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Avneet Kaur

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She's only 20, but Avneet Kaur has been regaling audiences for the last twelve years. Ahead of her Bollywood debut as a lead in Kangana Ranaut's Tiku Weds Sheru, the digital sensation, actor and dancer opens up to Aza on her love for the on-set life, balancing work and education since childhood, and mastering the web space to have her own (massive) cult following.
Photographs by Kunal Gupta; Styled by Krutika Sharma; Styling Assistant Yasha Choraria; Makeup by Sachin Salvi; Hairstyling by Arbaz Shaikh; PR Consultant Stellaar Talent; Creative Direction by Arthi Medithi; Words by Sreemita Bhattacharya

Neetu Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Alia Bhatt (no we aren't making note of members in the Kapoor clan), Sridevi, Urmila Matondkar, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Kunal Kemmu - what they have in common is that they are all actors who hit our screens at a really tender age. While recalling their early appearances will invariably take you down memory lane, you revel in their successes as adults. Aza's muse for “The Whimsical Bride” - a young, chic go-getter, who celebrates vibrant splashes of colour, prints and motifs - is one such actor who took tiny steps into the industry but has been making waves ever since.
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You know, just recently my fans celebrated the milestone that I've completed 12 years in the industry, and I was like, I'm only 20! I have a long, long, long way to go.

When a fashionably late Avneet Kaur walks into the studio in a black co-ord set and silver wedges, I envision her as the female lead in Kangana Ranaut's upcoming production venture, Tiku Weds Sheru, headlined by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The 20-year-old breaks into a friendly smile and I'm instantly reminded of that time many moons ago when in a soap commercial, a little girl in a school uniform uttered the line, “Bunty, tera sabun slow hai kya?” Yep, that's Avneet for you. Since age 8, she has been a constant on television. She whirled into our screens in 2010 with the reality TV show Dance India Dance (DID) Li'l Masters before participating in Dance Ke Superstars and Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (as Darsheel Safary's partner). What followed was a remarkable career as a TV actor with major roles in shows like Meri Maa, Tedhe Hain Par Tere Mere Hain, Savitri, Ek Mutthi Aasmaan and Hamari Sister Didi. While Avneet made her debut in cinema with Rani Mukerji's Mardaani, she became a household name with her portrayal of royalty - as Princess Charumati in Chandra Nandini and Princess Yasmine in Aladdin - Naam Toh Suna Hoga. Today - having “virtually” seen her grow up in front of our eyes - I feel a strong sense of pride for the digital sensation with 32.6 million followers on Instagram, over 21 lakh on Facebook and 1.69 million subscribers on YouTube. For the uninformed, her superfans call themselves “Avneetians” - you know, like Beliebers, Directioners, Army and Stylers? What's the feeling like, I ask Avneet after she's done selecting outfits for the shoot. With a heartfelt smile, the young actor says, “I feel grateful and blessed. It motivates me when people notice my work because I am and always will be an artist first. I think the fact that I constantly engage with my fans has helped with the digital fanbase. But I'm thankful for my Avneetians. I pray they are always protected from negative energies and bad luck.”
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Designer, Kaaisha by Shalini; Jewellery, Valliyan Jewellery

The Li'l Dancer

The youngest contestant to ever appear on Jhalak, Avneet once had celebrity guest judge Abhishek Bachchan complimenting her graceful expressions, stating that she would someday give tough competition to his wife, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan! But how did it all start; and having spent so much time under the limelight, how old does she feel? With a chuckle, she shares, “You know, just recently my fans celebrated the milestone that I've completed 12 years in the industry, and I was like, I'm only 20! I have a long, long, long way to go. (Giggles) How it all started? Well, I've loved dancing since the time I could walk. I'm thankful to my parents for recognizing my passion and supporting me. I was three when my mom got me enrolled in kathak classes. A few years later, I participated in DID Li'l Masters. There's been no looking back.” And does she still look up to Madhuri Dixit, aspiring to be a dancer and an actor like the superstar? “Definitely!” she concurs. “I feel liberated when I'm dancing or acting. I love the on-set life. I'm passionate about learning new dance forms. While I'm trained in kathak, I'm a self-taught hip hop dancer. Recently, I started learning pole dancing too, and Bollywood choreography is a part of my DNA. But like any other art form, you need to keep practising to get better at it. And just like in acting, in dance there's always something new to learn and master.”
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It's a notion I often come across that digital content creators have it easy because they only need to hold the camera a certain way and pose. But people don't seem to realize that it's impossible to retain your audience if all we do is pose! Sustaining and succeeding on the digital space is a mammoth task.
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Designer, Rajiramniq; Neckpiece, Vaidaan Jewellery

The Social Media Sweetheart

Avneet is a natural in front of the camera. In fact, she's a photographer's delight not only because she understands lighting and angles, but she changes poses with each click of the camera, delivering something unique in every frame. It is perhaps her spontaneity that has made her a social media darling, with numerous fan pages. But how does she handle the pressure of creating regular and relevant content for social media? In one of her YouTube vlogs, Avneet had once mentioned that her best friend also gives her suggestions on the kind of content she should be creating. She sweetly requests her hairstylist to fix a few flyaways before turning to me and saying, “Oh, it's a lot of pressure but it's a team effort. We need to keep up with trends and follow the pulse of my audience to plan my short videos. You know, it's a notion I often come across that digital content creators have it easy because they only need to hold the camera a certain way and pose. But people don't seem to realize that it's impossible to retain your audience if all we do is pose! Sustaining and succeeding in the digital space is a mammoth task. There's lot of negativity in cyberspace but I try to ignore trolls as much as possible.” With that Avneet finds an apt song (Tere Bina from Guru) to match the vibe of the stunning green Ariyana Couture lehenga set she’s wearing and steps into the set to dazzle the lens with her dancer's grace.
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Designer, Ariyana Couture; Earrings, Varuna D Jani

The Bookworm

Through the course of the day, I frequently find Avneet immersed in a hardcover with a vanilla sweet cream cold brew from Starbucks by her side. When I sidle up to her, she shows me the cover. “It's an Ikigai book. Like my mom, I'm sort of a bookworm. You'll either find me with an Ikigai book or fiction novels,” she smiles. Is this also how she managed to balance work and studies from the age of 8, I ask. The maturity with which Avneet replies belies the struggle she must have gone through as a child with no connections in the industry. “I remember sneaking out of the sets on countless occasions just so I could study in peace inside the makeup room. My parents always prioritized my education and supported me in any manner possible. I was playing Yasmine in Aladdin by the time I was in junior college and that's when it became difficult juggling work and attending classes. So I started taking online classes. A tutor would come to the sets every day to help me study. This one time, instead of delivering my lines in front of the camera, I recited an answer I had just memorized for a History exam. (Chuckles) It has been hectic, yes. But it has also been fulfilling because I've had the support of all my directors, co-stars, and crew members.” While the stylist makes Avneet try out various accessories to pair with a velvet Madsam Tinzin lehenga, the actor confides in me another of her quirks - she loves collecting stationery items. “I just cannot resist buying things like pens, erasers and notepads, etc!” she giggles.
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Designer, Madsam Tinzin; Earrings, maangtikka, ring & bangles, Pushpanjali Jewels

The Princess of Television

Between set rearrangements, I'm scrolling through Avneet's Instagram profile when I come across numerous fans referring to her as “Princess” or “Yasmine”. She chuckles when I ask her about it and says, “People often call me Yasmine instead of Avneet when I make public appearances at events. I don't mind it at all because I got my first break in television. See, I hail from Jalandhar, where reality TV shows usually don't visit. I wouldn't be where I am today had there not been local auditions for DID. I got my first film, Mardaani, because the makers saw me on TV. So yes, I'll always be grateful for the life it has afforded me.” While on the topic of Mardaani, what was it like working with a stupendous actor like Rani Mukerji? “Oh, Rani ma'am was so kind and generous, she helped me prepare for my scenes. It was lovely,” she says with a smile.
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I hail from Jalandhar, where reality TV shows usually don't visit. I wouldn't be where I am today had there not been local auditions for DID. I got my first film, Mardaani, because the makers saw me on TV. So yes, I'll always be grateful for the life television has afforded me.
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Designer, DiyaRajvvir; Earrings, Heer - House of Jewellery; Neckpiece & kadhas, Urban Thesaurus

The Actor

Avneet has an innate sense of poise, which I deduce could be the result of being groomed by the best in the industry from a really young age. Most importantly (and admirably), she likes to be treated not per her age but basis the experience she has gathered over the past 12 years - her most recent mentor being Kangana Ranaut. How did Tiku Weds Sheru happen, I ask after she's done shooting a reel in a gorgeous blue gharara fusion set by DiyaRajvvir. For once, Avneet seems her age as she animatedly says, “You know I had auditioned for the role, and while I prayed hard that I got the part, I was finishing another project. Then one day I got a call from my manager saying Kangana ma'am has selected me for the lead role! I was over the moon. I'll forever be grateful to her for believing in me. She ensured I was taken care of on the sets. She appointed her own hair and makeup team to work on me. Kangana ma'am is a master of her craft and I learnt a lot from seeing her on the sets. I feel blessed that I had someone like her to guide me forth.” And what was it like working with a seasoned actor like Nawazuddin Siddiqui? She smiles, “Nawaz sir is an institution. I would constantly observe him to absorb his technique, pick up lessons in acting.” As the conversation flows, I learn Avneet would sell her right arm if she ever got an opportunity to work with Hrithik Roshan! “Oh, there's no one like Hrithik. I have always had the biggest crush on him, and I'd move mountains to work with him,” she gushes.
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Oh, there's no one like Hrithik. I have always had the biggest crush on him, and I'd move mountains to work with him.

The Punjabi Kudi

Besides dubbing for Tiku Weds Sheru, Avneet has been busy with several brand endorsements and music videos. She recently did an ad with Varun Dhawan and matched steps with Jacqueline Fernandes on the song Mud Mud Ke, which went viral. While her work life is thriving, what is it like at home? What are the family values that she holds dear? As the shoot nears completion, I bombard her with these questions. Avneet happily shares, “I'm a Punjabi through and through! Although we live in Mumbai, far from our roots in Jalandhar, at home my family keeps me grounded. I share a special bond with my mother. She's like a friend. I call her Ammu. My dad is my human shield, and my little brother likes to behave as if he's elder to me! (Laughs) It's a typical Punjabi household with a lot of food around all the time. It gets loud when we are all sitting together, laughing and chilling at home. (Giggles) I make it a point to travel with my family at least twice a year so I can spend some quality time with them.”
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Designer, Prints by Radhika; Neckpiece & earrings, Varuna D Jani; Neckpiece as belt, Vaidaan Jewellery
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I don't think I do many age-specific activities. I feel too old for the party phase - been there, done that. I don't have time for dating. Travelling for me is like meditation. I'm the happiest when I'm visiting new places.

The Wise Adventurer

Avneet happens to be quite a globetrotter. In fact, I learn from her team that shortly after our shoot, the actor would be travelling to Istanbul for leisure. So, what are some age-specific things she likes to do when she's travelling? She breaks into chuckles before admitting, “I don't think I do many age-specific activities. I feel too old for the party phase - been there, done that. I don't have time for dating. Travelling for me is like meditation. I'm the happiest when I'm visiting new places. Be it the luxurious vibe of Maldives or the calming waters of Coorg, I enjoy it all.” She muses for a bit before continuing, “I truly believe that while travelling you should not stick to an itinerary. I mean, just go with follow. You never know what the universe has in store for you.” Another pause later, she adds with a cheeky grin and a twinkle in her eyes, “Also, remember to keep your phone battery charged for fun pictures!” And that right there is why millions across the globe can't get enough of Avneet Kaur.

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