Q. 1 You have always been criticised for your weight, what keeps you positive and going?
No matter what people say about me I know my audience loves me. I was told that it is difficult for newcomers to find a connect with the audience and that I might end up spending many years in the industry before I find the connection. But I have been very fortunate. I have a growing fan following who loves me and has accepted me regardless of the way I look. They have seen me playing different characters, and my weight or looks have never come in the way of my roles. The acceptance makes me feel positive despite the criticism hurled at me. I am aware of the fact that I was being labeled ‘too fat’ and it would prove detrimental to my career, but I don’t need to be size zero to woo the audience.
Q. 2 What was the reaction of the industry when you joined?
Bollywood has given me a lot of love and respect. I remember when my first film Gangs of Wasseypur 1 released, one of the critics said, if I aspired to be a mainstream actress I needed to be five kilos lighter. He went on to say that my weight wasn’t appropriate for Bollywood standards. I was astonished and wanted to ask, ‘do you even know how much I weigh?’ I personally feel people who comment like this are not worthy of any attention. What I have realised, after being a part of this industry, is that I should be true to what I am doing and that is what matters in the end. If a particular character needs me to look a certain way, I am willing to take up that challenge. If I am required to look like an athlete or a super model then I am more than willing to put myself through a change because as an actor, I constantly need to fit into different shoes. I love playing interesting characters and give audiences something new to look at.
Q. 3 You seemed to have lost weight recently. How did that happen?
To be very honest, I have never been more conscious of how I look. My work has made me realise the importance of treating my body with love and respect. Whether it’s your skin, hair, body or your nails, you need to take care of yourself. You need to follow a particular regime. Today I look at things more holistically. Losing weight is a short-term goal. It’s about loving my body and I have realised that when I love my body, my skin glows and my eyes shine. There is a fluidity in my movement and that’s what I look for in fitness not weight loss.
Q. 4 How do you balance weight and health?
I have a personal trainer who comes to my house and helps me do stretching and yoga. I eat six small meals in a day and try eating healthier. My approach is to live healthy. Healthy living is not about becoming size-zero. It is not killing yourself to look a particular way and be apologetic about yourself. As women, for far too long we have been made to feel bad about ourselves. We are constantly taught not to love ourselves. All the advertisements around us tell us something is not right about us. I think the time has come, when we as women look at ourselves and realise how beautiful we are. People who criticise need to look at women differently. It’s their perspective that needs to change not our weight. My approach towards fitness has changed completely. I have never been so health-conscious before and perhaps that is why people are saying I have lost weight or my skin is glowing. Weight is not about about shedding pounds. It is not about losing four or five kilos. It is about how you are doing it and why you are doing it. I don’t want to be apologetic about myself. I think that’s very important. When my friends and family look at me in the movies, they shouldn’t think of me as someone I am not. I want to be a positive role model for people who watch me on screen.
Q. 5 Have you undertaken any instant weight loss program?
I have had my fair share of crash dieting (laughs). As a teenager, I have done yo-yo dieting. I have to admit that like most young girls, I have tried out unhealthy forms of eating but it never helps. There is so much of pressure to look a certain way when you are growing up. We are left with no option but to succumb to pressure. But I have learnt the hard way. I have starved myself, lost weight but it has all come back sooner or later. I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I am going to bounce back and feel terrible about myself. There’s so much misinformation and wrong ways of loosing weight.
What I would like to promote is a healthy body image, regardless of the weight. As women, we are constantly told that we are not pretty or we are not beautiful and we end up feeling miserable. This is what needs to change rather than our weight. It’s a life changing process which is not going to happen in a week’s time. How often do we go on fad diets just because a wedding is coming or we have to wear a dress? It’s a life-style change that won’t happen with a short fix or a yo-yo diet. I think that is what I do and that is what I will advocate as well.
Q. 6 Since this is the holy month of Ramzan, how do you observe it?
My parents believe and follow the rituals religiously during the holy month and I always try and keep atleast the big rozas. It’s difficult. Earlier I would ardently follow the rules but it is not always possible to observe all the rituals when one is working but I try and do as much as I can.
Q. 7 Is Bollywood becoming more accepting of plus sized women?
There are winds of change. People want to see realistic things now which has led to the acceptance of curvier actors. The plus size women in Bollywood are no different from any other kind of women that exist out there. There are so many actresses today and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Audiences are loving them and are flocking to watch their movies. And that is the biggest stamp of approval one really needs. Who is to say that actresses are supposed to look a particular way or they should be of a particular height, or the nose should be less crooked. Who decides these things?
Q. 8 Who is your role-model?
My biggest role-model is my mother. She has taught me to love and understand myself. I look up to her for everything. Any woman who loves herself is inspirational to me. Of the international actresses, I love Kate Winslet and Jennifer Lawrence. Both are phenomenal women who are not afraid to show their curves. A woman with a good personality and who is comfortable in her own skin should be a role model for others around her.
Q. 9 What is your favourite dish?
I am a big foodie. I like cooking but I haven’t cooked in a really long time. However, I must confess I enjoy eating the most. I love my non-vegetarian fare, ghar ka khaana is what I love the most, needless to say. But I am a Delhi girl and I miss the delicious street food. I must mention I have big sweet tooth and I can eat meetha at any time of the day. I need to cut down on my caffeine intake as I drink a lot of coffee.
Q. 10 What kind of message do you want to give to young women?
How many times are women told ‘Stop wearing that dress, it’s too short.’ or ‘Stop eating that carb-laden pasta, it will make you fat’. How many times have we been stopped in our tracks from doing what we wanted? People constantly judge us by our looks. But I feel we have to go forward and change things around for ourselves. The world can pull us back as much as it wants, we must intend to push back, stay ahead and carry on.
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