By Subhash K Jha
BOLLYWOOD: She has dated some of India’s most eligible bachelors, including Virat Kohli. But there’s more to Izabelle Leite than meets the eye.
She was first recognized as the stunning beauty in that little-seen but significant film Raj Purohit’s Sixteen. Now a year later Izabelle was in the news again recently when she was caught by paparazzi dining with Siddharth Malhotra.
Izabelle doesn’t deny her dosti with Karan Johar’s protégé.
Says the sensuous Brazilian beauty, “Siddharth Malhotra is a friend. Yes, we hang out together. And that night (March 6) when we went for dinner I wasn’t expecting all those photographers outside. I’m not used to all this, and I forget the fact he’s famous here.”
The Brazilian beauty, who is paired with Tanuj Virwani in Purani Jeans, admits she was quite frazzled by the pictures that were splashed in the papers the next morning. “I’m not used to the paparazzi. This kind of attention over my male friends has happened to me three times already. And I feel so embarrassed. I’m not the kind of girl who wants to be seen and heard everywhere unless it’s about my work.”
Izabelle is saddened by the low truth quotient that she witnesses in reports on her life. “Some sections of the media write and show so many things about me which are not true. But it’s ok. I am in a profession where people are curious about my life.Its all part of my work so I understand.”
There were also link-up rumours with her Purani Jeans co-star Tanun Virwani. Izabelle clarifies. “Tanuj is my co-star and since we started the workshops for Purani Jeans we become really good friends. And we always meet each other. I know his parents as well and they are really nice to me. There is nothing beyond that.”
Izabelle admits dating cricketer Virat Kohli. “Virat was one of the first Indian friends I had when I came to India. We were dating for quite a while. ..We were together for almost two years. But we didn’t want to make it public. So yeah, Virat and I did have a relationship. But Sidharth is only my friend and yes, we do spend time together as well.”
Izabelle arrived in Mumbai three and a half years ago. “I decided to come to India for to work and make money,and not only for myself.I wanted to try to afford a better life to my family.”
It’s not easy for the 23-year old Brazilian to be alone in Mumbai. “I have to work and live far from my family.”
Shedding light on her roots, the gentle beauty says, “I’m from Joao Pessoa. That’s in north-east Brazil. I started to work since I was 14 . But I could never travel because I was studying. So as soon as I finished my school and started university, after one and a half years, I decided to travel to India.”
She bagged Sixteen almost immediately, and though it was not the success it should have been, Izabelle has no regrets about her debut.
“Sixteen has a big meaning in my life. No matter how big or small, people noticed the movie. Honestly, I had a great experience working in it and I learned a lot. The fact that I didn’t know how to speak proper English, Hindi and had never acted before in my life , and they still believed that I could do that, gave me a lot of courage and impetus.I worked really hard and I was feeling kind of “blind” because I didn’t know how good or bad I was during my scenes.”
Mumbai was, and remains, a culture shock for Izabelle. “ Everything was so different for me. Language, food, people, culture, acting, weather…. But I trusted my director completely and in the end I could see how good the results were. I’m really glad I started my Bollywood career with Sixteen.”
Izabelle got good reviews for Sixteen and some offers too. One of them was Purani Jeans.
Exults the exotic enchantress, “It has a brilliant script and I’m really happy to be part of the cast. I believe that everything happens in the right time. So some people tell me that I should wait for a BIG film. But honestly each of the projects I choose to be part of, is BIG for me. I learnt a lot while working in both of movies.Besides small or big projects are relative. Sometimes what’s a small film for some people may be very significant for me. I’m growing as a person and an actor as well. But for sure I want to do big movies and do well for myself. That’s what I have been working for.”
Being an outsider in Bollywood who can barely speak Hindi, Izabelle says she is comfortable in her adopted milieu . “It’s heartening the way they accept the fact that I’m not from here. But of course, there are a lot of expectations .I know e I’m not Indian and I need to master the Hindi language, the workings of the movie industry, the dance steps and all.”
Izabelle is working hard to get the Bollywood grammar right. ‘That’s what I have to work for. I need to be as good as the Indian actresses are, to be part of their movies and get to work in good projects.Everyone treats me really well over here. Not only in the industry but in general. My neighbors, my teachers, people I have to talk with, daily.So yeah, I do feel at home here. I’m really glad to be in a country which makes me feel at home.”
In Purani Jeans, Izabelle’s character goes through several phases of existence. “I play a girl who lives in Mumbai and moves out to a small town Kasauli. And there she meets up with this group of guys The Kasauli Cowboys. She’s kind of mature, she always had in mind to be an architect. The girl I’m playing in Purani Jeans is completely different from the girl I played in Sixteen.”
She feels a change for the better within herself. “ I do feel I have grown but not as much as I wished. With each and every movie I will have a lot to learn more about myself. This is just the beginning of my career and it’s only my second movie. Honestly I got interested in movies after I watched my own film Sixteen.After I shot for Purani Jeans I feel I’ve grown as a person.I’m the kind of person who wants to be the best and to do my best when something is of great interest. And I’m becoming really interested in movies. It’s always hard in the beginning but it’s just the beginning, there is a lot to learn, and a lot to come. As of now I’m nervous and excited to watch Purani Jeans.”
She is all praise for her Purani Jeans co-star. “Tanuj was an awesome co-star. He was helping me out every second that I needed him, or even when I thought I didn’t need him. He was a really good friend since we met for the first time and started to do workshop together. He was very patient for the fact I didn’t speak Hindi fluently and when I had difficulties to get in the zone of our scenes.He has grown a lot as an actor . He’s playing an amazing role which is completely different from how he is in real life, and I could see how much he improved his performance each day of the shoot.I am genuinely happy for him.I am sure he will get recognition for Purani Jeans.”
Izabelle stays with a close friend in Mumbai. “I live with my best friend here in Mumbai. I’m lucky to live with my best friend. She’s Brazilian as well. But I do miss my family a lot. I can’t explain in words how much I miss. It’s really tough to be far from them. But I talk to them every single day since the first day I came to live in India. I’m really close to my family, and they are my inspiration to be where I am now.They give me the strength to travel alone in this journey of mine in Bollywood.”
Izabelle looks forward to seeing her family soon. “My mom and sister might come soon to spend a month with me. I will try and bring them here more often. Honestly it’s really hard to define who your real friends are. But I love to meet and get to know new people, to talk about new things, to share experiences, etc.I do have my buddies over here which I really like them.I don’t have many friends, but the ones I have are enough to make me happy.My friends in Mumbai are special to me.They help me to live without my family.”
SEE PHOTOS: Brazilian sizzler in Bollywood