By Shilpi Madan
Juuhi Babbar Sonii is a virtual powerhouse of energy and emotions, both on and off the stage and silver screen. When you converse with the actor, you realise why she is such an instant hit with children. Honest, expressive and gifted with a sparkling sense of humour, Juuhi slips with ease into theatrics as we talk. Blame her genes: with dad, actor and political stalwart Raj Babbar; and mom, theatre major Nadira Zaheer Babbar of the famous Ekjute Theatre Group, acting is in Juuhi’s system. She strikes a balance between acting and raising her son, Imman A Sonii, with actor husband Annup Sonii. Excerpts from a conversation with Express Parenting:
Has Imman attended your famous summer workshops for children?
Yes, he has. Imman turns eight this year. The eligibility is six years for my workshops at Ekjute. By God’s grace I share a deep connection with children. I simply love acting, it is in my system.
How well do you make use of your theatrical ability, as a mom, with Imman?
Honestly, I create excitement even in the simplest of conversations. For instance, when I am asking him about things that happened during the day. I show through my expressions that I am very curious and interested – which I truly am, but the difference is that I show it clearly, unlike most of us who will listen to our children, but while doing other tasks. It is very important for your child to read in your eyes and on your face that you are genuinely interested in what she or he is saying. Our conversations are very animated as I develop the narrative through my inquisitiveness.
How important is ‘talking’ per se in your relationship with Imman?
I talk a lot with Imman. It is vital to our relationship. Imman is a very expressive child. I have always had a logical conversation with him to probe what is bothering him, if he is upset. Then we reason it out: is crying the solution? Then continue sobbing. Else, we can resolve the issue. He is very sensitive and emotional. As a family, all of us run very high on emotions!
How have you managed to rein in your temper and up the patience level?
Earlier I used to fly off the handle on sets. Now I have taught myself to calm down, to give my anger time to cool, without erupting. It is not good to be known for a bad temper. I am a different person, pre Imman and post Imman. I give motherhood complete credit for calming me down
But you are a perfectionist…
Yes, I am. The acronymn OCD was coined for me. I am particular about certain aspects: like no football in the living room, no dirty feet on the bed…
And when Imman does otherwise?
One look from me conveys my displeasure. He can read me! Annup is more chilled out
What about Imman’s bond with his grandparents?
My father’s sheer persona – his stature in films, politics, in the family tree – precedes him. As kids, we dared not even touch his special chair. It was reserved for him. Cut to 2020. When Imman enters nana nani’s house, my father tells him “You are my boss” (eyes round in disbelief). Can you imagine the level of pampering? My mother behaves like a five-year-old around Imman. My father is a shade better. He behaves like a 10-year-old around his grandson. Anything that needs to be done, or ordered, when I ask him, he retorts promptly “Ask my boss”!
But you love it!
Of course! There is so much melodrama, it is unbelievable. If I happen to scold Imman in front of them, my mother’s voice just thickens with emotion and her facial features arrange themselves in a weep-mode, as she tells me not to behave like this with Imman in front of her. Can you believe this? (laughs) Now, why won’t Imman love being with his grandparents?
How close is he to his paternal grandparents?
We lost my father-in-law recently, and my mother-in-law lives in Delhi. She is with us on all special occasions — birthdays, festivals. Imman and his dadi are board-game buddies. She is a quiet genteel soul, and we are a gregarious lot. Even when we speak normally it comes across as if we are screaming at each other.
How involved is Annup in Imman’s upbringing, given his hectic shoot schedules?
He loves to drop Imman off to school. That is their time together. They chat, listen to music – Imman has a great ear for music, and has an uncanny ability to immediately memorise the lyrics of a song. He is a disciplined child too. Without us having taught him this – he switches the music off as the car approaches the school building, easing himself into the ‘school mode’. I appreciate this.
You always wanted many kids. Any plans for adding to your family?
I did always want a large family, but I had Imman pretty late in life. Now I feel age and energy levels are not on my side. Having a second kid will simply drain me emotionally. I have never been very ambitious in life. Even when Imman was born, I made my work take a backseat for a few years. I curated plays, which required me to makes calls and coordinate, and this let me stay in touch with my work and stay connected with my fraternity. I did do plays now and then, but no new plays. A new production consumes about two hours of rehearsals, that slowly stretch up to seven to eight hours in the run-up to the actual shows. I wanted to be with my child. As a mother, I want to give Imman my best. I am unsure if I will be able to give my best to two kids.
That rules out surrogacy then?
Having a child is not just about conceiving the baby. It means bringing up the little one as you want to. It is a lifelong responsibility. On a scale of 0-10, of the emotion-o-meter, I rank 20!
Share with us one development that you have pushed yourself to make happen now.
I have finally got onto social media about two months back. That too, with a lot of prodding and pushing: my movie Dostana 2 comes up for release soon and I was told I needed to be ‘visible’ online.