lisa ray
October 2023
#Bombay (1995) - Mumbai (1996) , 9329 Views
Lisa Ray

By: Lisa Ray

Indo-Canadian actress and former supermodel Lisa Ray came to prominence in the 90s with her debut for Bombay Dyeing's ad and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's Afreen Afreen video. Through her writing, she takes us back to those days and what was happening behind-the-scenes.

It was the era of super models in India. Just as the west had Cindy, Naomi, Linda and Christie, in India there was a clutch of girls, including me, who were plastered everywhere and defined glamour and beauty and desirability for that era, for better or for worse. With Channel V and MTV Indipop became as popular as, if not more popular than, Bollywood films – a combination of the calibre of talent, the freshness and novelty worked together to create a magic bubble.

I was someone who owned my feminine power and sexuality in a way that hadn’t been seen in India before and videos provided a container for that fantasy – sort of like George Michael’s iconic music video for Freedom.

We were building and destroying ideas and images and culture and it was magical and not purely commerce-driven. I loved being a part of setting the foundation of the fashion and entertainment industry. But we also had privacy and, while I worked non-stop, fortunately we weren’t exposed to the non-stop glare of attention and social media. I think cultivating an aura was also part of the super model mystique.

People forget that for a time in the 1990s a group of models were as famous and celebrated as Bollywood stars – and in fact I earned better money as a model. Rather than attaching myself to a film that might take a year or two to shoot – and where I’d have to play second fiddle to a male star – on an ad film I was the star and was paid handsomely for three to four days of work.

Don’t forget that there were no agencies nor PR agents nor even stylists. Real film. Polaroids. We worked like a big dysfunctional family and it was an unforgettable time. Never to be repeated. Far from perfect but I would never enter the industry as it is today. I’m a leftover flower child and the ’90s was the best time to work as a model for someone like me. We were all part of the process. We played.

Bombay was an ally. A city that supported our imagination, ambition and sexiness. It was remarkably open minded. I was personally curious about the name change – can a name change a city or does a city change and the name follows? Who knows?

Today, I keep toggling between Mumbai and Bombay easily. I accept both versions of my city – the city that made me, broke me, made me again and taught me so much.