to put something out there that would keep bringing people back. Initially, people would come, browse and leave without buying. So, we learnt from those experiences.
I've learnt that you must never mix business with friendship.
From its inception three years ago in a small Worli office, the business is shifting to a bigger space. The idea germinated while we were chatting in our living rooms. I could have simply attached my name to an existing brand and got a paycheck. But I wanted to experience the process.
What deep is your creative involvement?
We have a team that runs the collection past me. We discuss the designs and then start planning the next line. We have tie-ups with various designers, even having collaborated with Shane & Falguni for resort wear recently. Initially, we wanted to put everything out there, but have structured our methods over time. I have to be abreast with international trends, seasons, and colours. I enjoy that. My background as a fashion personality has given me the courage to do this.
What are the three things you have learned as a businesswoman?
Numbers (laughs). Once, I had to give an interview to a television channel and I didn't sleep the previous night. That's not my forte. But I sat down and researched. I have become more organised. Also, I have become more accepting of people. I am not a people's person but I am not a loner either. I am reserved, so, I think I have become more accepting of people's ideas.
Does the image of being a party girl hamper things?
I am anything but a party girl. But, I guess that's part and parcel of being in the business. You are a public figure and there are commitments to fulfil, but I am really a homebody.
Does that leave you with time for Arhaan?
I am a hands-on mom, but people think otherwise. I hear people say, 'Oh, does she even have time for her child?' I want to ask them, 'Who the hell are you? What do you know about my life?' Arbaaz and I are disciplined with him but we are not whip-cracking parents. I am strict, and say no far more than Arbaaz does. He is a softie. It's easier [for Arhaan] to manipulate him. Arhaan tells me, 'Mom, can you ever say anything other than, no? The first thing that comes to your mind is no!' Having said that, I enjoy Arhaan's company, and love hanging around with him or having his friends over. I look forward to the annual holiday when it's just the two of us traveling. That's the only way you can bridge the generation gap.
Does being in the limelight bother you?
Not at all. [Being followed by the paparazzi] is a trend prevalent all over the world and is still new in India. In the West, the paps go crazy and follow celebrities during their holidays too. At the end of the day, they are doing what they have to do. There's a sense of curiosity and I take it in my stride. I don't snap because no one has crossed the line with me. The day somebody does, I will retaliate. However, our kids don't know how to react when the cameras are in their face. For them, it's a little unnerving.
Arhaan is not social media savvy like the other star kids.
He barely goes online. And if I put something up, I won't hear the end of it. 'Take it off, delete it!' He is conscious about these things, but, there will be a time when he will be accepting. He gets a little embarrassed right now.
Are you more of a disciplinarian or friend?
A bit of both, I think. You have to strike a balance. Extremes don't work.
You come across as a calm and balanced. How do you manage it?
I am extremely moody. What people see is the public persona, but, at home, I can be irritable. I try to keep my calm, but can also lose my cool. Amrita is more enthusiastic and jovial. Sometimes, I tell her, 'Amu, I am tired of looking at you smiling, bouncing and jumping all the time. Calm down!' So, I am quite the brooder. I want to be mollycoddled out of my moods.
The other perception about you is that you don't eat?
I get irritated when people look at me and think, 'Haan, yeh toh khaati nahin hai.' Anybody who knows me well, knows that I am a foodie. I cook, and love to feed. But I am a disciplined eater. I eat on time and indulge in the right kind of food. I go crazy on holidays, but, you won't see me binge-eating. My favourite meals are fish-curry rice, dosa, idli and sambar, especially made by my mother. Then, I enjoy Spanish and Japanese. But I am the happiest when I get mom's food.
Can you cook?
I can, but I don't have a flair to make the regular ghar ka khana. I can toss up salads, pastas, sushis, cakes and bakes. If you ask me to cook daal-chawal-sabzi, I will panic. But, I can survive if I am left to look after myself. I need a recipe, and can follow that.
On the film front, have you stopped doing item songs?
I was offered one yesterday and I said no. I was offered something last week, too. I have to feel good about the offer. I love dancing, but I must keep improving and tease the audience with something new and exciting.
What if you are asked to do an item song in Dabangg 3?
I will jump right into it! It's always been a wonderful association. So, whenever there is something [that comes my way in the Dabangg franchise], I'd do it without batting an eyelid.
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