Celebrity Interview: Iranian actress Hedieh Tehrani

Love forever… is pink
Award-winning Iranian actress Hedieh Tehrani has inspired a fragrance – Love Forever. It seeks to distil the qualities that audiences attribute to Tehrani: Strong, charming, sincere, graceful and down-to-earth. Tehrani sure was all these at the launch event in Dubai. Rajeev Nair met her

Red fetched her an award but Hedieh Tehrani likes pink. It has red in it, she says, her speech just a little louder than a whisper. Red was the film, and pink is “Love Forever.” That is the fragrance inspired by this Iranian actress, who audiences relate to as “strong, charming, sincere, graceful and down-to-earth.” In pink, love is a long-lasting emotion, she adds. Love becomes forever.
She loves love; she has been exploring love forever through the meditations of Osho. Tehrani has studied all his books. She also seeks love in nature. That is her inspiration. She says there is an artist in her all the time who wears many hats. When it is not that of an actress, Tehrani is an interior designer. Other times, she is an antique collector. She had an antique shop in Iran a long time back and now, she is looking for a gallery to house one.
How about a shop in Dubai? If she can launch a fragrance inspired by her in this city, why not an antique shop? She wears a “that’s-too-far-fetched” expression before saying, “I don’t know. I never thought about it.” And then she adds: “May be..,” if someone steps forward.
If Tehrani was not a familiar face to the media gathering who trooped in for the launch event at InterContinental Dubai, it really wasn’t her problem. Let us say, we tread our grounds not exploring what happened next door.
Next door, in Iran, Tehrani was gaining in stature: Twenty films in ten years; Qermez (Red) by director Jeyrani fetching her the Simorgh-e-Bolurin award; the best actress award at the Pyongyang Film Festival for the film, Party, directed by Hamid Labkhandeh; more honours; more recognition; a steady fanfare…. She represented the new face of Iranian women: Strong-willed and graceful.
The Dubai media got a glimpse of her versatility at a screening of snapshots from her films. That set the tone for the launch of Love Forever, created by the House of Lomani, France, and Sheikh Mohammed Saeed Est, Dubai. The two have a working association of over 20 years.
The initiator of the perfume, Herve Bourdeau (see box), who represents Robertet, France, a fragrance manufacturer since 1850, says he turned to Iran for the fragrance because it is the “cradle of civilization. It has its own language, culture and cinema. And it has a young population.” In a drastically evolving perfume industry, it is important to “think globally and act locally,” he adds.
Bourdeau says Tehrani is represents the modern women in Iran. “She is the right icon to represent our brand.” The perfume was created to match her image with an accent on “strength” by Amandine Marie with base notes of musk, sandalwood, amber and vanilla; mid-notes of peony, wisteria and Isfahan rose; and top notes of anise and violet.
Tehrani says a good fragrance stays in memory. Her own memory of smell is related to her “mother’s perfume and the smell of earth when it rains.” And she likes most the scent of “good memories,” and “the smell of roses.”
“Every one has a smell and when it mixes with the perfume it can reflect one’s personality,” she adds.
Tehrani is a self-taught actress. “I never went to university to learn acting,” she says. “It comes naturally, and it is a good way to learn through experience.” For someone who started off as an unwitting participant in commercial cinema, Tehrani had learnt to balance popular cinema with meaningful fare – the kind that has fetched Iranian cinema global attention. That interest was further fuelled with the Oscar-nomination for The House of Sand and Fog-actress Shohreh Aghdashloo. A few filmmakers had approached Tehrani too. “I am not sure whether they are from Hollywood but anyway, I haven’t planned anything,” she says.
International interest in Iranian cinema is nothing new, she quickly adds. “Iranian cinema has been popular, especially in Europe. There are many directors who have won prestigious international awards.”
One challenge for Iranian actresses, Tehrani says, is to get to play diverse characters. “Women cannot play very different roles; the roles are basically the same.” She overcame that to a great extent working with directors who have radically different approaches to cinema.
Tehrani is interested in philosophy. According to her the wisest and greatest philosopher is “Nature,” which teaches you many things. “And then there is Osho…I love both of them.”

Box:
On fragrance trail
Meet Herve Bourdeau of Robertet, France, who calls himself the initiator, initiating perfumes with Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Zeenat Aman, Raveena Tandon and now Hedieh Tehrani

The “initiator” has a killer instinct when it comes to “inspiring” a fragrance. That is what worked to the advantage of Herve Bourdeau when he gate-crashed a party in an Indian hotel hosting Zeenat Aman. He had seen the heroine’s hit-film, Satyam Sivam Sundaram, a knowledge he put to good use.
Thus was born the first of his celebrity fragrances in 1989. Since then he has launched fragrances for Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Raveena Tandon and now, Hedieh Tehrani.
Bourdeau represents the French fragrance manufacturer, Robertet, which was founded in 1850. It has a track-record of creating fragrances for Gucci and Chanel, apart from a rich repertoire of celebrity fragrances.
Initiating that largely the responsibility of Bourdeau, who travels extensively, speaks a handful of Indian languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada…) – thanks to his 27-year-long association with India – and senses a prize catch when he spots one. From Tehrani, he is moving back to India – to launch a second round of Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan. He has also tried launching fragrances with Thai and Filipino stars, and dreams to launch one in Sri Lanka too.
He says people need new fragrances, especially in this part of the world. “A French-lady will try a fragrance and if she likes it, she will not change it. She may change her love. Here, people are faithful in love but not faithful in perfumes. They need something new all the time.”
Before selecting any actor to initiate a fragrance, Bourdeau does a market study. He talks to people he know and to taxi-drivers, while on his trips. Not every one agrees. “Sometimes they ask too much (money…,” he says. More vividly, he remembers meeting with the mother of an actress in India. And they couldn’t get beyond a “what’s it all about?” It was too complicated, says Bourdeau.
As an initiator, he contacts the actors, gives them the idea, and then approaches companies like the House of Lomani, and works with the perfumer and designer to make sure the product is okay. The fragrance itself is created by perfumers at Robertet, who study the image of the celebrity to come up with the right fragrance. “In fact, the fragrance is selected from many fragrances created by a number of perfumers,” he adds.
Of all the perfumes he has initiated, Amitabh has sold most. But he quickly adds: “If you compare the fragrances, Zeenat Aman in 1990 and Amitabh Bachchan in 2000, you are talking about a vast difference in advertising exposure. So you sell more today at lesser margin.”
And working with the Indian star was an awesome experience for Bourdeau. “He is so professional; he is punctual, co-operative and workaholic. He is full of ideas…” he gushes.
Now, if you have been wondering what perfume Bourdeau uses, well, suffice to say that he is “faithful in love.” Yes, he would rather change his perfumes.

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