When we heard you were from Iran, we instantly thought of Ferdowsi. We think his Shahnameh was as excellent piece of work as ever to come out of Iran. Are you into poetry as well?
I love Ferdowsi, but there are others that you should read. People like Ahmad Shamlou and Sadi. And Hafiz, too.
Hafiz… he was good, eh? Can you recite a couplet or two from one of his poems?
You have to read them in Farsi, but wait, let me try to translate a couple of lines from one of his poems. This is from Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved, a collection of some 100 poems by Hafiz:
Come and set my boat free on sail in the wine-rivers! Come and burn the guru and the youth in heavenly fires! Oh wine-bearer! In wine, let my boat sail away As, “in water set free your goodness”, they say. In mistake, I turned away from the wine-house, Come and let me back in the path of the righteous fellas!
Excellent. Are you single, by the way?
Don’t tell us that you are waiting for the right man? There is no such thing as a right man or woman, you know.
Of course, but I don’t mind waiting until and unless I am convinced.
Since we are on the subject of men, what’s your take on Iranian men? For some reason, we can only think of the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini and Ahmadinejad, and we are sure there are better men than that in Iran?
I find men to be the same, irrespective of which country they belong to. I think there is a lot in common between Indian and Iranian men.
What is the first thing you notice about a man?
His watch? Are you big into watches?
Not really, as in, I am not into brands as such, but if it’s a good-looking watch he is wearing, that gets my attention. I am also partial to people who wear good perfumes. But basically, I like simple, uncomplicated guys. I hate people who show off.
Okay, so how did you get into Bollywood?
It’s a long story. My grandfather was an Indian who married a Parsi woman from Iran. My mom is Turkish. I have relatives here in Pune. So, in spite of being just 25, I have been around. I used to visit India as a kid and hated it then. When I became a model, I did visit India for shoots, but I was based in Hong Kong, so being a Bollywood actor was never on the cards as such. But then, I auditioned for Bhaag Johnny (directed by Vikram Bhatt) and eight months after the audition I learnt I was going to be in the movie along with Kunal Khemu and Zoa Morani. So, here I am.
So, you are not the typical ‘I grew up wanting to be a Bollywood actor’?
Not really, but I loved Hindi movies. We used to watch them in our home in Tehran, even though it was frowned upon and video cassettes were seized by cops from homes. My favourite Hindi movie is Devdas, with Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai.
How good is your Hindi?
Pretty good, actually. I have been taking classes for a while now, but what helps me is the fact that I have the hang of Urdu. Since, Persian and Urdu use the same script, I find that it helps me deal with Hindi better.
Nice. We hear you are put up in Bandra, and that’s where we are based too. So, just in case we drop in one of these days with a bottle of wine, what do you think we could eat together?
I could cook you a nice chicken tachin. A tachin is, essentially, baked rice and chicken, with saffron and yogurt.
Thank you. Just one last thing: what does Mandana mean?
Eternal, something that lasts forever.