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Tuff guys last

Milind Soman claims to be shy but one soon realises he's as savvy as they come



MODELSPEAK Milind Soman: `I think most go to gyms to chat and look at the mirror' Photo: S. SUBRAMANIUM

It is a mild shock to realise that a himbo is ageing. Milind Soman, he of the sleek brown body and unconventional looks, sports a week-old beard peppered with grey, while his unruly hair frolics on his vaguely Neanderthal forehead. He emerges from the changing room to greet me and I'm left wondering if it is the same macho man who had women of all ages heaving and panting at one time.

Think Milind and what immediately comes to mind is not his movies or TV serials but that ad. Yes, the one with him and his then partner — the scrumptious Madhu Sapre — wearing fancy shoes and little else, and with a python for company. Can't blame the recall as it keeps popping up in the media because some fellow took umbrage at the nudity bit and went to court.

In town recently to launch the new Arrow showroom in Indiranagar, Milind came across as nobody's fool. What he lacked in looks, he compensated by loads of attitude and being astutely media savvy.

Donning many roles

Trained to be an electrical engineer and aiming to be a scuba diver, he has donned many roles, starting with his accidental introduction to modelling and moving on to become an actor and producer.

For someone who claims to be shy, he's not bad at all talking about his life and choices, very shrewdly turning up the right answers.

His parents and grandparents were academicians, but he hastily ads that "none in my family considers my choice of profession wrong".

So why didn't he take the next step — Bollywood? Simple. He likes to pack in creativity into his roles, something that has no place in mainstream Bollywood. "In every film I act, I like to create a character that is unique and different from those I have already done. Like Aamir khan, who creates a character unique to each story. Like Naseeruddin Shah, the kind of characters he has created is mind boggling."

He doesn't miss the ramp "though I had a lot of fun. But at some stage you want to do other things. Fashion and modelling was a totally new world for me compared to the middle-class academic background I hail from. Here I was introduced to a totally new way of thinking and living."

But he was not overwhelmed "as fashion was not very big when I entered. Perhaps if I had entered now, it may have been different."

He has no long-term goals, "but plenty of short-term goals. Five years down, I would like to surprise myself with the unexpected. There are too many things to be done in life for it to be restricted by fixed goals that need to be reached."

His latest film, Valley of Flowers is an "Indo-French-German co-production shot in Ladakh and Japan." A Hindi version is expected to be released in the interiors but the metros will have the Japanese version with subtitles. He met the current love of his life on the sets of this film. As for wedding bells, he has his hopes "but not sure, given the various pressures of being in the limelight."

Er, and what about that ad? He certainly wasn't self-conscious about posing in the nude as "I'm a swimmer and am used to wearing skimpy trunks. Besides, when you do a nude shot, you are not doing it before 20,000 people but in front of your photographers." Morality for him is connected with "not hurting people" rather than "questioning nude shots".

He has no misgivings about the choices he has made, and "would not like change to anything in my life. I've been very fortunate." As for all that female adulation, "I love it, as long as it does not interfere with what I need to do."

He is currently working on his book on fitness. "I believe in living life a hundred per cent and this means not being held back by the level of fitness. Most of us are only 20 per cent fit."

But he does not like to go the gym as "I think most go there to chat and look at the mirror. I feel claustrophobic in the small place with people sweating." He prefers the outdoors and runs a lot to keep fit. He does not watch his diet but tries "to be aware of what my body wants."

His aim is to "live happily — which takes a lot — and make money" and compensates for the lack of intellectual stimulation in his current profession by "reading a lot — especially other people's thoughts — and making television programmes and films."

And, oh, some day he hopes to climb Mount Everest and run a marathon.

NANDHINI SUNDAR

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