How has the lockdown treated you?
Initially lockdown was tough and very different, but with time, we got used to it. We got a lot of time to spend with the family. Everything got very innovative with cooking, exercising and the things they like to do. It also taught us to value a lot of things that we never did. Like the smaller aspects of life were always overlooked because of our busy schedule. I would also like to look at the positive side of it like I got a lot of time to spend with the family.
What did you do during the break?
I did everything that I haven’t done for the longest time. From cooking to spending time with my son, I’ve utilised the break to the fullest. Normally, in our life we always have things to do at the back of our mind. For example, we are at home for limited time as we are working, so we are continuously thinking about the things we have to do. But during the lockdown one got to forget all the stuff and just be with family both mentally and physically. I also practice Yoga and meditation. The first thing it teaches you is that be in the moment right now. That is what we all got to do, just be in the moment. Living every moment, we did not have anything to run to or any agendas. My son always loves when I am around him. Whenever I am at home he just freaks out.
How difficult was it to go back to work during the pandemic?
I was very scared till the day before, I had to go to shoot. It is a situation when you have been at home as the situation is not good outside. That is what we all practised for four-five months because we had to control the scenario for it to not spread further. So, you have mentally prepared that you have to be at home because it is a safe environment and suddenly after four-five months you have to step out because it was a prior commitment of mine and I had to fulfill it. I was very scared, skeptical, nervous, anxious, you can say everything. I had sleepless nights two days before I was going to head to shoot. But I understood that it was important also to fulfil our commitments, to go out there but not at the cost of your own and others safety. It is necessary to take all the precautionary measures and that has doubled the work what. Everything needs to be sanitised, you have to wear a mask all the time only when we are giving shots are we allowed to take it off. We had to sanitise all the products and places that we were using. In the beginning it was completely difficult and different from anything that you have ever done in your life.
One of your staff members and a co-star from Kasautii Zindagii had tested COVID positive. How difficult was that time for you?
It takes a toll on you and not just me, it was my entire family who went through a different level of stress. I can’t even tell you the kind of stress level we all went through. I don’t think this left for 56 Nights because my staff member was staying with us in my house. We got to know after 5-6 days after I started shooting that he was covid positive, then we had to put him in a quarantaine centre. I think this is now a part of your life. You have to live with it and you can’t run away from it. At the same time, you can’t say I am not going to do this or I am not going to step out. After my staff member tested positive we had to quarantine ourselves and then there was a telecast issue the whole experience was a roller coaster ride. There was no other option then me shooting at home which I had never done in my life. Doing a photoshoot at home or just shooting yourself was easy but proper shoot and the content it aired on television was very difficult. It was a different ball game altogether from setting up the lighting to your makeup to your hair and sound. You have to do everything on your own and it was very difficult. But there was no option as there was a telecast issue.
Who helped you to shoot from home for KZK 2?
Fortunately my husband is from the same profession, so he helped me. My sister came down to stay with us and she also helped me. I don’t think it would have been possible with me all by myself.
Do you take ratings and TRP pressure?
No, not at all. I have never taken TRP pressure. What brings me a sense of contentment is that today I had a good day at work. That is all that matters to me as an actress.
Were you always inclined towards fitness?
Yes, I was always inclined towards fitness. I used to go to the gym, do free hand exercises. But yoga has been a huge part of my life for almost three years now. I see the changes in myself. It has made a huge difference in not only the way I look, in also the way I feel.
Do you face the infamous mother’s guilt when you step out for work?
Yes, I go through it everyday when I step out for work. I would tell myself initially that it would end in a month or two once I resume work. I think every mother goes through it. Especially, when they wake up and catch you before you leave for work. They come to you and give you a hug and say mamma please don’t go to work today. Your heart melts and you feel oh my God what I am doing? You just want to be back and I think every mother faces this in every profession.
How do you deal with it then?
‘Go work, come back home and spend time with them’ — this is what I keep telling myself.
From Kahin Toh Hoga to Kasautii Zindagii Kay when you look back at your journey, how do you feel?
I wouldn’t want to change a single thing about my journey. I think I got the best launch ever that one can ever think of. My character from Kahiin Toh Hoga of Kashish is still popular, people still address me as Kashish. It is surprising and overwhelming at the same time and I am happy that I couldn’t have done a better role than Kashish. I have been fortunate enough to have done some great cinema. And I was the happiest playing Komolika.
Were you always open to do a negative role?
When Ekta offered me the role of Komolika, my first reaction was what? Me, Komolika? Then I thought over it and I felt it would be a great challenge. I always wanted to do a negative role. My character from Ek Villain was not completely negative, Ritiesh was more negative. It was the first time I was playing a grey character and I loved that. I knew even then that if in future if I am offered a negative character, I would love to do it. I have always played sweet, romantic characters and as an actor I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to try something different as I had never done those mean expressions, like Komolika’s. I immediately accepted the challenge as I thought this is the best thing I could ever do.
Did you face struggle in the beginning or your journey was a smooth sailing one?
I had my rough times also but fortunately I got Kashish in the beginning and it was destiny. Before I did Kahin Toh Hoga, I had done a few ads and was completely new. I had no idea how the industry functions. I didn’t do any acting courses also. I was in college, got the show and I went ahead with it. I was very bad as an actor, performer in the initial stages. But Ekta (Kapoor) was very patient with me and did workshops with me, as I had zero experience in acting and that’s how I started growing as an actor and everything started falling into place. So, that is how things started happening. Television obviously was not very easy and as I had no experience I had to work on myself.
Post that Aloo Chat was my debut and I got that film because of the popularity of Kashish. They saw me in the show and they thought I was perfect for the role. Post that it was very difficult as I didn’t have anyone in the industry to guide me. I didn’t even have a manager. So that was a difficult phase. It was a difficult phase because there were a lot of hurdles to find the right project and role which I recently experienced a year and a half ago when I planned to come back after my maternity break.
How did you deal with rejections and failure?
You have your breakdowns and I think it is very normal. You feel insecure and you go through mixed emotions. You feel probably you are not going to make it, and since acting is all I have always done in my life, you start feeling like yit is all over now! But then at the same time you hope that you will get work… I am also a very spiritual person. So somewhere you need to find a balance so that it keeps you going. Just be positive and whatever is in your destiny will happen.
Was it difficult to get work after marriage and baby because of the preconceived notions in the industry?
It was difficult because a lot of people think that ok she has delivered a baby, her career is over as she doesn’t want to work. Then there were projects which I didn’t want to do and that’s why it took so long to decide when I wanted to come back. It’s not been easy for me. Once I decided to get back to work, it took me at least two years to get the right project. People have this misconception, even after Ek Villain and especially after a baby. I actually met a couple of people who told me you have a baby now, so your career is over. They make you feel that. It shook me; I was surprised. I would say things will change eventually with time.
Did people from industry tell you that you will be only offered motherly roles?
They put you in that bracket that if you have a baby now you can only play a mother’s role. I was offered a few projects like that. I would not say that it doesn’t happen. I don’t know why people go by preconceived notions.