Peace, love and Raageshwari
Laaleen Sukhera Khan
ISLAMABAD: Raageshwari Loomba has moved on siginicantly from her chirpy 90s persona as Bollywood actor, pop singer and VJ. Overcoming Bell’s Palsy with great courage and determination, she is today a sagacious motivational speaker and yoga devotee who surrounds herself and others with positive affirmation.
“Pakistan is my largest fanbase outside of India,” says the elfin Ms. Loomba in an exclusive interview in the capital city. “I am honoured to be here. My father’s father died with the dream of visiting Lahore and Karachi, and my mother’s family had their home in Lahore.” The multifaceted star is currently on her first trip to here and has visited Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib gurdwaras with her parents.
Back In India, Raageshwari is an ambassador for AIDS awareness and leads a choir for vision-impaired children. Her trip across the border has highlighted causes including the Pakistan Sweet Home for children orphaned from terrorist attacks and natural disasters as well as SKMCH, where she taught ‘mirror therapy’ techniques to a group of young cancer survivors.
Known as ‘Ragz’ to her friends, she reveals how her ‘peace, love and harmony’ mantra has formulated her journey from entertainer to healer and how it isn’t necessary to be a “yogi in the mountains” to “heal the world together.”
“Spiritualism is about great balance,” she says. “I need to pay my bills too. I felt I should go out of my comfort zone to see if I could stick to my beliefs and lead my example on reality TV. Bigg Boss opened avenues for me and I now deliver motivational talks to thousands in corporate circles.” Raageshwari has also appeared in a children’s TV show for ARY which she scripted with her father and recalls various characters whose role was to encourage healthy eating and outdoor play.
Referring to her yoga workout DVD, ‘5 Ancient Tibetan Rites: The Secret of Eternal Youth,’ she says, “Every word has an energy. Cells react at great speed with endorphins and heal. ‘Dis-ease’ is a body not at ease.” She refers to her holistic side in collective terms, as in ‘we,’ explaining, “I feel odd and immodest to use ‘I.’ So many wonderful people are all healing the world, like Jack Canfield (author, Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Louise L. Hay (author, Heal Your Body).”
Raageshwari has a nurturing aura that strikes one immediately in her presence. Her eyes sparkle with keen observation while her speech is peppered with traditional references such as “Allah ka shukar” and “riyaaz karna.”
LSK: What brought you into the entertainment world?
RL: “I was only 15 when I auditioned for Shekhar Kapur for Bobby Deol’s debut film. Bobby said ‘Oh my God, she looks like a child!’ The screen test was a disaster and the film was never made! I was very embarrassed (about overt Bollywood-style acting) and you can see that in the few films I’ve done” (as a leading lady in Aankhen in ’93 and Mein Khilari Tu Anari and Zid in ’94). “Today, I know the best thing for an actor is to nosedive into the part, whether it’s a savitri devi or an anjuman sheikha.”
LSK: How did such diverse inspiration for your musical career come about, from Hindi pop to Sufi music and Tibetan chants?
RL: “All my pop music was been composed and written by dad (award-winning musician Trilok Singh Loomba). HMV Saregama asked me to be the face of their yoga album as Rekha ji couldn’t do it. Lorraine More taught me postures formulated by the monks about the 7 energy vortexes scientifically proven in our bodies. There are whirling dervish moves that centre your body, help with nausea, indigestion and headaches, and then a stomach crunch and so on. You’d find that namaz also has yogic postures because Islam is a religion of peace and science. I have great regard for the Muslim community and made the Sufi album for this community.”
LSK: How do you manage to still look 17? You look even better now than you did in the 90s…
RL: “I’m 36. The Internet calls me younger but I have great pride in my age! I want women to realize there’s so much more than trying to work at being young. Your biological age doesn’t matter. At Bigg Boss I was with girls who were younger than me but they couldn’t bend down and sweep the floor or clean the bathroom. Physically, I’m 16. Spiritually, I could be 500.”
LSK: How did you completely overcome Bell’s Palsy in your 20s? Is this how you were introduced to yoga?
RL: “I speak openly about it because real stories inspire us. I woke up one day to brush my teeth and couldn’t hold the water in my mouth. One side of my face and chest was numb so when I spoke, my lips reached my ear. I couldn’t recognize myself, couldn’t talk, and had no voice. Doctors were amazed that I recovered perfectly without steroids, it was all yoga and self affirmations. Yoga pumps more blood into parts of your body and paralysis is a nerve related illness. Bell’s Palsy is for people who fail to express anger. I suppose I’d had spiritual arrogance! Now I let it out through meditation.”
Fave Bollywood star: “Govinda. I learned from his great love for his art. He has unbelievable timing in comedy and dancing.”
Fave Pakistani celebrity: “Reshma ji, Abida Parveen, Shafaqat ji is my alltime favourite, Adnan Sami Khan aka ‘Mr. Romantic,’ his mother, and Nusrat and Rahat Fatah Ali Khan. I’ve performed at the same event with Ghulam Ali in Dubai.”
Trickiest dance move you’ve had to master: “With Govinda and Chunky Pandey, I had to do a dance move where my hand was between their thighs in Aankhen and they jerked back and forth. At the time I was horrified even though it was considered cool. No wonder people get backaches after all those hip thrusts!”
Genre of TV you’d like to try next: “A cookery show. Something progressive for children. Alternative healing.”
The most difficult yoga move you’ve achieved: “A headstand.”
Your most memorable music video: “Duniya, directed by my brother, where I was a knapsack-wearing young traveller on the beach with children.”
Favourite fashion designers: “My designer friends dress me up but I’ll never indulge in criminal expenses. I’m wearing Annie & Nimmu today” (she’s dressed in a blue A-lined kameez with shawl-style embroidery).
Fave cuisine: “Everyone asks me if I’m vegetarian and I’m not! I love biryani and Mughalai food.”
Recent fave film: “I really liked OMG.”
Last mp3 you played? “I listened to Paradise by Coldplay on the motorway between Lahore and Islamabad.”
TV viewing addiction: “Cooking shows and the TLC channel. Also, Satyamev Jayate and KBC are great shows that you take something back from instead of watching in semi-coma! My DVD is about beginning and ending your day with positive affirmations instead of with the news and soap operas.”