The mystery of the Punjabi girl in Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kal, who gets royally wooed & won by the sardar Saif Ali Khan, has been solved – she is a Brazilian model Giselle Monteiro who couldn't speak Hindi or dance to save her life.
"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," Ali said.
Giselle had walked into Ali'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 realised she is Brazil's Harleen. She didn't know how to speak Hindi. But she had only two lines to speak, which we dubbed," said the director who has got mixed reviews for the film.
"She has been travelling all alone from 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," he added.
Giselle understood the old-world values of her small town character. "The small-town mentality in every part of the world is similar," said Ali.
But when the sequence showing her dancing at her engagement was shot, she drove the entire unit up the wall because she couldn't get the steps right.
"We wanted to put her through the paces with Sarojji 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," said Ali.
Throughout the making of Love Aaj Kal, Giselle was referred to by her screen name Harleen. Even when she became visible in the trailers, she remained inaccessible to the public.
Bollywood is showing a lot of interest in Giselle and you might soon see her in another movie.