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My day with Nicole Kidman

Rubina Ali with family
Rubina Ali shot a commercial with Nicole Kidman in Rajasthan

Rubina Ali, child star of Slumdog Millionaire, recounts a day with Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman in her new book Slumdog Dreaming: My journey to the stars, published by Random House, India.

'A BEAUTIFUL DOLL'

Nicole Kidman was seated on a sofa, her long golden hair falling down on her back, looking a bit lost. When I came in, she stood up and came over to me, incredibly beautiful in her long, white dress.

"Hello, I am so pleased to meet you. How are you?"

"Fine, thank you."

After a few months of studies at the Aseema School, I now knew how to say a few basic sentences in English.

But it is always very hard for me to understand foreigners' English as they speak very differently from my teachers.

Meeting Nicole Kidman up close, I realised that she looks like a beautiful doll.

I have never met any woman as tall as her. I thought all the women from my slum would be so small in front of her. But her skin, lips and hands, they were all perfect. I thought if I touched her, she might get dirty.

[Bollywood actor] Arjun Rampal was there, too. When I shook his hand, he praised me and complimented me a lot on my acting in Slumdog Millionaire - so much that I blushed!

Finally, the director of the advertisement came to introduce himself.

"Hello, I'm Shekhar."

"Hello, I'm Rubina."

"Oh, I know. I've heard a lot about you, you know!"

As for me, I'd never heard of this Shekhar Kapur, but Natasha Didi told me that he is one of the greatest directors.

Nicole Kidman
'I have never met any woman as tall as her'

In a few words, Shekhar explained to me what this advertisement was about.

"This is an advertisement to promote a new ginger-flavoured soft drink. The film only lasts two minutes, and your role is important. Natasha is going to do your make-up and then I'll tell you what you have to do."

I wondered who drank ginger-flavoured cold drinks, but remembered that they have all kinds of strange food and drinks in America.

So, this was no surprise for me.

After the make-up was done, a lady came to help me put on a long black skirt with a little red blouse embroidered with pearls, a typical Rajasthani dress, they told me.

'A FAIRY TALE DRESS'

I thought my dress and look were more interesting than Nicole Kidman's, as she just wore a white dress with very little make-up.

Hearing me going crazy over the outfit, the dresser pointed out: 'You know, after the filming, you can take this dress home with you, if you want.'

"Oh, thank you!"

I was excited about having another fairy tale dress for myself; another exclusive dress in my wardrobe.

My uncle took a boat back to the hotel, quite taken aback by the luxury and the beauty of the place.

Shekhar uncle briefed me on my role. They asked me to walk amidst dancers, just admiring and looking at Nicole Kidman.

Then, I was supposed to hold her hand and run, not too fast, along a passage of the hotel. Next, we had to climb down stairs, still holding hands.

Rubina Ali book cover
Rubina talks about her life in the slums of Mumbai in the book

We were standing on a platform and there was water in front of us as well as a boat.

After that, Nicole let go of my hand and I touched her, marvelling at the jewels and her beauty.

I had to behave as if I was completely taken aback by her looks; a light touch on her cheeks was to make sure that she was indeed real and then I smiled at her, watching her leave on the boat.

After that I again appeared when she was having the ginger drink.

That was it for the day, and the camera test was to be held next morning.

They told me that Nicole Kidman, for security reasons wanted to film only between 6 pm and 6 am.

I didn't understand the security reasons behind this odd shooting time chosen by Nicole Kidman but Natasha Didi told me that she was a very famous star and was concerned that paparazzi would follow her.

She also didn't want to be recognised by the public, and wanted to maintain her privacy.

In the evening, there weren't many people and it was less hot as well, that's why she could work in peace.

I found these reasons rather amusing.

First of all, "paparazzi" sounded like some kind of pizza people ate in America. But then Natasha Didi told me it was photographers taking pictures of celebrities when they were not aware about it.

I found the American actress strange but then sometimes very charming. Everything was done on the sets according to her desires and mood.

'SHE SPOKE VERY LITTLE'

Nicole Kidman finally arrived.

She didn't come even once during the afternoon. She just came down for her shoot and then ran back to her room.

Natasha had warned me, "She's not too well, It's probably too hot for her. She prefers to stay in her room."

I would have liked to play and chat with her a bit.

Rubina Ali
'The dance scenes have always been my favourites'

That evening we rehearsed our sequence of shots. They asked me to think about the expressions on my face. I also did a bit of dancing in the opening shot.

But mostly there were professional Rajasthani dancers dressed in local costume, much more professional than Nicole and me. I loved watching them, the way they turned and twirled.

In films, the dance scenes have always been my favourites, and as always I enjoyed this one. I watched the dancers quite closely as I wanted to pick up some steps to teach my cousins back home.

Like the night before, I got back to my hotel quite late. The next day, I hung around in my hotel with nothing much to do till evening.

This time, we filmed in our full costumes. Nicole Kidman wore the same white dress in which I'd seen her on the first day. A magical sort of white thin cloth covered her shoulders. She wore beautiful jewels and Natasha Didi told me they were real diamonds.

Between each shot, the star took big breaks, with all her assistants around her. She had so many assistants, along with a dozen bodyguards and she didn't like to mix too much with the team.

When she was present, she spoke very little. I felt bored quite quickly. The following days went by in the same way.

Afraid of the heat, Nicole Kidman stayed in her room all day, whereas I just walked round and round.

By the end of it, I knew every corner of the hotel and made friends with some of the staff of the hotel too.

Rubina Ali's Slumgirl Dreaming: My Journey to the Stars has been published by Random House, India



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