How was it to come back to films (with Hichki) after the maternity leave?
It was great. My journey into motherhood and coming back to work was amazing, because as a professional you don’t realise how much you miss your work, unless you take a break. The experience of becoming a mother for the first time was just beautiful. After that, when I got back on set, I felt, ‘oh my god, I just belong here’, because suddenly everything just came back.
Were you nervous?
More than nervous, there was a lot of anxiety and fear. On the first day, when I left home to shoot the film, I remember I was howling in the car. I’ve always had the image of myself as a strong personality and I don’t show my emotions. Then I realised that in life it is so important to express yourself, your emotions, your fears, your anxiety, because eventually that makes you a stronger person. My fears were of leaving my daughter, Adira, behind for the first time. She was going to be without me for several hours, which she had not been since she was born. The other fear was of taking such a challenging role. Will I do justice to it? Do I really know how to act after taking a break? But when I walked in on set, it all came back in one second, and I felt I belong here.
Women tend to get swept up in life experiences.
It’s a choice that a mother makes. I feel that every woman is different, every mother is different. You can’t compare one mother to another. Everyone has different circumstances, background and reason. Our emotions and priorities are different. I’ve been in the industry for 22 years. It was high time I had my family and baby.
In the West, there is no discrimination between actors and actresses, they can go ahead, get married, have babies, and have a parallel work life. In India, strangely, women are pushed to get married late and have a baby. They want actress to be single for a longer period of time, which is strange because our heroes get married early, they have children and continue to work. But I think times are changing. It is our responsibility as actors to encourage actresses to get married early, have children and still pursue their career.
When you returned to work, did you find anything had changed in terms of workplace scenario or gender parity with regard to salary?
Siddharth (director of Hichki) was very well-planned. They all were sensitive to the fact that I just had a baby. My time was a major concern. We used to start shooting at six in the morning and wrap up by one, so I was home by Adira’s lunch time. That worked for me. In every profession, if they can be a little more accommodating for working mothers, women can pursue their careers and have a great family life as well.
In Hichki you play a teacher with Tourette Syndrome, and in Black you played a visually-impaired girl,
who is also deaf and mute. These are extremely challenging roles, based on real people. What did you take away from these experiences?
I connect with the specially-abled. What I love about them is that they are very spirited and confident, unlike how people perceive them to be. They know that there is something that god has taken away from them, but their other senses are way too strong compared to any one of us. That is the core I like to touch emotionally with the characters I play. If you see Michelle
McNally, she is very spirited, so is Naina Mathur, and she doesn’t see her disability as a roadblock.
What is your kind of feminism?
For me, feminism is to be able to live with a man along with your own individual identity, and that is a very powerful sentiment. If you have a husband who respects the kind of woman you are, individual you are, that for me is something special. A lot of times, we may talk about feminism, equality and other things, but what’s happening in your day-to-day life is most important. Changing the world is the next step.
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