By Shilpi Madan
He has beefed up admirably for his latest show Kesari Nandan (for which he is shooting round the clock), where he plays the wrestler father Hanumant Singh. His prowess in comedy came to the fore with his hugely popular serial Yam Hai Hum. His benevolence as King Krishna Deva Raya won him applause in the lovable Tenali Raman series. Manav Gohil is a much loved television star, having wowed the natives through serials including Kahaani Ghar Ghar ki , Kkusum, CID…but his prized pick is the role of daddy in real life that he plays to his six-year-old daughter Zahra-Tabitha.
Excerpts from a conversation:
What’s your pet name for your daughter? And she is daddy’s girl, is she?
Tabby. And yes, totally (laughs). In fact, when I get home from my shoots and Tabby is around, then even my wife Shweta (Kawatra) is not allowed to touch me!
But given your hectic shoot schedules, how do you spend enough time with Tabby?
When I am away, we do a video call at least once a day. When I am back, I drop her to school, which is my exclusive time with Tabby. Then we go on walks, hug each other. We have a family cuddle session every day, enjoy meals together, pray together….I believe family is the source of strength, warmth and emotional security in our Indian fabric. That is how we have been brought up.
Being a single child, does she take advantage?
Honestly, she does have me wrapped around her little finger, but I am firm about certain things. Bad behaviour will not be tolerated. She tends to get a little out of hand sometimes with her mum, especially when I am around, but we take her to task. I always tell Tabby that I love her, but will not tolerate misbehaviour towards anyone, or even tantrums and overexcited high-pitched demands at restaurants when we go out.
What happens when she throws tantrums in public places?
I ignore her. If she persists, then a firm tonal inflection works for the moment. Later on, I explain to her why what she did was not appropriate and why I was upset. She needs to understand. Kids are more intelligent than we give them credit for.
How has having a daughter transformed you?
You know, apart from becoming more responsible and caring, there has been a bigger change. I have begun observing myself and my actions in a different light. I work a lot with child artistes. I have worked with little girls during the course of my acting career. Now, I take their permission beforehand if I need to pick them up in a particular scene. I ask my child co-star, “I need to pick you up in this scene, and are you fine with it?” I feel they need to know, they need to be asked. I can’t explain it but after having a daughter myself, this extra dimension, added sensitivity and concern has seeped into my attitude. I feel my entire attitude towards life has changed.
How has motherhood changed Shweta?
She has become so much more calm. She used to be short-tempered earlier. Now, I think I am more short-tempered (laughs)! But honestly, Shweta and Tabby have grown together in their beautiful relationship.
So, if Tabby wants to take to acting right now, are you cool with it?
She is very camera shy and hides behind me when camera persons appear. She has visited my sets a couple of times. But coming back to your question, I am fine with whatever she wants to do. Though honestly, I believe that as child artistes, the little ones go through so many emotions in front of the camera, in gruelling 12-hour shoot schedules, it somehow takes their innocence away, their time with their own friends…kids are too small to go through this. I feel, in the process, a bit of their childhood gets lost, and their education suffers as well.
Does Tabby watch you on the telly?
No (laughs). She does not like action at all. So, no Kesari Nandan for her. Also, she never likes to see me get hurt or angry on screen. She is quite a “fattu” (laughs).
But you love her…
Absolutely. My daughter is my pride.
You always wanted a daughter…
Yes. I don’t have a sister and grew up with no girls around. It was just my brother and me, with my folks. I love kids and always wanted a daughter; luckily, things fell into place for me.
What is it all about at the end of the day?