Jacqueline Fernandez at the Emerald Palace in Palm Jumeirah, Dubai on 30th December, 2018. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez, who spent her childhood in Bahrain, never got down to experiencing the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, a period filled with flash sales, concerts and raffle draws in the UAE. She isn’t proud of that and the Sri Lankan beauty queen is understandably eager to make up for all that lost time.

When Gulf News tabloid! met her exclusively at the palatial Emerald Palace, she was busy planning her Sunday afternoon, the first day of her four-day jaunt to the UAE. A relaxed expedition to a mall nearby, a ride in a Ferrari and a late dinner at a fine-dining Peruvian restaurant topped her list. Dubai unleashes the shopaholic in her, confesses the 33-year-old Fernandez with a laugh.

Jacqueline Fernandez Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“Paris, Los Angeles and Dubai are the three places in this world that bring out the shopaholic in me,” said Fernandez.

But she isn’t a shopaholic in need of intervention either.

“There may be certain moments in my life where I go: ‘let’s go shop girls’. But most of the time we end up being styled as celebrities… So we are used to all that influx of clothes, jewellery and shoes and its out flux too… But shopping can be your guilty pleasure at times. Dubai brings out that side to me.”

But she isn’t an irresponsible shopper and believes she hasn’t reached a stage in her life when price tags cease to matter.

Now we know that there’s a safe zone where we can speak up and there’s no shame in it… [The #MeToo movement] made me very happy. What a remarkable year.

- Jacqueline Fernandez

“There are times when I look at a dress and I ask myself a hundred questions like will I wear it often or how many times I am likely to wear it. But when it comes to buying for family and friends, I never look at the price tags.”

The only time this self-made star, who began her career with the fantasy adventure ‘Aladdin’ in 2009, made an exception was when she splurged out on a souped-up S500 white Maybach. That set of wheels is her most prized material possession.

“I felt I needed to have something that I can chill and be super relaxed in. To me, that car represented all that and more. We spent so much time on the roads in Mumbai.”

While she enjoys the ride in it, driving in that bustling metropolis proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Jacqueline Fernandez (centre) indulging in some retail therapy in Dubai. Image Credit: Instagram

“I tried driving for a year but each time I was having a heart attack, so now I get driven,” said Fernandez. But the motorhead in her came alive and kicked into gear when she began working on director Tarun Mansukhani’s heist thriller ‘Drive’, along with actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

“I am such a big fan of heist films such as ‘Fast & The Furious’ and ‘Oceans 11’. They are so much fun to watch as an audience. It’s the first time that I am working with Sushant Singh Rajput and I have learnt so much from him… I have learnt about books, acting techniques.”

‘Drive’ will release in the cinemas early next year.

“Sometime in February or March. It’s good that I have a movie releasing early 2019… 2018 has been such an interesting year for Bollywood cinema. We have seen such cool films that entered the Rs100 crore club.”

2018 was remarkable not just for some high-concept, well-executed films such as ‘Andhadhun’, ‘Badhaai Ho!’ and ‘Mulk’, it was also a year of spectacular weddings. A-listers such as Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor got married in style.

“I had so much fun getting dressed for all of them. Sonam’s wedding was in June and six months later we saw three other weddings… Just to see our acquaintances that we work with enjoy their happiest moments of their life is wonderful to watch.”

By seeing her colleagues alter their single status, did she feel the wedding fever?

“Why should it be that way? Why are girls asked this question every single time? We are completely free to be single for the rest of our lives because we are our own person. We are independent. I am enjoying the fact that I am an independent girl.”

She also adds that the social construct of ticking all the boxes at a certain age doesn’t hold good anymore.

“If I want to have a family, then I can have a family of my own. While having a partner is a fantastic thing, don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t found anyone. That’s not how life works and that’s not how you should life.” Her motto is painfully simple and uncomplicated. Your happiness and contentment in life lies in your own hands.

“It’s not up to someone else to make you happy or to complete your life. That’s up to you. If you are in a relationship hoping that someone else will complete you then that relationship is not going to make you happy either.”

Jacqueline Fernandez at the Emerald Palace in Palm Jumeirah, Dubai on 30th December, 2018. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

She’s equally pragmatic when it comes to the burgeoning #MeToo movement that rocked the Bollywood industry in 2018. Actress Tanushree Dutta unleashed a storm against sexual predators in the Hindi entertainment industry when she called out Nana Patekar as a predator.

“It was such an important time for all of us — men and women alike. It was about time that a conversation about sexual harassment and gender equality came up… It opened everyone’s eyes. It illustrated that harassment at work cannot be tolerated. It was also fantastic that it was a year that brought forward a lot of brave hearts who shared their experiences.”

Their courage will now be a catalyst for other women to speak up and will underline that the shame is a sentiment that should be felt by predators and not the survivors.

“Now we know that there’s a safe zone where we can speak up and there’s no shame in it… It made me very happy. What a remarkable year.”

Did you know?

Jacqueline Fernandez is in Dubai with her entire family in tow to enjoy the DSF festivities.

“The last time we had a re-union like that was 10 years ago… There are so many options during DSF to enjoy… I was asking them if they wanted to go skiing, a desert safari or a hot-air balloon? We want to do it all.”