“I am a coffee addict,” Kiara Advani reveals, in a conspiratorial voice. And then, with a laugh, “I absolutely love my black coffee!”
It is 8:10pm, and Kiara has just entered the studio where the Cosmo covershoot will take place. It’s an uncommon time for a covershoot, but this one is an exception. Because, over the last few weeks, Kiara has been in the throes of a frenzied promotion schedule for her new Karan Johar-backed Netflix film, Guilty.
We meet her at the end of a 12-hour day that began at 7am, and I almost feel guilty telling her about the several hours of make-up, hairstyling, photographing, and interviewing that will follow...and certainly go on until after midnight.
But if Kiara is tired or irritable, she doesn’t show it. She is markedly cheerful while discussing outfits with the Cosmo team (and gracefully agrees, not a sulk in sight, when we coax her to try on yet another dress that we know will ‘look fab on her’ [it does]).
She holds her tall mug of black coffee with both hands. It’s her third cup of the day (that’s one more than she’d have on regular days). “But that’s okay, because this is a late-night magazine shoot...I hope I don’t need another one,” she laughs.
You must be exhausted, I half-ask, half-state, and Kiara gives me a wide smile and a shake of her head. “Thank you for asking! I think I am on auto-pilot... But the minute the camera is on, and the set is ready, and the lights come on, and the room fills with ‘click, click, click’ sounds, this ‘new me’ suddenly emerges, like a new avatar, you know? It’s like, one second I am thinking, ‘Oh God, I am so tired!’, but the next moment, I’m like, ‘Oh God, I am ready to pose!’. Sometimes, my brother will look at me and go, ‘Are you normal? What is wrong with you?!’ I don’t know whether I’ve become a switch-on-switch-off actor, but I am being able to pull off long hours and forget about the sleep.”
It’s possible Kiara has no time or will for fatigue. She is, by her own admission, “living her dream life”, doing exactly what she has always wanted to do, ever since she was a little girl. And when the going gets tough, when work is demanding and the hours are long, Kiara reminds herself that she has “absolutely no right to complain because this is what I’ve always dreamt of!”.
“Even before my teenage years, I was wearing my mother’s dupattas, dancing in front of the mirror, applying stolen make-up, and copying Madhuri Dixit’s dance steps, and iconic dialogues from all of Kareena Kapoor’s films!”
By the time she had driven into her teens, Kiara knew, with deep-down certainty, that she wanted to be an actor. And so, she began changing her choice of cinema, watching films “for the performances, for the art form that it is.” She admits to being a little embarrassed about telling friends about her obsession with Bollywood. “I went to Cathedral, a school in South Mumbai, where nobody watched Hindi movies. It was almost looked down upon. When my friends would call and ask what I was doing, I would quickly switch the channel and say something like, ‘Oh, I was just watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S and chilling’. But in reality, I was devouring every single Govinda-Raveena Tandon movie that would play on Saturdays and Sundays!”
Kiara’s tremendous passion for what she does is part of her appeal. Does she believe that single-minded focus is the secret to success? “Oh, absolutely,” she says in an instant. “For me, it was like wearing blinders. I never had a Plan B, I never even thought of another profession as an option. My goal was clear: to be an actor. I went to college and got a degree because my parents wanted me to have a solid back-up plan, but in my mind, I knew what I really wanted to do. I just knew that some day, I will be up there. I think I had immense belief in myself... Even through college, if I ever bunked class, it was to take up an acting class or a dance class. And all those days, all I did was participate in dance events and fashion shows, and anything related to this field.
Kiara leans in and says in earnestness, “I think, when you are so focused on what you want and you are working towards it every single day, the universe really does give back. It will happen, it’s just a matter of time and patience. You know, I read this quote somewhere: ‘Success is when hard work meets opportunity’. So I was waiting for that opportunity, but I also needed to ensure I was prepared.”
Kiara’s big opportunity came when she landed the role of a sexually frustrated newly-wed, in the Netflix short-film series, Lust Stories. “It was Lust Stories that changed my career graph. It just liberated me as an actor, but I received so much love from the audience after Kabir Singh, and that has only grown after Good Newwz.” It was in 2019—the year of her last two film releases—that everything changed. “It was then that I realised that I could no longer just walk around freely, without worrying about someone following me,” she says. And then, Kiara delves into this alarming story: “You know, someone had been following me for a while, and stalking me into my building! So what began with an ‘Oh God, this is making me laugh’ or taking fun selfies with fans, went into a more dangerous territory, teaching me that these situations can get out of hand.” She pauses to take a long sip of that coffee and gather her thoughts. “Sometimes, you feel like it is so lovely to get that kind of love from fans, but then, if someone crosses the line, it can become very scary. I was like, ‘What is happening in my life right now?!’ It was very, very overwhelming.”
Styling: Zunaili Malik; Photographs: Taras Taraporvala Hair: Hiral Bhatia; Make-Up: Lekha Gupta; Location Courtesy: Cottons & Satins, Mumbai; Production: Anomaly Productions; Photographer’s Agency: Inega Model Management; Fashion Assistants: Humaira Lakdawala and Saloni Kohli; Fashion Intern: Shivi Khosla.
Kiara is wearing: : Crop top, skirt and pumps, all Anamika Khanna; necklace, En Inde