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November 28, 2001

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Sherwani or T-shirt..

Prajakta Samant

Parvin Dabas Intuition. Model and actor Parvin Dabas can write a thesis on what the word means to him.

It all started when casting director Uma da Cunha rang him to offer him a role in Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding. He said thank you, but no, thank you. And repented it the minute he hung up.

Minutes later, he called her back: "I had a flight to catch for an outstation assignment when Uma called. I made my excuses and hung up. But then, something inside me said, 'What are you doing, man?'

"So I called her and hit the accelerator for the 90-minute drive to her place, hoping she would ignore my shorts and sweaty T-shirt."

Vasundhara Das, Mira Nair and Parvin Dabas He was relating this incident at a suburban Bombay bistro, clad in a red Diesel T-shirt, baggy jeans and Diet Pepsi can in hand. It was a little difficult to imagine him in a sherwani and sehra which he wore as the suave and eligible groom in Monsoon Wedding.

Luckily for him, da Cunha did. A week later, he was on his way to New Delhi to meet Mira Nair: "It was to be a small film. And then it went on to win an award."

Monsoon Wedding is a fun tale of an Indian family from across the globe which reunites for a grand wedding in Delhi. The fun ends when a few skeletons come out of the family closet even as cultures and generations clash.

Dabas plays Hemant, a 32-year-old Texan engineer who comes to India for his (arranged) marriage. Accompanying Dabas are acclaimed performers like Naseeruddin Shah, Soni Razdan and stage actress Lillete Dubey.

Vasundhara Das Dabas held his ground, partly due to the two weeks of rehearsals and daily yoga sessions Nair insisted on: "The atmosphere was charged. I had the whole script in hand the day I was okayed for the role. The rehearsals helped me get comfortable with my costars. The yoga, the script-reading sessions and rehearsals were aimed at understanding the film better."

Monsoon Wedding went on to win the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival in October. A disconcerted Parvin arrived for the screening in Venice with his luggage misplaced by the airline.

"I had to borrow a suit for the occasion. As we walked back from the Galileo Theatre, people started clapping and cheering us on the street. Every day, strangers would come up to us in bars and restaurants telling us how much they liked the film. It is an unforgettable experience," says the 27-year-old actor, whose face has graced many a commercial including Peter England shirts, Titan watches, Colgate toothpaste and Limca.

Dabas has come a long way from coaching children in dramatics at Rael Padamsee's summer camps. Acting started for this Delhi-born, Canada-reared (explains the nasal twang) when he returned to the capital as a 14-year-old and immediately started acting in amateur children's productions.

Mira Nair His first role was as Samrat Ashoka in an Indian ballet. He joined a dramatics society while still at college. After an honours degree in history, the civil services examination did not seem an exciting prospect.

Next stop: The American Academy of Dramatics Art, New York, to hone his acting skills. "I was full of dreams when I returned. I thought I could do anything. Along with a few friends, I started the Urban Theatre Group. At that age, we thought anything was possible. We soon realised making theatre profitable was tough," he admits frankly.

After five plays, the group took its bow. And Dabas headed for Bombay in 1996. The stint with Rael Padamsee helped Parvin secure two serials -- A Mouthful Of Sky and Tanaav.

Both died unnatural deaths. And then the advertising world was bowled over by his clean, corporate looks.

Dabas' next assignment is theatre personality Aamir Raza Hussain's feature film 100 Days Of Kargil. Another Hindi film is on the cards but he refuses to talk about it.

Maybe it is his instinct that tells him to keep mum. And his intuition. Both haven't let him down yet.

India News Feature Service
Photography: Jewella C Miranda

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