There is an Indian restaurant in the Chicago burbs that seems to be a particularly popular in the area. And whenever I'm there I find myself looking at a wall filled with pictures of the Bollywood A-list. There is a picture of Katrina, Bipasha and Kareena. There's Hrithik, Saif, Abhishek, Bipasha again (there is a reason I don't mind eating at this place), Salman, Preity, Aishwarya.
But there is one anamoly on this Wall of Fame. Right there between a picture of Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra is a framed photograph of...Niharika Singh.
Clearly, a lot of people even halfway across the world from Mumbai believe she is on her way to being a major star.
How exactly is she going about doing it? In 2005, at age 21 she was Pond's Femina Miss Earth. She followed it up by building an impressive modeling portfolio on TV (Milk n Roses, Sony Wega, Samsung, Asian Paints, Vagh Bakri tea) and print (Unitech, Samsung, and Oasis Telecom). She featured in music videos for Lata Mangeshkar, Jagjit Singh and Babul Supriyo.
Last year she broke into Bollywood by signing two movies with Himesh Reshammiya: John Matthew Mathan's A New Love Ishtory and Seema, Sudhir's Mudh Mudh Ke Na Dekh Mudh Mudh Ke.
I invited Niharika to stop by the Drift and tell us how things were going with her.
AspisDrift.com: Niharika, you are such a strikingly beautiful woman. What were you like growing up? Did boys throw themselves at your feet? Did you have to tie a zillion rakhees to keep them at bay? Did the girls either love you or want to be your best friend? Tell us about Ms. Niharika, school ki ladki.
Niharika: Thank you for the compliment...but you'll be surprised to know that I was a complete tomboy in my school days. I was in an All Girls Boarding School (All Saints, Nainital) and never cared much about my looks. It was only after leaving school did I realize what male attention was. Girls have always been very comfortable around me but I always chose my friends with care.
AspisDrift.com: You are doing two films with Himesh Reshammiya. Let's talk about those. I've heard you play a woman with way too much cash in A New Love Ishtory. What's the role like in Mudh Mudh Ke Na Dekh Mudh Mudh?
Niharika: My role in Mudh mudh ke.. is very different from the one I play in A new Love Ishtory. In Love Ishtory I play a rich successful businesswoman whereas in Mudh mudh ke.. I play a young NRI Gujrati girl who is modern and yet traditional at the same time. Another difference in both the films is that in Love Ishtory, Himesh is in love with me and in Mudh mudh ke.. I'm in love with him.
AspisDrift.com: Are you done shooting for Love Ishtory? What is the schedule like for Mudh Mudh Ke?
Niharika: I'm shooting for both the films simultaneously. We've finished shooting a major chunk of Love Ishtory and completed one long schedule of Mudh mudh ke.. as well. Both the films will release next year.
AspisDrift.com: How did you get the offers for both movies?
Niharika: There is no great story behind this one. Himesh called me one day and narrated Love Ishtory to me over the phone and asked me to go meet John Matthew Mathan. John auditioned me the next day and I was signed for the film soon after. I guess they must've liked my audition tape coz I was offered Mudh mudh ke.. right after that and I signed it even before I started shooting for the first film.
AspisDrift.com: Himesh is a pretty unconventional hero – he'll be the first to tell you this. Honestly did you catch yourself wishing you had Shahrukh Khan as your costar in at least one of those movies?
Niharika: I'm not retiring after these two films. I promise you that! I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to work with other actors in the future. Himesh spotted me and gave me a fantastic debut and I'll always be grateful to him for that.
AspisDrift.com: Tell us about your first meeting with Himesh. He seems to be a tremendous source of positive energy and encouragement. Did he sing Mashallah Subhanallah as soon as he laid eyes on you?
Niharika: Not exactly :) But you'll be surprised to know that I met Himesh face to face for the very first time (only) after I'd signed both the films. And the first time I saw him, I thought he had the kindest face I'd ever seen.
AspisDrift.com: Anything about Himesh that surprised you because you weren't expecting it?
Niharika: The one thing that surprises me and impresses me about Himesh is his ability to multi-task. He's extremely hardworking and shocks me with his energy.
AspisDrift.com: You were crowned Ponds Femina Miss Earth in 2005. You've done modeling. You are now an actress. What were the hardest things you had to learn in each profession?
Niharika: The hardest and the most important thing I've learnt at every stage in my career is PATIENCE!
AspisDrift.com: Ok Niharika, you've appeared in advertisements for lots of products. But I'm going to ask you about products you personally use.
What brand of soap do you use?
Niharika: I don't use soap. I use soap free liquid bodywash and a mild cleanser for the face.
AspisDrift.com: What brand of shampoo do you use?
Niharika: I love my hair and I take great care of it...so I prefer using a herbal shampoo to protect it from any unnatural products
AspisDrift.com: Are you a tea drinker? What brand of tea do you drink?
Niharika: I don't drink tea or coffee
AspisDrift.com: Which cell phone do you own?
Niharika: Nokia N95 8GB
AspisDrift.com: Which MP3 Player do you own?
Niharika: Philips Home Theatre and my car's music system
AspisDrift.com: Where do you buy most of your clothes from?
Niharika: I love shopping...and I can shop anywhere! But I mostly pick up Western Casuals from Mango, Zara, Bebe, River Island, Forever 21.
I pick up Indian Wear from Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre, Mandira Wirk and a couple of other Indian designers.
AspisDrift.com: Finally, this is a mandatory question for everyone on the Drift: can you fold a fitted bed sheet properly?
Niharika: I went to a boarding school as a kid and have been living on my own for the last seven years. I guess that should explain that I can do everything that needs to be done with bedsheets, pillowcases, curtains or upholstery of any kind :)
More: Niharika's catalog for Sia Lifestyles
Niharika in Babul Supriyo's video for Tere Liye
Niharika for Hair O Max