Aditi Rao Hydari Vogue India May 2018

Aditi Rao Hydari channels her on-screen personas through perfumes and churns out skin-perfecting potions from kitchen scraps. Actor ADITI RAO HYDARI might be to the manor born but she’s filled with the goofy charm of one who’s supremely confident in her flawless skin.
She tells ADITI BHIMJYANI how she stays picture-perfect.


Her hair is down, feet are bare, and nails, colour-free. She flops onto a sofa and puts her feet up—dressed in casual joggers, no make-up. Much like her on-screen persona, understated yet power-packed—she’s every inch the regular girl, yet there’s something striking about Aditi Rao Hydari. I meet her on a Sunday evening at her home in Mumbai, where she tells me she’s laying low; no one (from her professional world) is supposed to know she’s in town. I’m here to figure out how Hydari remains so fresh-faced and fit in light of an actor’s hectic schedule.


Hydari measures her words, her hands twist gracefully, acting out her feelings. It’s hard to imagine her as anything other than a performer. “Some kids are born with the drama-queen streak. I didn’t grow up in a home that discussed or watched Indian cinema. But my mom tells me I sang before I spoke and danced before I walked,” she says.

I start with the obvious—what’s her secret to staying so poised? Her elegance can be credited to the discipline and grace classically trained dancers come with. But there’s a free-spiritedness and witticism about her that probably comes from her alternative upbringing at home and boarding school (the Krishnamurti Foundation-run Rishi Valley School, outside of Bengaluru). Her near-perfect manners remind you that Hydari comes from a line of royals from her mother’s side; her father comes from a prominent family from the Nizam’s ministry. “Our home in Hyderabad was on a hill. The house help lived at the bottom of the hill. I was perennially in their home, eating and playing. It was like living in [Enid] Blyton’s The Faraway Tree,” she says.

She was born in Hyderabad, grew up in Delhi, straddling the traditional side of her heritage with her modern everyday life. Her maternal grandmother has been her greatest inspiration. “I dressed girly in kurtas, bindis and braids because I loved Bharat Natyam. But my Nani would give me junk food, put me in shorts, let my ringlets free, and send me out in the mud to play.”


Her grandmother showed her how to live the fit life; she taught her to cycle and play badminton, to be physical and hands-on. Hydari explains, “I find gyms too confining and industrial. I trained in Bharat Natyam since I was five. My teacher made us do ballet, kalaripayattu, yoga and stretches as well as go for runs.” Her routine consists of circuit training at home, ashtanga yoga, pilates and dancing. When time is short, skipping and theraband or 10 surya namaskars to engage her core is good enough.


For her, a beauty regime is nonsensical unless you have your health in order. “I eat a lot of good fats,” she says. She can pour ghee down her gullet with complete abandon but resists yoghurt with the same conviction. Dairy and gluten are a complete no. As a child, Hydari’s mother would make her a wild rice salad for a snack. Her boarding school cultivated organic foods and milk. “My skin is unhappy until I give it the right stuff to eat,” she says.

Her diet screams healthy and well-rounded—keema cutlets, poha, idli, shorba-style soups, quinoa, buckwheat crepes, salmon carpaccio, nuts and seeds, and steamed vegetables form her weekly meal plan. Coconut water, green ice tea, and a celery-cucumber-spinach juice are all favourites. “Chewing is a pain. I love pulverised baby-type food,” she says. Iron, açaí, magnesium, Vitamin C and other skinhair-nail supplements are taken whenever she remembers.


Aditi Rao Hydari go-to breakfast is a smoothie of berries, dates, prunes, flax, chia, macadamia nuts, almond butter and a vegan protein powder. The purple leftovers make it to her face. She explains, “I rub tomato peel, egg whites and random leftovers on my skin. Milk goes on my face if it feels dry and curd if it feels oily,” she says. She likes gentle facials and tends to run to the doctor only for beauty survival tips and kits depending on her travel destinations and weather zones. “I slapped on a tonne of basic Nivea cream on my skin in Ladakh, and use simple Aveda for Mumbai weather. I go with the flow. I love the Lancôme Absolue Precious Oil as much as Kama Ayurveda Kumkumadi,” she adds.


Aditi Rao Hydari’s obsession with floral scents goes back to memories of her mother’s large collection of handloom saris that she wore with mismatched blouses. “When she would go for a shower, I’d pick up her sari and wrap it around myself. She’d come out and ask me to take something cleaner, prettier. But it smelled of her, of comfort and tea rose,” she says. She has worn a specific perfume for every role of hers, whether it’s Leela in Kaatru Veliyidai (2017) or Mehrunissa in Padmaavat. She has channelled all her characters through Gucci Bloom, Gabrielle Chanel and Chloé Roses.


With Padmaavat, the film industry’s been agog with Hydari’s nuanced turn as Mehrunissa, wife of Alauddin Khilji. “I have no backing in the film industry. It’s thrilling to be supported by people you love and respect,” she says. Her career has spanned less than a decade across modelling and movies, but she’s already worked with directors like Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. “To be directed twice by Mani Ratnam means I have guardian angels somewhere. I just choose to keep doing my own thing, as long as I am not hurting anyone. If anyone wants to screw me over, it’s their problem,” she shrugs. For Hydari, it’s all about the arts. She is a mix of contentment and drive, focused on the simple goal of doing what she loves and being happy. “I love painting, music, colour and dance. Acting is an amalgamation of all art forms… You can be anybody or anything. It’s safe and secure, it’s comfort.”


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