Fighter to the Core

Accidental actress, social activist and a cancer survivor. Words seldom used in a single sentence to describe a person. Lisa Ray, however, is all this and much more. In the city for a promotional event, the 40-year-old Lisa disarms you with her personality. “Oh! I remember you. We met last year in the city for my show OMG,” she exclaims, describing Hyderabad as “the capital of good manners in India” in her Twitter updates.

Turning the big 4-0 this year, Lisa Ray says, “Perhaps it’s because of my past experiences or just that I am a late bloomer, I feel my best inning has just started.” Talking about her impending marriage to banker fiancé Jason Dehni, Lisa says, “I wish I could invite my Hyderabadi friends for the wedding. It’ll be in California in October this year. But keeping in mind the location and the busy schedule of my friends, it might be difficult. But we are planning to host a reception in early 2013 in India,” she says.

About her wedding dress that will be designed by Wendell Rodricks, she says. “Wendell is a dear friend and I love his approach for my dress.

He asked me, ‘what is the one emotion that you feel right now the most? Is it happy, sexy or anything else’? And I said sexy-romantic and that’s what my dress is going to portray,” she says.

The surprise guest at her wedding is going to be her birthday-cum-late engagement present Coco, a Persian cat. “Coco is in Boston right now with her dad (Jason), as he’s spending the American holiday with his family,” she says. Her first cat in recent years, Lisa can’t stop talking about Coco. “Jason hates cats but I am impressed that for me he managed to get over his cat phobia. And if she behaves, Coco will be there at our wedding,” she says, adding, “Eight years back, when I was living in Mumbai, I had to give away my cats due to my constant travel plans.

So having Coco in my life is also a symbol of how I am settling down.” Apart from working on her memoir, developing projects in India and Canada and writing her own script, Lisa is also the current host of Top Chef Canada. “I am the host and one of the judges on the show. The best thing about the show is how I get to work with some of the finest chefs in the world and even get an opportunity to represent Indian cuisine,” says Lisa.

Though not a “fantastic chef”, Lisa admits to having tremendous knowledge about food based on her experiences from around the world and also from the influence of her parents. But with good food comes the task of remaining fit. “With my wedding fast approaching and next season of Top Chef left to shoot, I am going to have a difficult time staying in shape,” she laughs.

Lisa Ray was also named in Hello Canada’s “50 Most Beautiful Stars” list in the May 2012 issue. “Even though I have been on the list before, this time it was very encouraging with cancer in my past,” she says.

Talking about her association with Rado, Lisa says, “I have been working with this brand for the past 10 years and it’s like a second marriage to me,” she laughs, adding, “It’s my privilege to be inaugurating their new store. The brand stands for ‘quality material that lasts’, something that I feel describes even me.”

Lisa Ray gets engaged

When and how did you meet your fiance Jason Dehni? When did you know he was the one?

Jason is a banking executive, philanthropist and sits on the board of many prestigious arts organisations in Toronto. He co-founded a charity called Artbound in association with the NGO Free the Children, which raises money to build schools and sustainable villages as well as arts facilities in regions, which are in need.

My friend, Canadian media personality Seamus O’ Regan, is the honorary chair of Artbound. After interviewing me one day for Canada AM, he suggested I get involved. Seamus, however, neglected to mention the co-founder was handsome, brilliant and full of integrity.

What are you and Jason looking forward to in the future?

I wrote in my blog: ‘Love is an action and we practise that every day’. He truly makes me a better person and inspires me. We will announce our wedding date shortly.

Right now, we’re reveling in our engagement and celebrating with friends. I miss my friends in India a lot. Hopefully, we will settle on a location for the wedding where all our friends from around the world can gather together.

How did your family react to your relationship?

My father adores Jason. Both our families got together this Christmas to celebrate as one. Jason’s family loves my dad. He has strong family values and that’s super important to me as well.

Your heart belongs to Jason, but your soul is in India. Do you hope to bring him here soon?

Believe it or not, Jason and I had planned a trip to India a few days after we met. He was with me during my promotions for a product. He saw five cities in India in two weeks and when he ventured with me to eat paranthas in Paranthewale Gully in Chandi Chowk, I realised he really is the one. He’s comfortable in all situations, loves India and is even open to spending more time in the country, given the right opportunity. Hopefully, we will make an extended trip together this year, though he is very busy with work at the moment.

Tell me about your career plans? Any films in the pipeline?

I am very excited to be the new host of Top Chef Canada, which is one of the highly rated and anticipated shows in Canada. Padma Laxmi hosts the American version. It was a new experience. Plus, I get to bring my own glamorous Indian-inspired flavour to mainstream audiences here. It releases on March 12. I am working on my book, looking at scripts and projects and developing some material I feel passionately about. I’m also working on my own beauty line. My philanthropic work is also a key element of life. I have lots to celebrate.

Hillberg & Berk’s “Carpe Noctum” launch – In support of Lisa Ray & Myeloma Canada

You are invited to take advantage of ticket pre-sales for Hillberg & Berk’s most exclusive jewellery fashion event of the year. Join us Thursday August 11, 2011 to launch the H&B Autumn/Winter 2011 line: “Carpe Noctem”; Seize the Night.

The “Carpe Noctem” show is in support of Lisa Ray, the 2011 H&B spokesmodel, and her charitable efforts based on her own recent battle with multiple myeloma, a rare form of cancer. Post stem cell transplant in February of 2010, Lisa Ray is now cancer-free, and has used her experience with multiple myeloma to raise awareness and document her journey through illness. Lisa Ray is the epitome of the strong H&B woman.

Please see the attached e-vite for event details and your invitation to purchase tickets before public sales open July 15, 2011. Seating is extremely limited so do not wait to purchase your ticket. We look forward to seeing you at this exclusive and highly anticipated event.

Lisa Ray in the fight of her life!

“I’m an accidental actress, model, nomad and covert activist.”

The only child of a Polish mother and Bengali Indian father, Lisa was raised in Etobicoke, Ontario. She was named one of the top-10 most beautiful Indian women of the millennium.

You may recognize her from the Indian/Canadian film Bollywood/Hollywood, or as the acclaimed lead in the 2005 Oscar-nominated film Water. In 2009, Lisa was diagnosed with the rare blood disease multiple myeloma, just a few months after the passing of her mom. In 2010 she celebrated her cancer-free diagnosis following a stem cell transplant.

What’s next for Lisa?

I feel the purpose of life is to be happy. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t always happen. I have dark moments and difficult days like anyone. It’s at those times I concentrate on ‘the light.’ I’d like to have a little downtime now at my refuge in Nelson, BC, and spend time writing. I love nurturing my relationships. In the past this suffered because of my work and travel schedule, but I’ve reprioritized. I’m grateful to be given this second chance at life so I’m going to make the most of it, in the way that it makes sense to me.

Your new projects after this two year sabbatical?

I just returned from filming in India; a role that is completely different for me, a lot of work but a lot of fun. I love doing diverse projects that deliver a deep message; stories considered left of centre or of empowerment, that’s why I accepted the role in Water. It’s a natural extension of my belief system. This makes sense of the movie business for me. I don’t have anything against blockbusters, I enjoy them but I don’t see myself being a part of them.

Other than working on my memoirs I’m appearing in the play Taj with the Bollywood star Kebir Bedi, at Luminato. I have a role in a Canadian short film slated for release at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. And, an unscripted, six-part documentary-style series shot in India for TLC will air later this year. And of course, my first entrepreneurial venture – Moksha Yoga Brampton opened at the end of May.

What are some of Lisa’s indulgences?

I’m a big time ‘foodie,’ always searching for the latest, kooky food trends. Yoga is really important to me. Beyond that, I love to kick back and enjoy myself with friends. Lots of massages. And since I am in between relationships, I’d like to sort out my personal life. Put the word out. (We have another big laugh)

How has your view of you changed?

I’ve become gentler with myself. I was pretty self-critical, that attitude has softened. Now I have a way of contributing. I’ve been involved with other charities before, but now, I am in the fight for my life.

If you could change something in your script, what would it be?

I can’t. I’m the culmination of all the experiences, this is who I am. I just turned 39 and I don’t have any regrets, what’s done is done, there was a reason at the time and now I’m moving forward. I definitely have a different feeling about my birthday now. Not, “Oh, I’m a year older,” but, “I’m HERE! Another year lived.” It’s awesome!

And look at all that you’ve accomplished in the past two years: diagnosed in June 2009; harvesting your stem cells; chemo to kill the bad cells and then the transfusion of your stem cells in January 2010. Now you’re cancer-free. You’ve been an advocate for your life, getting the best treatment, you’re a cancer graduate and a spokesperson for everyone touched by any high risk disease.

I didn’t look at it in that way. That is good. I should sit back to introspect on that. All I know is this is what I can do, how I can contribute. There’s such a sense of gratitude for the term cancer graduate, it got me through the darn program. I want my degree now! As much as I’d love to personally thank each person who supported or gave me positive energy along the way, it’s not realistic. What I can do is to pay it forward and pay back from my platform as a celebrity. I’m blessed that I’m able to use it to educate and inspire people.

You’ve said, “Love is an action.” Is this what you’re doing?

I think so. I’ve had romantic notions of love, as we all do. Love is actually a force, an energy that must be put into action. I don’t believe you need to say it all the time, it is more important to show it by putting the energy in motion and it will expand to others.

Consciously navigating the world is challenging. What would your bumper sticker read?

“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths but a great fear of shallow living.” Anaïs Nin said that. Another part of it would be “Honk if you like what you see!” (Another hearty chuckle)

Your five highest values?

Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. Honesty. Service. Honesty with self and others. Service as a spokesperson and in my yoga practice.

You’re a phenomenal woman Lisa. It takes a lot of courage to step up and say all that you say and expose your beauty in every manner. Even with your shaved head, your beauty shone through.

One of my mantras is: “Never stop fighting.” I mean for your voice in the world. Find your most authentic self. Be what you desire to be, instead of what others think you should be. Don’t stop this fight, life is an ongoing challenge. It’s all about love – internally and externally.

Source: Canadian Health & Lifestyle / Barbara Goodman

(Photos: Gabor Jurina)

Lisa Ray set to dazzle Toronto with Taj

If she wasn’t an actress, Lisa Ray tells Suhaag that she’d be a writer. But that will have to wait; there’s just too much to do for the Toronto based actress who’s mainly known in India for  her sexy turn as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s muse in the music video “Aafreen”. Already  well known for her advocacy  for cancer and stem cell medicine, Ray is also a business-owner. Her  Moksha Yoga studio opened  in Brampton recently.

Ray, who has been practising yoga for years says that, “I believe Moksha Yoga helped me become a ‘Cancer Graduate’. I believe in the practise for its healing aspects and overall benefits. In the Moksha community we say: calm mind, fit body, inspired life. I have two great partners: Paris and Annette and we have created a beautiful space for people to come in and experience the benefits. I have loved bringing Moksha Yoga to Brampton!”

Moksha’s mantra of ‘inspired life’ certainly parallels Ray’s most recent project Taj, a dramatic dance theatre production from Lata Pada’s Sampradaya Dance Company premiering at the Luminato Festival on June 10.

On the cusp of the world première of Taj at the Luminato Festival, Lisa Ray tells Suhaag.com about her current project, and her future plans.

Suhaag.com (SU): After all that you have persevered through with regards to your health, what was it about a dance-theatre production that appealed to you to choose as your first acting project after treatment? And why Taj?

Lisa Ray (LR): This is an opportunity to translate one of the world’s most enduring love stories in the sacred space of the theatre- what’s not to love about this opportunity? Lata Pada is the extraordinary driving force behind this project and her passion was infectious. I’m working with Tom Diamond, Kabir Bedi, Kumudiniben: all luminaries in their fields. John Murrell- one of Canada’s foremost playwrights has written the script. And Luminato has commissioned the project. And working on stage is the most reliable way to ignite a performer’s creative juices. On top of everything- I get to work on my home turf. All the ingredients are there.

SU: What have been the most enjoyable and  challenging aspects about working on Taj?

LR: I look forward to getting up in the morning and showing up at rehearsals so much, I fear I’m having too much fun at times! Working with Tom and Kabir has been so stimulating. And retelling this epic story- from the perspective of an old man and his daughter, has been a profound experience. I play Jahanara, the eldest daughter of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. She gave up her life to look after her father after he was imprisoned by Aurangzeb his own son. It’s an epic tale which encompasses the depths of human feeling and emotion. The most challenging aspect? Commuting to Mississauga for rehearsals!

SU: What is it like to work with two great artists Kabir Bedi and Lata Pada?

LR: It’s an extraordinary opportunity to absorb and learn.

SU: Currently you are working on a dance theatre production, what have you learned from working on this kind of project?

LR: My role involves acting- we have talented dancers who are performing the dancing segments. I have thoroughly enjoyed this atmosphere of collaboration.

SU: After an audience watches Taj, what do you want them to take away after leaving the theatre?

LR: Tom Diamond, our director, shared a ‘word of the day’ with us the first day of rehearsal. The word is ‘creolise’. Broadly speaking it means, taking local and foreign elements and creating something new and exciting. That best describes what we are attempting with ‘Taj’ and in a way its the best word to describe Toronto!

SU: Do you have any plans to work on a project in Bollywood in the future?
LR: I recently completed work for a 6 part TLC series shot in India which goes on air  in July. So I have been working hard in India. It  is a great project and took four months to film. I’m open to the next phase of my career and waiting for a great film project.

SU: You have modeled, you’re an actress of great versatility, and now you’re a business-owner as well. What’s next for Lisa Ray?

LR: So many wonderful things on the boil. I will continue to challenge, stretch myself and also try to be of service. My advocacy for cancer and stem cell medicine is well known and I will continue to support a number of charitable efforts. Balance is important- I love my work, but I love my life as well. My relationships are what feed me.

(Source: Suhaag.com / Safa Zaki)

(Photo: Sid Sawant)

Immortal love story told

Lata Pada is set to unveil her most ambitious creation yet.

Internationally acclaimed for promoting Indian dance both here and abroad, the Mississauga resident’s new piece, TAJ, presented by her troupe, Sampradaya Dance Creations, makes its world premiere this weekend as part of Toronto’s Luminato 2011.

Pada was born in India and is intimately familiar with the story behind the Taj Mahal, one of the architectural wonders of the world.

She came up with the concept for the piece.

“I was particularly drawn to the poignancy of Emperor Shah Jahan’s last days when imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb, especially as he gazes upon the Taj, an edifice built to honour his wife and now her final resting place,” said Pada, who founded Sampradaya Dance Creations in Mississauga more than 20 years ago.

The chronicling of political and familial strife, and the undying devotion of Emperor Shah Jahan to his wife, is as awe-inspiring as the monument itself.

In the script written by award-winning playwright John Murrell, the emperor engages in an impassioned dialogue with his devoted daughter, Jahanara, taking the audience on an emotional journey that explores the ruler’s life, the 17th-century Mughal empire and the universal themes of power, passion, love and loss – and the grandeur they inspired.

TAJ features Bollywood star Kabir Bedi (Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story, Octopussy, Sandokan, The Bold and the Beautiful) and Canadian actor Lisa Ray (Bollywood/Hollywood, Water, Cooking With Stella). They’re backed up by an ensemble of dancers from the Greater Toronto Area, the United Kingdom and India.

Pada, who lives in Erin Mills, has had an extensive career as a bharatanatyam soloist with performances in prestigious dance festivals worldwide. She was conferred the Order of Canada in 2009, and holds the distinction of being the first South Asian artist to receive this award. In January, she received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award – India’s highest honour for overseas Indians.

TAJ takes place at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre, located at 207 Queen’s Quay W.

Show times are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $51.50 to $71.50.

Call 416-368-4849 or visit luminato.com.

Source: Mississauga.com What’s On / Joseph Chin

(Photo: Sid Sawant)

Hillberg & Berk Fall line to Feature International Star Lisa Ray

Hillberg & Berk’s fall line “Carpe Noctem” will feature internationally acclaimed model and actress Lisa Ray. The talented Canadian is best known for her role in the Oscar nominated film Water. Ray has been named one of the ‘Ten most beautiful Indian women of the millennium’ by a Times of India poll and was recently featured as one of the ‘50 Most Beautiful People’ of the country in the Canadian edition of Hello Magazine.

In 2009 Ray was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare form of Cancer. After undergoing stem cell transplants Ray is now cancer free. Her candor and humor in navigating a difficult illness earned her the
attention and respect of people from all walks of life. Ray is the epitome of feminine strength and class, making her a natural fit with Hillberg & Berk jewellery.

Hillberg & Berk jewellery is a line of sterling silver, vermeil, semi precious stones and Swarovski jewellery based out of Saskatchewan. Over the last 4 years the company has received international attention for a number of impressive feats. Hillberg & Berk has been associated with the 2008 Oscars, season 3 of Dragons’ Den, 2008
CCMA’s, 2010 Lilith and the G20 Summit.

Hillberg & Berk is set to launch “Carpe Noctem” nation wide in August. The line will be available at the nearly 60 locations that carry the brand. For a complete list of retailers please visit www.hillbergandberk.com

For more information about the collection or for pieces to feature in editorials please contact:
Sarah Kemmere, Media Manager
Hillberg & Berk
Cell: (306) 522-5893
Email: [email protected]

Lisa Ray: actress, former model, cancer-survivor and yoga entrepreneur

We joined Lisa Ray for a downward dog session at her brand-new hot yoga studio in Brampton. (So brand-new, we had to lay our yoga mats over construction dust.)

How long have you been a die-hard yogi for?

Ironically, when I lived in India for a decade in my twenties, I never did yoga. I discovered it at my local gym when I moved to London in 2002. I was skeptical. Back then I was really into pumping iron—anything to get that buzz.

You seem busy enough already. Why take on another project?

I am busy, but that’s why I didn’t do it alone. Paris, one of my two business partners, is a total task-master. She’s been dealing with the day-to-day details. I’m busy working on a few TV shows, a book and trying to memorize my lines for Luminato: I’m in a play called Taj, with the Bollywood star Kabir Bedi.

You’ve said that your yoga practice played a huge role in helping you get through multiple myeloma cancer in 2009. How so?

There’s really nothing like yoga for re-energizing, both in terms of body and mind. I taught classes right up until I went in for chemo and started again right after I had my stem-cell transplant. There is so much to get out of it.

Like a tight butt.

Exactly! And there’s nothing wrong with doing it for that.

What do you do outside of yoga to stay healthy?

These days a lot of good livin’. Lots of time with family and friends. It’s corny, but when you go through cancer, you really do make bucket lists and figure out your priorities.

Do you have a beauty regimen?

Not really. Moksha is great for the skin though.

You must get sick of people telling you how beautiful you are all the time.

I guess it depends on how I’m feeling about myself that day. I think it’s important to learn how to take compliments, because you don’t want to diminish yourself. It took me a long time to learn that.

Don’t tell me you’re one of those pretty people who insists they were a big ugly dork in high school.

Well, I really was chubby.

You truly are ridiculously gorgeous.

Thank you.

You host a TV show on OMNI about the best Bollywood movies. You must have a favourite.

I do. It’s a mid-’90s hit called Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge—which translates as “The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride.”

Is it a comedy?

They’re all comedies.

There’s such a big difference between Indian humour and North American humour.

Ya think? Paisa vasool, in Hindi culture, is a concept that basically means getting your money’s worth. An audience expects everything stuffed into two hours: laughter, tears, action, beautiful women, menacing villains. There’s a saying—there are good films and bad films, and then there are Bollywood films.

What do you miss most about being in India when you’re in Toronto?

The sounds in the early morning—like the milk-man on his rattling bike. Life is more communal there. You just show up. There’s no calling ahead, no making appointments. In India the guest is god, so the level of hospitality is just amazing.

What do you miss most about Toronto when you’re in India?

I miss the peace and quiet I have in Toronto. In India, I don’t have as much freedom, and it can feel like I’m living in a bit of a bubble. I don’t enjoy that aspect of fame.

The Indian press does seem to be obsessed with your love life.

My main contention is when there’s someone else in the story who doesn’t want the attention, whether it’s a friend or a lover. For me, I asked for it. I’ve been in the business for 20 years.

Okay then—care to tell me who you’re dating?

No comment.

You said once that the best hope for world peace is interracial marriage. Do you still think that?

I stand by it. You only really get an insight into someone else’s culture when you have to. Sharing the same bed really helps the process along.

Is there a particular race that you’ve found yourself attracted to over the years?

I’m very open and I’ve been fortunate to get a taste of many different—oh wait, not that kind of taste. Ha! This is totally irrelevant, but I was just in Regina. I did a shoot there and afterwards this woman said, “So, are you going to stay for a Taste of Regina?” They actually have a festival called that!

LIGHTNING ROUND!

Favourite Toronto bar?
Blowfish.

Favourite cocktail?
A mojito.

Late nights or early mornings?
Early mornings.

Time spent getting ready for a night out?
No more than 15 minutes.

William or Harry?
Harry.

Favourite season?
Summer.

Favourite seasoning?
Chili flakes.

Favourite swearword?
Kurczeblade. My mom is Polish—it means pasty chicken.

Samosas or perogies?
Can’t I mix them?

Chocolate or candy?
Chocolate.

Chocolate or sex?
That’s obvious.

Lisa Ray’s yoga studio, Moksha Yoga Brampton, is at 50 Peel Centre Dr., Unit 205.

Source: The Grid / Courtney Shea

http://www.thegridto.com/city/people/lisa-ray-actress-former-model-cancer-survivor-and-yoga-entrepreneur/

(Photos: Angela Lewis)

The Good, The Bad & The Bollywood – A Conversation with Lisa Ray

Discovered by an agent at age 16 while vacationing in India, Canadian actor Lisa Ray juggles her work in the Indian film and modelling industries with Canadian film and TV assignments. Deepali Dewan, ROM curator of South Asian Arts and Culture, speaks with the movie star about the Bollywood film industry.

Deepali Dewan (DD): You have the unique perspective of participating in a number of film industries in India— Kollywood (Tamil) where you got your start, Tollywood (Bengali and Telugu), Bollywood (Hindi), and the alternative Indian film industry—as well as the Canadian film scene. What similarities and differences do you see among them?

Lisa Ray (LR): There’s a saying: there are good films, there are bad films, and then there are Bollywood films. Bollywood is a self-referencing phenomenon. While the typical ingredients in mainstream Bollywood films are song-and-dance numbers, nubile young heroines and macho heroes, and plots charged with lots of
melodrama and family values, I believe that what makes a Bollywood film is the attitude. Bollywood films are full of confidence and unapologetic moxie. Their primary objective is to entertain—the concept of paisa vasool (something that’s worth its price) comes to mind—and they go about this in such a focused manner that the audience is completely engaged. Even if they hate it, it’s a type of engagement. Bollywood films are the original interactive entertainment—you’re not expected to be a passive watcher.

Kollywood has something of the same element, but with a Chennai twist. If anything, their stars are even more revered. They have a habit of garlanding their movie stars on special occasions. The extravagance and idolatry is in interesting contrast to the relatively humble, down-to-earth lifestyle of most Tamilians—even the wealthy. I remember working on a Tollywood film and fighting only with the choreographer. The dance moves were like MTV on ajinamoto. The dance master would bellow: “hee-pah! hee-pah! amma! sharp-ah
move-ah heep-ah!” referring to the movement of my unappetizingly slim hips, which while padded liberally still fell woefully short of the desirable ideal.

I could go on but basically, these film industries have their own unique grammar.

As far as Canadian cinema goes, there’s an orderliness which is a contrast to Indian cinema, but by nature, all film sets are chaotic. I had moments of alienation when I first started working in Canadian film. The process felt more dry and less passionate than being on a Hindi film set where it was always a hive of activity. However, this Canadian method ultimately serves the performance and creative output much better. Perhaps another reason I felt lonely was that there are far fewer technicians at work on a Canadian film—for every person on a Canadian set, you’d find 5 on an Indian one. For the first while I missed how the assistants would hand you milky Indian tea, the heat, the smells of burning lights. But Canadian films managed to finish on schedule and the efficiency is impressive. It feels more like a job and less like a lifestyle—unlike actors’ lives in India.

There’s a movement of growing alternative cinema in India, which fascinates me. Working in independent, alternative cinema anywhere in the world is rather thankless work but there’s a passion that inflames the players on the set. I love that contemporary Indian cinema is turning the mirror onto itself to explore more provocative, uncomfortable themes.

At the end, cinema is cinema. You have a story you want to tell. Only the syntax is different.

DD: Any advantages or disadvantages as an artist in each?

LR: Many. The star system in Bollywood has no real equivalent in other parts of the world. Actors become
shielded from reality and true public opinions. It’s extremely seductive and glamorous. Who doesn’t want to
taste that level of fame? Often this leads to creative stagnation and an inability to innovate. I left India
to act abroad, since I was offered only mainstream Bollywood productions, but my heart was in smaller,
more reality-based cinema. The Bollywood system had cast me as a starlet and it was difficult to make my own authentic choices. However, star power can also be used to pave the way for new opportunities and creative expression, as in the case of Aamir Khan. He has used his influence to make the type of cinema he believes in.

In Western cinema, an artist will face an equal number of challenges as the business of cinema is so monetized by the studio system and other factors, but there’s also an emphasis on the creative contributions in filmmaking.

DD: What attracted you to Bollywood and to continue working in India?

LR: I landed in Bollywood through sheer serendipity. I never wanted to be an actress, much less expected to find myself in Hindi cinema. However, I love India, and its commercial cinema is a kind of expression of the culture, though in a popular format. And shockingly, I made it big in India, so I like to go back and keep getting a dose of the country. I’m fortunate I can work in two different worlds.

DD: What are your thoughts on Bollywood going global?

LR: I’m not sure that the cinema is going global as much as the symbols and style are getting exposure across the world. Here, people point to Slumdog Millionaire as Bollywood’s breakthrough moment, but it’s not a Bollywood film. It’s a film about Mumbai. Having said that, the Indian Diaspora is so large and influential, I guess we see a ripple effect on the global psyche. Bollywood is infiltrating!

DD: How does Bollywood tie into other Indian visual arts? Do you see a connection?

LR: There’s a strong synergy. Traditional Indian motifs and choices in colour are one obvious example. It’s a very visual medium and Bollywood plays that to the hilt.

DD: What distinguishes a Bollywood film?

LR: My guess is that it’s the unabashed emotion. Again I say: there are good films, there are bad films, and then . . . there are Bollywood films.

Hello! Magazine – ‘Cancer Graduate’ Lisa Ray shares her journey

Discovered on Holiday as a teenager in India, and thrust into the international spotlight as a model and actress, Toronto-born Lisa Ray has embraced fate and worked hard to fulful her potential. It has reaped rewards: the stunning star has made a name for herself in both Bollywood – her dad is Bengali and her mother Polish – and North America, with films such as Deepa Mehta’s Water.

But little did Lisa know, her biggest challenge would come in 2009, when she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer. Now in remission – after rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant – the spirited 39-year-old has partnered with Myeloma Canada to spread the word about breakthrough treatment options and access to care. Here, the down-to-earth beauty sits down with Hello! at Toronto’s Metropolitan Hotel for a frank talk about life and love after cancer.

Hello! (HM): Congratulations! You’ve been in remission for a year and look great. How are you feeling?

Lisa Ray (LR): I’m grateful to be sitting here. I consider myself to be a “cancer graduate”, not a cancer survivor. I am renting that term from a very dear friend who’s also gone through cancer. You come out of this with a lot more wisdom and it’s up to you to apply it.

HM: Can you give us an example of how cancer changed you?

LR: It has brought out my inner accountant. I love what I do, but when I couldn’t do it, I had to completely reset my life. I couldn’t go and spend 14-hour days on the set. What do I have to fall back on? It made me tap into a completely different part of myself, made me rethink my investments… I’ve discovered that I have an MBA embedded in me.

HM: After your diagnosis, you decided to shave your head before you lost your hair. Why?

LR: I was getting tired of my hair anyway! [Laughs] It was a way of taking back control. I actually got my partner at the time – he was in the military – to bring in his professional clippers and we had a little party. I still remember how liberating it felt.

HM: You mention your “partner at the time.” Are you dating anyone these days?

LR: Right now, I’m in between.

HM: What do you look for in your special someone?

LR: Given what I’ve been through, you just really want someone you can laugh and relax with. I say I’m “in between,” but I have a few people who are really significant. I’m kind of without labels in my life right now and I’m cool with that. You care and you love. It’s free-flow. Bring it on.

HM: You host the series Bollywood Best Top Ten on Omni Television and you’re writing a book. What’s next?

LR: What I would like to do now is cut back on my travelling and just stay in Canada. This is the right place to be right now to support my healing. Toronto is base camp and Nelson [B.C.] is the antidote to big-city living. I need a bit of both right now.

HM: You’ve been busy with public engagements. Tell us what it was like to host Queen Elizabeth at a film studio tour in Toronto last year.

LR: It was fabulous! I sat next to Prince Philip, and he was a delight – totally warm, funny and irreverent. [We talked] a little bit about everything. I had just bought my place in Nelson, and I mentioned it. He said, “I think I’ve been there.” And I said, “Really?” And he said, “Darling, I’ve been everywhere.”

(Report: Carli Whitwell)