From Couture to Kutir

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By 2017-04-09

By Asif Anwar Alig

Anusual: Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead, by Anu Aggarwal, HarperCollins Publishers India, Noida – 201301 (India), 185pp, 2015, Indian Rupees299, Soft. Movie buffs still remember the unparalleled success of Bollywood's Aashiqui (Love) which was released in 1990. Director Mahesh Bhatt picked dark-skinned model Anu Aggarwal and introduced her to acting. In her debut she attained an archetypal success—to became a star overnight. A sensation in her first movie, she acted in many other films thereafter, without achieving the same remarkable success. Inside one decade though, the Aashiqui girl gradually vanished from the public eye.

With the arrival of her autobiography Anusual: Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead after more than twenty-five years after her unprecedented success, it revives the memories of that early success. Readers now see her in a different perspective, unlike that glam image of bygone years. An open-hearted individual, she vividly speaks about life before stardom; of delicate setbacks, losses, achievements and more importantly her transformation from couture glitz to yoga and spiritualism.

Through revealing much about her life, this book merits being an honest confession of a former actress who chose the path of spirituality and yoga for self-rejuvenation. This book is an offhand, strong and brusque recollection of her life's confrontations that reveals her mind and its inner-strength from the meteoric rise of a successful model to an extraordinarily efficacious film career full of skirmishes and constant downfalls until a fatal accident left her in coma for a month. She confesses everything from being catapulted to stardom with her debut movie Ashiqui to recounting countless untouched aspects of her life, which she has narrated with frank openness in this memoir.

What we know of her from this book are her personal and professional ups and downs to the men in her life, from millionaires to super-yogis. Her life story is worthy of a Bollywood script that revolves around the extremes of highs and lows of her career. As she explains in the book, "Excessive fame is a mother fu*ker". Her decision to forego modelling and Bollywood while at the peak of her success was indeed a bold decision on her part.

This book reveals why she literally vanished from Bollywood and renounced the glamour and limelight of modeling, brand-endorsements, movies appearances, interviews and the gossip columns to be literally, forgotten. What we learn in her book is years of seclusion, more than two decades, actually rejuvenated her. By listening to her innermost thoughts and emotions, she chose a path that changed her life to become a stronger and more determined woman.
A near fatal car crash in 1999 sent her into 29-day long coma. Post recovery, she was a changed person which she calls her rebirth. Although that incident shook her completely, her life underwent a major transformation thereafter. No longer in the public limelight, she learnt from adversity and finally triumphed. According to her, 'it was indeed the beginning of her real life.'

Recalling how she had been literally floating outside her physical body before returning again, she wrote about everything as if she had seen some kind of montage image of her life. Besides that near-death experience, she recalls other traumas as contributing factors to finally helping her achieve full-time yogi status.

Revitalized, Anu Aggarwal is determined to propagate her unique fun-yoga with Anufunyoga in worldwide locations today. She considers it a solace from everyday life as it inculcates goodwill and hope.

This memoir is a first hand narration of her brush with unexpected stardom in Bollywood. It reveals many facets of her life such as fame which sadly was only fleeting, to her relationships and indecisiveness brought on by poor career decisions.

Since delving into modelling in the 80's, Anu Aggarwal became one of the most recognizable faces in the glamour world of that era. Aashiqui in 1990, added more fame. With her marketing power and image in both modelling and acting, she was a valuable commodity during that period. Although she was dark-skinned, which was a something of a taboo back then, she faced stiff competition and prejudices but was undeterred and kept moving up in her career and life.

A narrative prototype, Anu Aggarwal projects her in the third person—appearing constantly as "that girl" throughout the book. Being a confessional narrative, it has punch lines, and thus highlights how a Delhi girl in the 80s, socially disadvantaged, excelled once destiny steered her into an entirely different path. She writes about her many personal experiences from falling in love with a jazz musician to being welcomed in the fashion houses of Paris and countless other brushes with fame that brought more jealousies than friends thus ensuring she was destined to remain wary and ultimately, lonely.

She writes in detail about her dedication to yoga and training in an ashram. With admirable frankness, she mentions the uptight admiration and romantic encounters with a resident guru.

This book concludes with emphasis on new-age spirituality which according to her was the ultimate antidote to her soul-destroying fame. The memoir seems to be a must read for cinema lovers who are absorbed in movies that immortalize onscreen love & romance.

[Asif Anwar Alig is an assistant professor and media relations specialist at the Saudi Ministry of Education. He was earlier executive producer in ETV; editorial coordinator at MDI, Gurgaon (India) and media specialist at PMU (Saudi Arabia). He blogs at / and]




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