By Manjusha Radhakrishnan
A few months ago, when Parvathy Omanakuttan, Miss India World 2008, jetted into Dubai for a fashion show, we were impressed by her lack of airs and graces.
Her willingness to pose patiently while a photographer struggled to compose a flattering picture in a poorly-lit hotel lobby and her offer of an interview after our brief face-to-face encounter suggested that the beauty queen would also have been a fine choice for Miss Congeniality.
Cut to 2009 and Omanakuttan is now the holder of the Miss World first runner-up crown. But a 90-minute delay before the start of our interview and the presence of a fidgety PR executive hovering nearby raises suspicions that Omanakuttan is now a diva in the making.
These misgivings are laid to rest as soon as the doors to her private suite are thrown open. It was simply a case of miscommunication, explained Omanakuttan’s parents, who are chaperoning the 21-year-old.
The woman herself is the epitome of poise and charm as she explained how she planned to follow in the footsteps of former Indian beauty queens such as Aishwarya Rai, Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta and make her way into Bollywood.
“Life has changed for the better. I have received numerous offers from Bollywood directors since winning the crown. Although I am not directly involved with reading scripts, I am looking forward to acting soon,” says Omanakuttan.
If reports are anything to go by, acclaimed Bollywood directors such as Karan Johar, who excels at candyfloss romances, and J.P. Dutta, the king of mega-productions, have been in touch.
“It’s true I auditioned for a role in a Karan Johar film. But that was before I went to South Africa for the [Miss World] contest. And it’s also true that I met J.P. Dutta before the contest. But I am still waiting for things to happen,” says Omanakuttan primly.
In the meantime, she plans to take a crash course in acting.
“It makes sense to put my time to good use. Although I don’t want to do a full-fledged acting course, I want to be prepared for what’s in store for me.”
With no prior acting experience, she is planning her foray into Bollwood with military precision and hopes to retrace the career paths of established actors.
Omanakuttan says she admires the patience and perseverance of stars such as Abhishek Bachchan and the Khan trio.
“That man [Abhishek Bachchan] has a different personality altogether. I remember when he entered movies, all eyes were on him because he was Amitabh Bachchan’s son. When his films began to flop, many wrote him off. But the way he has held his own is simply commendable,” she gushes.
Surprisingly, Omanakuttan doesn’t seem as taken with Mrs Bachchan — former Miss World-turned-actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
“She has done very well for herself. After all, she is a known celebrity both in India and the world over,” is all she will say.
Omanakuttan’s poise slips a notch when I ask about her narrowly missing out on the coveted Miss World title and her subsequent criticism of the jury.
“I was misquoted by the press. Who am I to question the jury’s decision? There is no way I could go and peek at their score sheets,” she says, visibly rattled.
In all fairness, the general consensus at the time of the contest was that the crown should have gone to Miss India.
Pressed on the issue and her tearful reaction when the announcement was made, she says: “Yes, I was very disappointed. Everyone, including the [other] contestants, thought that I deserved to win. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with it. But the support of my family and friends helped me get over it.”
The statesque beauty also prefers to think that destiny has better things in store for her.
“In my experience, success is all about the combination of three factors: hard work, support from your family and luck. The last bit is where I lost out, but I am sure better things are coming my way.”
Despite her disappointment, she is is visibly excited when discussing the Miss World contest, which she said did not fit the stereotypical image of beauty queens unsheathing their manicured claws while competing for the crown. To the contrary, Omanakuttan says she made some “real friends” along the way.
“There was no back-biting, bickering or rivalry. In fact, I am still in touch with Miss England — Laura — on Facebook.
After the contest, many of the contestants came up to me and said I deserved to win. That’s a victory in itself,” she says.
He has to be…
o A smooth talker
o Supportive of my answer to the question posed to me during the contest: “Divorces are not a result of Western influence. At the end of the day, it is we who decide our worth. Marriage is not when one completes the other, but is when both share their completeness.”
Shah Rukh Khan: “He is charismatic and is convincing in any role.”
Kunal Kapoor: “He has tremendous potential.”
Aamir Khan and Salman Khan: “Because they are the Khans!”
Parvathy Omanakuttan’s long black hair is conditioned with coconut oil. [No surprises there since she hails from Kerala, south India, where it’s used as a traditional hair treatment.]
Her mum’s cooking. One of the toughest parts of her fitness regime was to stick to the no-rice diet formulated by her fitness instructor.
“The no-rice diet lasted for two days. After that, I convinced my instructor that I needed a very small bowl of rice and curry. There was no way I could give up rice.”
Did you know?
Parvathy Omanakuttan’s father, who is a restaurant manager at the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai, had a narrow escape when terrorists unleashed carnage on the city on November 26.
At the time, Parvathy was in South Africa rehearsing for the last leg of the Miss World contest.
“I felt helpless being so far away from Mumbai. But after I returned, I attended a condolence meeting with my parents. It was a private affair and was off limits to the media.”
By Manjusha Radhakrishnan