Malaika Arora
Malaika Arora Image Credit: Supplied

If there is one Bollywood actor who unfailingly grabs headlines at regular intervals, it has to be Malaika Arora.

A former model, the actress, MTV VJ, producer, television personality and fitness entrepreneur, she set hearts racing by matching steps with Shah Rukh Khan atop a train in Dil Se 25 years ago. And she has been continuing to remain in the news either through her racy dance steps be it Munni Badnaam Hui, Kaal Dhamaal, Maahi Ve, or through her fashion choices, lifestyle or reality show appearances.

Although she has not been the lead in a movie, this is one actor who continues to be discussed on the various social media platforms with unfailing regularity.

Now, she makes her digital debut with Moving In With Malaika, a show that offers fans a peek into her life through unfiltered conversations with family members and with friends from the industry. In the actor’s own words, ‘It’s a fun ride as I take everyone along with me exploring my day-to-day life...’

In a free-wheeling exclusive interview, Malaika offers a glimpse of the person behind the persona, and her design choices when it comes to her home and decor. But first, what is it that makes her relevant and a trendsetter?

‘The [short] answer is you have to keep up with the times. I was never ready to hang up my boots,’ says Malaika, who at 49 continues to rule the social media and page 3 journalism with her bold fashion sense and even bolder points of view.

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Image Credit: Supplied

‘I wanted to do a lot of things and not just be a model, I wanted to progress into so much more. Every year I get the opportunity to do something different and I never let any opportunity slip by,’ she says, pointing to the short shelf life of those actors who rely heavily on their sensuality just to be able to carve a niche for themselves in the public’s imagination. ‘Staying relevant in this business is always a challenge; it is always an uphill task. Reinvention is very important and over the years I have really managed to do that,’ she adds.

Home is where the facade drops

Moving in with Malaika is another effort in that direction. What the show also does is offer a glimpse of her home. As episodes progress, the camera captures the casual conversation that the actor has with her guests either on her now-famous plush vanilla couch, showcasing the beautiful living room in the process or the gorgeous dining area where elegant furniture and soothing colour palette come together in understated classic style.

Her four-bedroom home in Mumbai’s upscale Bandra has decor and wall shades in sage green, teal blue, white and other pastel colours lending a cool and relaxing ambience.

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From the attractive and inviting entrance area of the home to the warm and relaxing living room area to the minimalistic lounge section, her apartment is a perfect combination of comfort and style

Exquisite, comfortable and an ode to minimal splendour, the house reflects Malaika’s passion for wellness and self-care. Airy rooms with plenty of sunlight coming in, uncluttered spaces and loads of green sprinkled around the house are testimony to the fact that she prefers calm over chaos.

If her Instagram feeds are anything to go by, she has chosen to go the contemporary chic way. From the attractive and inviting entrance area of the home to the warm and relaxing living room area to the minimalistic lounge section, her apartment is a perfect combination of comfort and style.

‘The decor of my house is very minimalist,’ she agrees. ‘I love whites, I love anything in that shade. I also love a hint of green, any shade in the family of green.

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'I love a hint of green, any shade in the family of green'

‘I recently redid my house and [interior and fashion designer, and ex-wife of actor Hrithik Roshan] Sussanne Khan has done a bit of my home. She did a spectacular job because she completely understood what I wanted... which is a very French-English sort of a vibe. I love Italian architecture as well, I love their mouldings. I also love mouldings which are French.’

Sussanne has managed to make my house into a nice beautiful home, says the actor

Malaika’s house makes use of wallpaper well. ‘There is use of wall paper and, of course, my house has a lot of sunlight. I need that. There are little little accents here and there which are so beautiful but a home is a home when it is nice and warm and cosy. Sussanne has managed to do that so beautifully. She has made my house into a nice beautiful home. There are lot of Italian touches to it. There are French touches in terms of decor, colour scheme and wall paper.’

The actor’s home also boasts a large balcony that offers a panoramic view of Mumbai’s skyline, and the actor has done up the area with soft lights, comfy chairs and plenty of plants.

‘I love plants, I love greenery and I like nice, big palm trees in my house,’ says the star. ‘Even in my bedroom and other rooms there are lots of whites.’

Another decor element she loves is artworks. ‘There is a lot of modern art in my house,’ she reveals.

Clearly, going by the number of Insta posts of her home, one thing Malaika enjoys after a tiring day out is relaxing at home with her pet dog, and taking in the quietness.

Art works feature in Malaika's home

And when she is not unwinding, she is wondering about the future. ‘There are days when I just want to back down and wonder what next? Will I be able to actually survive another day in this cut-throat business. The older you get the more insecure you are ...the way you look, your work, whether you will be able to match up with your younger counterparts and I am no different,’ says Malaika, opening up about her inner fears.

‘Insecurities never go but I don’t let those insecurities get to me,’ she says, hinting at her never-say-die attitude. ‘I believe in having a plan to reinvent myself and to move forward. It is not easy because we all know opportunities dry up but I have managed to stay ahead in this game of chance and have managed to stay relevant with times because it is easy to get completely sidetracked,’ says the actor who is also a investor in many lifestyle and wellness startups.

Stepping out of the comfort zone

So, was Moving in With Malaika part of that desire to stay in the race?

‘Being on a show like this is very unlike me. I have always been an introvert,’ she admits.

‘I have never liked to share too much. I would keep things to the bare minimum and in terms of my feelings and the person that I am that is even more guarded. But our work is such that you get thrown into that situation. Most of the time I switch on and be that part and once the camera is off, I go back to the real me. This is how I have managed over the years.’

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One thing Malaika enjoys after a tiring day out is relaxing at home with her pet dog, and taking in the quietness

Malaika says she had many sleepless nights after she gave the nod to the show and one of the reasons was having her son on the show. ‘There is a very fine line of what you can put out there and what you can’t. I was a little apprehensive about having my son on the show. He is a kid. Even though this is a world he was born and brought up in, the choice is up to him if he actually wants to be part of this world or not,’ she says.

Her 20-year-old son Arhaan Khan, who is studying abroad, was ‘super excited’, she says. ‘He did surprise me. He was so comfortable, so chilled, not a moment shy.’

Battling criticism

Malaika has a bone to pick with trolls on social media, especially those that shame people. ‘Ageism is one of my pet peeves. It has become such a thing! There is not a day when we are not shamed for it. For these haters, women over a certain age are undesirable, she is ‘aunty’ and they are put into certain brackets. Why are women given these labels? There is not a day where we don’t have to deal with these things. We have Meryl Streep and Madhuri Dixit who took a complete break and have come back with a bang. [Madhuri] looks so fab, she is doing such great work and has stayed relevant.

‘This whole thing of shaming women and stereotyping them is so unnecessary. It is time we move away from it. Now there are so many women who speak up, there are so many voices world over. Every time I read an interview about what Priyanka Chopra has to say or what Farah Khan has to say, [I find] they are all women with very strong voices.’

On acting in a lead role

Although she has been in the industry for decades, how come she never did a full-fledged role?

‘I have always had a slight fear of acting so I have shied away from it,’ says Malaika. ‘I have always been nervous thinking will I be able to pull it off? Is it something that actually interests me or goes with the kind of person or personality that I am?’

That said she believes in never saying never and is willing to give it a try. ‘If you ask me today, I would say bring it on. I am totally happy to explore new avenues.

‘With experience and time things change. Also, many stereotypes in the industry have changed over a period of time. Earlier it was perceived that because you are pretty you cannot be a thinking person. The term ‘item number’ seemed a little derogatory or the way it was being perceived but that also changed over the years.

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I am totally happy to explore new avenues says Malaika

‘Today women are striving better than ever though there is still a lot of disparity,’ she says.

So, what are the pros and cons of being a celebrity?

‘We are what we are because of being in the public eye... because of our fans who have over the years loved and adored us. That is definitely something that you have to be very aware of and be very grateful about. Of course, in terms of cons, there is constant scrutiny, constant invading of privacy, and a lot of things written and said are baseless.’

Being in the industry equals being in the public eye always, she says. ‘You will always have to deal with it. The cons are it can get you; it can affect and it does affect you. You may be strong, you may be immune to things, you may have become thick-skinned over the years but things do affect you. That kind of lingers on,’ the diva says with her signature smile.