Strong, independent and emotional are three words that sum up Anoushka. Not to mention beautiful, classy and intelligent. eniGma’s Samia Farid Shihata and Mohamed Hesham got the chance to chat with the iconic star to learn all about her journey to success, and in the process, discovered a beautiful soul behind her inspiring persona.
While Anoushka, the versatile singer, actor and TV host has been around the artistic scene for a while, she recaptured everyone’s attention when she starred in the groundbreaking role of Esmat Hanem on the Egyptian TV’s blockbuster hit, Grand Hotel. Anoushka played the role with such credibility and grace, that many were convinced that her personality resembled that of the Grand Hotel matriarch. And in many ways, it does. Most conspicuously, the two are strong, confident women who believe there’s a proper way to behave and do things. But while Esmat Hanem was not one to express her feelings easily, Anoushka believes that her emotions are what define her. “I’m a very emotional person. I was always like that, but I became even more so. To me, emotions make me feel alive,” she says. She believes it’s very important to express your feelings. “When you love somebody you have to say it. You may not be around after five minutes,” is her mantra.
Respect for others is also integral to Anoushka’s personality and it’s evident in her daily interaction with people, regardless of their social status. Anoushka feels that the school she went to as a young girl, the Kalousdian Armenian School, had an enormous impact on her personality. “It was an extraordinary school that not only taught us well, but instilled the love of art, culture, theatre and sports in us. We were taught so many things, by practice, not by lecturing or force. We learnt to respect fellow classmates, to respect our school and our country, and, given that it was a mixed school, to have respect for our male colleagues,” she explains.
“The subject of Esmat Hanem comes up frequently in my conversations with people,” says Anoushka. “I feel that Esmat Hanem is often misunderstood and some people think she was a villain. But this would be a superficial take on her character. She was never evil. She was a woman who is extremely emotional inside. The proof is that she had given all her money to her husband to start a career. What woman would do that unless she’s totally in love? You cannot be totally in love and be a villain. Her arrogance, and what people saw as evil, was really a self-defense mechanism. She was very hurt by her husband’s secret marriage to her maid, and on top of that, her daughter was very close to that maid and would call her ‘Mama.’ Do you know what it means to a woman when her children call someone else ‘Mama,’ let alone when it’s the woman with whom her husband cheated on her?” she exclaims.
Anoushka believes the huge success of Grand Hotel, for which she won the Best Actress award from the Catholic Center, was due to an amazing group effort by everyone involved. “Everything was right in Grand Hotel. The script was written so beautifully, and I had a wonderful partner in co-star Ahmed Dawood. I also had a wonderful director, Mohamed Shaker, and there was this trust between all of us, especially between me and Ahmed Dawood. After the series aired, people would call me ‘Hanem,’ and the last of the Hanems! It’s sweet, but honestly, it’s just the start. It’s not where you say ‘I made it.’ God gave me the chance to prove myself. It was a beautiful chance, but then again, I have to build on that,” she exclaims.
“Grand Hotel is everyone’s favourite, but I’ve done several things before it. I also did Skout Horr (Freefall) with Nelly Karim at the time of Grand Hotel,” Anoushka adds. “I totally agreed about the subject that Nelly Karim was presenting in that series. I also totally agreed about the premise of last year’s Halawet el Donia (The Beauty of Life), which I did the following Ramadan with Hend Sabry. My approach was the same in all my roles. I have to love what I’m going to do. The script is number one when I consider a role. I ask myself if I can imagine the role that is written. I have to believe the role I’m playing. This Ramadan, I was offered a script, but I was not convinced with the role I was to play,” she explains.
Anoushka’s recent successes in one TV series after another, makes it easy to forget that she started out as a singer. While a student at the American University in Cairo, she was recruited by Tarek Nour, the advertising mogul, to sing jingles for his ad agency. “From day one when I started that, I was thinking that it would be a step to moving on to singing,” she recounts. Bit by bit, she got to do little things on radio and got to know people in the music scene. “I began to apply to festivals abroad and would go on my own; and eventually, in Turkey’s Antalia Festival, I won 3rd prize with my song, Habetak (I Loved You). It was then that I realised that this was what I really wanted to do. I made my first album with that song in the lead,” she recalls.
Her actual big break, after which her singing career really took off, came a bit later, in 1995, when she represented Egypt in the Festival de La Francophonie in Paris. “Those seven minutes on stage were unforgettable for me,” she recalls. When it was time to announce the winners, Anoushka was flabbergasted to hear her name as the winner of the first prize! “In the festival, I sang two songs, one was Lahzt Lo’a – also known as Mon Amour (My Love), which I wrote and composed myself and the other one was Ya Lail, with words and music by Medhat El Kholy. By the time, I came back to Cairo from the festival, the song had taken off big time. To me, this was a sign from God that this is what I should be doing. I always believe in these things,” she says with a smile. And with singing, came acting offers on TV and in the theatre.
But then there was a period when Anoushka’s career took a back seat, because her father was sick and needed her by his side. So, she started to reduce her appearances. “I had to choose between my artistic career and staying with my father, and of course, I chose my father. My career could wait,” she recalls.
Anoushka does not believe in expressing herself in just one art form. When she did resume her career in earnest, she did theatre, several TV series, and even a series on the radio. Today, she’s hosting her own show, Salon Anoushka, and it’s one of the most successful shows on television. “I have to thank Content Plus, the producers of the show, and DMC for giving me this exposure, and to let me say what I want, and to project the show in my own way. By the way, hosting is not easy at all. None of the artistic fields is easy. Each has its challenges. In drama, the lines are written for you, but you have to feel them. In hosting, you have to be prepared to say something that is not written for you, this is another challenge. But when you work hard, the most beautiful reward is when you get positive feedback from regular people. Then, you realise your effort has not gone to waste,” she explains.
Looking ahead, Anoushka hopes the cinema industry grows stronger and produces a lot more films. “We have masters in all the professions in the industry. Instead of having just a few films per year, we should have 50 or 60 films,” she says. “The state should support the industry as it did in the fifties. Because cinema is a form of education,” she adds.
For herself, she hopes to continue doing the things that she loves, and to continue taking calculated risks to expand her horizons in her art. “You have to be wise enough to know you are not likely going to straight away do something with the same strength and with the same cachet as your previous work. You will not get a script like Grand Hotel every day. But definitely you have to look for the roles that you believe are of added value to the audience,” she explains, adding, “You have to have your feet on the ground. Simply try to do your best and learn from your mistakes.”
For the moment, Anoushka is determined to pay more attention to her interaction with her fans on social media. She wants to expand her YouTube channel and become more personally involved in her Facebook page. “Since I didn’t take on any TV series this Ramadan, I am working on other things until I find the right script,” she concludes..
What word best describes you?
What aspect would you like to change in your personality?
I’m happy with the way I am.
What do you like to do most in your free time?
Play with my pets or sit on a quiet beach.
What makes you laugh?
My animals… My dog and my horse.
What is your favourite sport?
Horseback riding, and also swimming, these days.
Would you ever want to do a musical film?
Of course I would love that!
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
To have your loved ones around.
If a book was written about your life, what would the title be?
“I’m happy the Way I am.”
What’s your biggest regret?
Maybe, I should’ve travelled more, done more sightseeing. I would love to go to India, Tibet, and Thailand… exotic places I haven’t been to.
What is one thing you don’t leave home without?
My handbag stuffed with lots of things (not makeup), and lots of papers, including my to-do list. I collect a lot of things in my bag before I go out.
What are the qualities you like in a man?
He has to be generous, not with money, but with his emotions.
Do you ever want to do comedy?
Some directors tell me I should, but I don’t know. It would have to be something like what Sandra Bullock does.
Art Direction & Styling by Maissa Azab
Location Natuzzi Showroom, Designopolis Mall
Photography by Khaled Fadda
Make up by Sally Rashid
Hair by Raffi at Mohamed Al Sagheer
Wig available at Bienetre Institut
Fashion Assistant: Fatma El Assiouty
Mounaya Gallery: 14 Montazah Street, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Tel: +(202) 01008882686
Boutique 51: 35 B, 35 Abou Al Feda Street, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Tel: +(202) 0112 242 4876
Queeny: The First Mall, 35 Giza St., Giza, Egypt.
Tel: + (202) 01222454910
Bienetre Institut (Wellness & Medical Spa): 16 Salah El Din St., 4th Floor, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Tel: +(202) 27363524
Mobile: +(202) 01010000470
Shot on location at: Natuzzi Showroom, Designopolis Mall,
km38 Ground floor, Cairo Alex Desert Road, Egypt.
Tel: +(202) 01005661326, +(202) 01090991115