How did you get into the movie industry?
I started off as a young girl, got into the industry without having a film background. I had my struggles initially. I had flops and I had hits. South India was very lucky for me. I got great luck from the South Indian film industry. Infact one astrologer had told me that if I want luck on my side then South India is where your stars are. That was stuck in my brain and I went down South and worked in a couple of movies. All of them were hits and simultaneously my Hindi movies were also hits.
Which language were you most comfortable in?
Out of all the languages, I have always been most comfortable in Hindi. I learnt the other languages too.
Please share some interesting experiences working in the film industry?
Working in the industry has taught me a lot. There have been highs and lows, but I’ve learnt so much. I desperately wanted to fit in and went through a lot of pressure and probably made a few mistakes too. I wasn’t from the industry, so I had those challenges too for not being an insider. It was hard to maneuvre but once I found my way, specially doing south Indian movies alongwith movies in Bollywood, I made my name. Not just that I actually managed with no star family support. The biggest challenge was myself. I never believed in myself enough. I always thought that everything was a fluke. I really feel bad that I did that to myself. I’ve learnt about self love today. I now appreciate myself and know that everything has come from my hard work. At that time I just doubted myself too much.
Tell us about your growing up days?
I studied at Bombay Scottish and then a Convent after that. I was a very quiet, shy kid with thick spectacles. Life changed when I grew up. But in those days I was really into animals so my dream career was to become a Vet. I also thought of dabbling with business and marketing. I had a job with Omega watches when I was 19 and was in a 9 to 5 job. My sisters were both famous models and someone spotted me and said why don’t you do this music video with Pankah Udhas. Because it was an opportunity to go to Australia, I said wow let me take a free holiday. I went for fun and it turned into something else. Soon I was working in movies.
Would you like to share about the postpartum depression phase you went through?
I was not prepared mentally when I was pregnant as not one person in this world told me that your hormones will go for a toss. Everyone was focussed on all the stuff like the baby clothes, furniture and decor etc. that no one really told me how to handle it all. When the baby came out all of a sudden, I was feeling so blue that nobody could help me through it. When I went to the gynac even she told me it happens and everyone said “hota hai” and took it for granted. When people take you lightly, it can be a bit harsh as it can hit you hard. For one year, I struggled as I felt something was wrong with me. Even if one person had told me it was ok and what I need to do, maybe I could have handled it better. That’s why I came stronger to my second inning, which I am in now, where I speak my mind and now I’m also helping other women understand their situations better. I’m also putting it all on social media and that’s doing its job of helping and reaching out to so many women who needed the help.
How supportive was your husband through all of this?
He has been an unbelievable man who has stuck with me through all the highs and lows. He has been with me as he knows that I’m doing this for a reason. He thinks it’s fabulous that I’ve dealt with it well and am now I’m helping other women deal with similar issues.
How long did it take for you to come out of it?
Two years. Yes, it was that long.
What really helped?
Homeopathy and therapy.
Were you missing the industry when you took a break for your children?
No, honestly I wasn’t. It’s a lot of pressure and stress to handle both. Now if I go back to the industry, which I will, it will be on my terms. There won’t be any sucking up or going to social circles or parties or anything else to get work. When you need work you have to flatter the right people, it’s a known fact. I won’t be doing any of that when I get back for sure. I don’t mean only physically, but even hanging out with the right crowd. That is too exhausting and I’m not going to do any of that. The stressful part about acting is all the paraphernalia that comes alongwith it. Acting isn’t stressful. Thankfully in today’s times the game has changed. Today I can go back to acting on my terms and do it my way.
Are there offers coming your way?
There are plenty of offers every day. There are lot of good ones that I have declined, but I was not ready to leave my children and get back too soon. My daughter Nyra is three and my son Hans is seven. I would love to also try OTT and I’m getting a lot of offers for OTT films. I’m still finding balance being a mum right now, but I will get back soon. I would like to take up roles that are hard core real and do something for women and roles that talk about women centric issues. I love the fact that women love me for who I am and I am always for them. The roles I choose will be with women in mind. The OTT world is opening up a new world of great opportunities. It’s about real talent. I love watching shows and films on all OTT platforms.
So, when do you think you’ll get back to acting?
In a year’s time when my daughter gets into a full day big school. It’s not easy to balance both, so I will get back to the film industry by next year for sure.
Are you hands on at home with your kids?
I am a totally hands on mom. I have someone who helps when I come out for some social commitments, but 90% of the time I’m with them.
You’ve come from a glamourous background to a real mom on social media. Was it difficult to deglamourise yourself and show the real you on social media?
I didn’t want it any other way. I call it the community space because it is my community. Some people may see Instagram or social media for how many followers they have but I always say if it’s the right crowd you want then treat it as a healthy space where people will want to be themselves. I look at Instagram as a healthy space for myself. I don’t want just big numbers who follow me but quality, like-minded people. It’s not just about being raw over there, I present my glamourous side also. Life isn’t perfect. There are highs and lows. People need to understand that otherwise there will be pressure all the time if you’re not presenting who you really are.
You’re associated with what’s happening around the world but you like to stay away from the noise. Was it a conscious decision?
I live in Goa and have a very good community life with great friends. It’s a very happy space to be in and I’m not missing the life of a metro. I’ve been in the metros for too long and I now love living in Goa. Now when I go back to metros I just don’t feel comfortable. Thanks to social media I still feel connected with everyone. I still handle my account personally and I don’t have any companies or managers managing it for me, as many of the celebrities do, I’m more connected to my people as I was ten years ago. I listen to and I’m a part of real conversations. Sometimes, I also counsel women on social media. It’s very strange how they all open up to me. I have women who come upto me with their marital relationship problems, miscarriage issues and so much more. Sometimes it takes a little time for me to reply to each of these DMs, but I try and do that as I feel it’s my responsibility. It’s actual community work. Sometimes even they help me and take care of me without even knowing it. So it works both ways.
Do people still call you by your screen names?
Yes, all the time. I get called Nenjukkul and guys still calling me the Ahista girl, or Anjaneya, Meghna or Meera. My children find it funny and bizarre sometimes. My daughter can’t understand what’s going on right now as she’s small, but my son tells them this is my Mumma, why are random people coming upto you and talking to you. He’s a little possessive. He’s not watched any of my work on screen yet.
What have been your highpoints of your journey so far?
When I first did films in Hindi, I flopped and everyone said this girl’s not going to go anywhere. The fact was that I had the grit to go at it and doing so many good films after that and going to the south film industry despite people in those days saying big stars don’t go to the south. I was a south Indian girl so I decided to challenge that and I wanted to make a mark. And I did that. Also when everyone said she’s now got a family and will disappear, I managed to come back in my own way and on my own terms which means a lot to me.
Tell us something about your love for Bangalore?
Bangalore will always be special for me as I met my husband for the first time in this city. We met at The Taj hotel here. I was here on New Year’s eve for some spa detox in 2009 and he was here for work. I was alone and I asked him to come and hang out with me on 31st night and we chatted for a long time. It all started here and the weather was so nice in December. He left after that and I was wondering if he will call me back. But of course we met again and here we are happily married after all these years.
How did the move to Goa happen?
It was because of the pandemic. We just went to get away for a while and we never came back. He goes to Belgaum where his work is and also Mumbai, but we live in Goa. Both cities are close to Goa, so we manage well.
How did the pandemic change you as a person?
I was a hands on person, that’s why content on social media came out as very real. Everyone was facing anxieties and I brought mine out too to reality. Anxieties like children being stuck at home, daughter in laws being stuck with mothers in law in a small space, it was all very crazy. The only way I got through it all was my expression through social media. People tell me you helped me through the pandemic and I tell them no you helped me through the pandemic. My mom in law who I call Sassy Saasu is actually a divorcee and is very quiet and is actually an introvert. But on social media people would think otherwise. I saw something in her and wanted her to open up. So when we brought the cameras on her, suddenly she embraced and soon “Chaa Gayee”. She’s a star in front of the camera and then again she goes back to being quiet when the cameras are off. We sometimes get on each other’s nerves and we actually laugh about it. There was humour in two women living together, sex lives within a marriage after 10 years, your body, sagging parts, kids, mother-in-laws that are all real parts of life, so we showed that. Age shouldn’t scare you and you should look at it in a way that this is all fun and that’s what I’m trying to do.
What does family mean to you?
My family has taught me so much about going way beyond myself. The industry makes you a person who’s all about your own self. But the family taught me to go beyond. After having two children and a husband, family is the most important, it’s everything. I wake up every day and they make me feel like I want to be a better person for them. I feel responsible towards them, the planet and want to make the world a better space for them. Funnily this doesn’t come when you’re on your own.
What are your other passions and hobbies?
I love swimming and pilates. I enjoy painting with my kids. I also read a lot and love to read autobiographies.
How do you spend time in your personal space?
I love watching Korean drama. It destresses me. I enjoy doing nothing sometimes. I love hanging out with my husband and kids.
Which are your favourite holiday destinations?
Living in Goa in such a beautiful space, I’m not really in the need of many holidays now. But if we go I love Japan. I also love Europe. Anything to do with any of the European countries. My kids love Abu Dhabi, Yas Island.
Any memorable incidents from any film shoots in your earlier days?
I was shooting a film with Chiranjeevi garu and my dad wasn’t into the fact that I was acting in movies. He flew down and was happy that I was doing a film with a hero he really respected. It was a turnaround moment when it went from “Why are you doing films?” to “I’m so proud of you”.
Your fashion statement?
I wear sweatpants or shorts at home but when I go out I enjoy wearing simple yet unique cuts in outfits. I like to experiment and I’m always ready to wear something that everyone might not like to wear.
Your fitness and skincare regime?
I workout every day. I do yoga or pilates. I have back issues, so I stick to yoga and pilates that’s good for my back. My beauty regime is a mix of a lot of things – I love Ayurveda and mixing it with some of the new age tech, whatever is available in the market.
Your dream role?
I would love to do a double role – with a negative character and someone really positive in the same frame.
Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Sun block, rose water and snacks for kids.
You’ve shot some amazing portraits with Amrita. What took you to come out and do this? Tell us about your brand collaborations.
I was very private about my life and didn’t have the trust factor with others when I had my children. I didn’t want anyone to click them or didn’t want to share pictures of my children with anyone. I had this tussle going on in my brain that I didn’t want anyone to shoot my pictures. Maybe because I was photographed so much before in my acting days that I didn’t want my children to be exposed to cameras with a studio setup. But when Amrita came, my children were so comfortable with her. She was so sweet that we are now hooked. Now if she doesn’t call me for my milestone, I get angry with her. I wasn’t ready to do any photoshoots with my kids, but when Amrita reached out to me after watching my Tamil film and my TEDx Talk, we shot with my new-born Nyra. Mommy Shots By Amrita made us so comfortable that we continued to shoot all my milestones with them. I was not prepared for my first shoot and I used clothes from my existing wardrobe, but Nyra got a full new wardrobe by them for the photoshoot. Nyra got all the pretty lacy numbers for the shoot. I’ve told Amrita to get me some lacy numbers too next time (she laughs).
One Regret in life:
I didn’t love myself enough in my teens. I wish I did.
One thing you can’t do without:
One thing that makes you beautiful:
First thing you notice in a person:
Straight hair or curls:
Indian or Western wear:
Fame or money:
Veg or Non veg:
Beaches or hills: