MUMBAI: What’s with Salman Khan and girls walking the ramp? He ‘discovered’ Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Zareen Khan and now Hazel Keech when they were models.
The softspoken half-British half-Hindu Hazel Keech, who played the pivotal role of Kareena Kapoor’s best friend in the blockbuster Bodyguard, was Salman Khan’s mystery girl throughout the making of the film.
“It was planned that way. They wanted to keep the suspense. That’s why they cast an unknown girl in the role,” the softspoken Hazel tells Businessofcinema.com.
Hazel is far prettier in real than she was in Bodyguard. She laughs, “Well, the way I look was the decision of the director Siddique. The best thing about my role in Bodyguard was that I had a substantial part with Salman and Kareena.”
Hazel has been in Mumbai for six years now. “I did another film Billa in Tamil, which was a remake of Don. I played Helen’s role.”
Hazel goes into raptures about Salman. “He’s my guardian angel, my mentor. He spotted me a couple of years ago in London and said he’d keep me in mind if I suitable role came along. And he kept his word. That’s how I got Bodyguard.”
Hazel first met Salman on the sets of London Dreams in London. “I didn’t know he was going to be there. When I met him I told him I got no work while I was in Mumbai. He was very surprised to hear that. Three years later Bodyguard popped up. I guess Salman recommended me.”
As for those stories of Hazel being Salman’s girl, Hazel explains, “He called for his bike from home on the sets. I was watching him ride it. He showed me how to ride it. That’s it. It was really funny to read that we were in a relationship. I was like, ‘Wow, I wish I knew about it.’
Not once during the making of Bodyguard did Hazel feel like an outsider. “Producer Atul Agnihotri is such a wonderful producer. And Kareena with whom I had most of my scenes was so chilled out. She was really nice to me. We hung out together in Patiala. She’s such a big star, but has no starry hang-ups. I remember one day I had a big scene and my lines kept getting changed. Kareena told the director to let me get comfortable with the lines before we shot. It was such an honour to share screen space with Kareena.”
The accent is a problem.
Hazel sighs, “I do speak Hindi well. But I couldn’t dub my own lines in Bodyguard. They told me I could try to dub my own lines but we finished shooting very late and the film was to be released in Eid. So, maybe in my next film. Most Indian films are made in sync sound. So my diction does get in the way. I spoke perfect Hindi when I came here. Thanks to my mom and Naani I grew up in England with Indian culture and Bollywood. I learnt Indian dancing Bharat Natyam and Kathak. I also learnt Bollywood dancing along with theatre, lots of British and Hindi stuff in Britain.”
Hazel’s stint in Mumbai began when she came to the city for a holiday. “I connected with a modeling agency in 2005. In Mumbai I spoke shuddh Hindi when I arrived. But the rickshawallahs wouldn’t understand me. Wohmera matlab nahin samajhte, to ghati aur shud Hindi mix ho gayi.”
Hazel’s Mauritian Hindu mom keeps her company in Mumbai as and when she can get away from England. Otherwise Hazel stays alone in Mumbai.
“What’s life in Mumbai like? Let me see… It’s been my biggest teacher in life. On the surface it’s one thing. Below the surface it’s another. The city made me grow up quickly. It helped that I am Indian. I was brought up with Laxmi Pujas and Navratris.”
Says Hazel, “I got lovely reviews for Bodyguard. But I don’t have any offers as yet. Immediately now I’ve a play coming up The Real Inspector Hound at Prithvi Theatres. So those who want to see more of me can do so.”