Bringing Her Talent to Grand Hotel
Anoushka on Acting, Singing, and Clean Eating
By Hilary Diack
If any one character from Ramadan 2016 television will remain imbedded in our memories for years to come, hands down it’s the autocratic matriarch Esmat Hanem from Grand Hotel. Superbly portrayed by the multi-talented Anoushka who embodied so much of what a woman is capable of in the face of insurmountable challenges. Cairo West Magazine chatted with Anoushka, and got to know her a lot more intimately.
CWM: In Grand Hotel how closely does Esmat Hanem resemble your real character?
Anoushka: Undoubtedly we do share certain characteristics: emotional intensity simmering under a reserved surface, dignity, and inner strength. It must be added though that I am more of an open book, and have a strong code of ethics that I live by, so I could never go to the lengths that Esmat went to in order to reach my goals.
What qualities do you most admire in her, in spite of her being the villain of the piece?
Oh, isn’t calling her a villain a bit harsh? She really didn’t have many options open! You have to admire her inner resilience, her ability to strategise, her talent for manipulation, all while defending her pride, reputation and position.
What was the most difficult scene for you in Grand Hotel?
There were several, but the most challenging would have to have been the final scene with her daughter. You need to draw deeply upon your emotional reserves when playing this type of role.
What did you enjoy most about the filming process?
It was a joy to be in. I loved the series, and we had a stellar ensemble with a great rapport. The era, with its beautiful decor, furnishings and costumes totally resonated with everything that appeals to me. The style of conversation, the body language – I have to say that I enjoyed every part of it and felt so at home in the role.
How did you meet the challenge of filming two different series at the same time playing extremely different characters?
Logistically all credit has to go to the production managers. They arranged the timetables so well that things flowed really smoothly. This made it a lot easier for me to focus on playing the roles. I enjoyed both characters, and each role had its own demands. I found elements within myself reflected in both characters so it wasn’t difficult making the transition during filming periods. The series Seqout Hor really drew attention to how devastating depression and mental illness can be, not only for the sufferer, but for all who live and interact with him or her.
As we spend so much time on set while filming series, most of the cast set up their rooms in the studio to resemble their home atmosphere. We bring special items of furniture, mementos and familiar objects to keep us from feeling cut off from family and friends.
After the massive success of Grand Hotel, what are your future plans?
It was a busy summer, so definitely a late season holiday at the beach to revitalise. I have to read through quite a few scripts for roles I am considering as well. I have never placed myself in the position of ‘having’ to play any part, I must ‘feel’ for what I do. I am also currently kept busy working on a new album, and that takes up a lot of my time and energy. And, when time permits, overseeing the work on my new house.
Which is closer to your heart, singing or acting?
Whatever you do, you have to love your job. For me, both have massive importance, but in different ways. Expression of ideas and emotions are core to both. In acting, you are part of a dynamic interchange of thoughts, emotions and body language, all delivering a message. Empathy and communication between all members of the cast and crew is paramount for reaching the finished product. It is all about give and take.
When singing, being up there alone on stage, I draw into my own cocoon and find the depths of my feelings.
What is the background of your new album?
For me, singing has to come from the heart, so it is based on both personal experiences and events relating to others that have had an emotional impact on me. Above all, the songs are about matters I relate strongly to.
What is your beauty routine?
Beauty routine? Hmm… Maybe I should have one. I like to keep life uncomplicated and work from the inside outwards, so I focus on feeling well and balanced through a healthy lifestyle. I avoid salt, sugar, dairy products and oil in my diet, although I love food. Bread is definitely my guilty pleasure. I don’t smoke, and get exercise by going for long walks with my dog, and I enjoy horseback riding when time permits. Swimming is vital for me, so I make an effort to be near water as much as possible. I make an effort to remember to drink plenty of water as well. And importantly, I keep my baggage light by not bearing grudges.
- Who is your celebrity crush?
Anthony Hopkins… and Sean Penn, Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. I also have a lot of respect for Egypt’s own Nelly Karim, both as an actor and a person. We must be very proud of her achievements.
- How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Oh, I adore shoes… and bags. Too many to count.
- Describe your perfect day.
Get up early, make sandwiches, hit a secluded beach with my dog and a few close friends to enjoy silence, apart from the gentle sound of the waves.
- Describe yourself in one word
- Vacation spot?
I would love to visit the temples of Tibet, along with India and Thailand.
- Colour you never wear?
I wear whatever is required when it comes to costumes, but do not go for mauve or orange in my own wardrobe. I feel at home in white, turquoise, and soft pastels.
- Early or late riser?
Definitely early, the calm energy of early morning is wonderful.
- Winter or summer?
I am really a cold weather person at heart.
“I have never placed myself in the position of ‘having’ to play any part, I must ‘feel’ for what I do.”