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A Charmed Life

Who is Waris Ahluwalia? -- The ''Inside Man'' hostage is also a jewelry maker to the stars

Five years ago, Waris Ahluwalia was making jewelry as a hobby. Now he's bedecking Hollywood's biggest stars — and acting alongside them. Here's how Inside Man 's indignant hostage got where he is today.

In 2002, Waris Ahluwalia was browsing at L.A.'s Maxfield when the store's buyer admired his self-designed rings — and placed an order on the spot. Thus, the Indian American's first jewelry line, House of Waris, was born.

A year later, Ahluwalia met Wes Anderson at a peace rally, and the two instantly forged a bond. ''Waris had a smile that caught [me] a little off guard,'' the director says.

So Anderson offered his new friend a supporting role in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Without having to suffer through a single audition, Ahluwalia was working with the likes of Owen Wilson.

Ahluwalia's unique jewelry also wowed his female castmates. Costar Anjelica Huston is a fan of his classic smoky topaz necklace. As for Cate Blanchett — the actress bought House of Waris' slyly named 18k gold ''holy'' rings, handcrafted in Jaipur, India; (they cost between $825 and $2,250).

Yet another fellow Aquatic actor, Willem Dafoe, was so impressed by Ahluwalia that he passed along the designer's phone number to Spike Lee.

With his celeb buzz building, Ahluwalia partnered with indie fashion designer Benjamin Cho. Their collaborations, cast from ''real-life things,'' debuted in 2005.

Just as Ahluwalia's Benjamin Cho line launched, he received a call from Spike Lee. After talking to the legendary director, the jeweler booked a flight to NYC for a meeting. Hours later, he found out — to his surprise — that he had landed the role of bank employee Vikram Walia in Inside Man.

While on the set, Ahluwalia took candid shots of the cast and crew. This one shows him clowning around in the bank's vault — foreshadowing the big bucks Lee's movie is raking in at the box office.

The latest coup for Ahluwalia — and those of us who can't afford his House of Waris or Benjamin Cho lines? A new, affordable collection for French retailer A.P.C., available in September, that includes an enamel guitar lapel pin.

Originally posted Mar 31, 2006 Published in issue #871 Apr 07, 2006 Order article reprints