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I like acting but I can’t do it full time…it’s disorienting, says Milind Soman

After completing one of the toughest races in the world, Milind Soman talks about running, Indian fashion, and why the ramp doesn’t interest him.

Written by Somya Lakhani |
Updated: July 30, 2015 12:04:05 am
 talk, milind soman, ironman  triathlon, Zurich ironman triathlon, cycling, marathon, cycling marthon, indian express Milind Soman. (Praveen Khanna)

At 49, Milind Soman finished one of the most challenging races in the world recently, called the Ironman Triathlon. Held in Zurich, the race includes a 3.8 km swim, a 180.2 km cycle ride and a 42.2 km run without a break. Now back in India, the former model talks about being addicted to marathons, bored of Indian fashion, and the disorienting world of films.

Why did you start running?
I started running in 2003 and the big trigger was the Mumbai marathon. I always wanted to run a marathon, but no one ran in India. Then it happened in my city and I had to. I trained for three months on the treadmill and after I finished the half-marathon, I was addicted. It’s my lifestyle now.

When did you start training for Ironman?
Last year, all my friends started asking me how I was going to make my 50th year special. It is a milestone so I decided to take up a challenge. It had to be a physical one. Someone suggested the Ironman, but I wasn’t really interested initially because I don’t like cycling. I trained for 80 days — my daily routine is on Facebook.

What was the toughest bit about this training?
Doing it every day. The biggest exercise is in the mind. Your body will do it if your mind is disciplined.

Why don’t we ever see you on the ramp?
The ramp doesn’t really interest me. If the designs were exciting, I’d do it. I don’t find the level of creativity high enough to be associated with it. Indian fashion seems to have stagnated a little bit, since the late ’80s. I was on the ramp some 20 years ago, then for a few causes. I last walked in 2007, for the 20th year of Ensemble, the multi-designer boutique by Tina Tahiliani. There’s a photograph of Arjun (Rampal), Dino (Morea) and I on the ramp, dressed in sherwanis by Rohit Bal.

Your growing up years were far from the world of modelling.
My family is completely academic. My grandparents were doctors, my mother used to teach biochemistry, my father was a nuclear scientist. I studied engineering as well but I was into swimming too. I swam till 23, and then modelling happened.

The era of the supermodel was over with your batch. Tell us a bit about the fashion industry in the ’80s.
When I started modelling, I didn’t even know it was a commercial activity, and that you got paid for it. When I started doing fashion, there were 25 models doing all the shows, and maybe four male models. I was one of them. It was a completely different world for me. My friend was supposed to go for a modelling audition, but he sent me instead. This was 1987; they paid me Rs 50,000. It just took off from there. There were hardly any models or designers. So, we used to go everywhere — Dubai, Bangkok, London. I modelled for seven years in all, of which three years I was in Europe, from 1991to ’93.

Tell us about your role in Bajirao Mastani.
I am about to finish shooting. I am a friend and mentor to Bajirao. It’s a love story and I am not one of the lovers, so it’s a small role.

What are the other projects you are working on?
I am working on a tribal festival on barefoot running in Coorg in November. I run barefoot, and wanted to do something. I have been interested in tribal medicine and tribal food, basically insect eating. I decided to bring the two together for a tribal pride festival.

What are your film plans?
I’d definitely like to produce. I like acting but I can’t do it full time. I’ll go mad because it’s not real. When I go to a film set, it’s another world, it’s a cocoon. It’s disorienting, I have to come back to this, do something real. I have Pinkathon, an event company, a foundation and a production house. I need that kind of variety in my life.

This is Pinkathon’s third year. Tell us a bit about its evolution.
Pinkathon is primarily a women’s platform, which has come to be associated with breast cancer awareness. The response has been phenomenal. We have over 200 ambassadors in India. As we move forward, Pinkathon will address more women-centric issues.

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