At last the mystery of the mysterious Punjabi girl in Imtiaz Ali‘s Love Aaj Kal who gets royally wooed and won by the Sardar Saif has been solved. The girl, a Brazilian model named Giselle Monteiro couldn’t speak Hindi or dance to save her life.
In fact the sequence showing her dancing at her engagement drove the entire unit up the wall. Apparently, our Brazilian babe just couldn’t get the steps right. Says Imtiaz, “We wanted to put her through the paces with Sarojji (choreographer Saroj Khan). But it never happened. Sarojji didn’t have the time. For a foreigner to get the Indian adaa right is very tough. We take for granted those nakhra-jhatka-matka which we’ve seen our sisters perform at weddings. Indian girls have those adaas without being trained. But for a foreigner, it is tough. Giselle could’ve done with a bit more training than guidance.”
So who’s this mysterious girl who throughout the making of Love Aaj Kal was referred to by her screen name ‘Harleen’? Even when she became visible in the trailers she remained inaccessible to the public.
Imtiaz Ali finally reveals Harleen’s true identity. “She is actually a Brazilian girl named Giselle Monteiro. Why a Brazilian girl to play an old-fashioned Punjabi girl? Well, I was auditioning girls from all over the country to play the Punjabi girl opposite the Sikh Saif. I couldn’t find the right girl to play the 1965 ki gali mein rehne wali ladki, purane zamane ki.”
Giselle one day walked into Imtiaz’s office to play another part. “Giselle came to me through dress designer Anaita Shroff. She was to play Jo, Saif’s Caucasian girlfriend in the second-half. She wasn’t right for Jo. But my wife, who was there, suggested Giselle for Harleen. I turned and looked at Giselle and realized she is Brazil’s Harleen. She didn’t know how to speak Hindi. But she had only two lines to speak, which we dubbed.”
Significantly, Giselle understood the old-world values of her small-town character better than an urban Indian actress would have. Says Imtiaz, “The small-town mentality in every part of the world is similar.”
A lot of interest in Giselle is being shown by Bollywood now that Love Aaj Kal is released. Says Imtiaz, “She has been traveling all alone all over the world from the age of 17. She’s 19 now. Saif kept grumbling he’d look too old with Giselle. But he pulled it off completely.”