SH­WETA-NOMICS!

THE DAUGH­TER OF IN­DIA’S MOST FA­MOUS PAR­ENTS, SH­WETA BACHCHAN-NANDA, NOW REP­RE­SENTS THE NEW AGE MOTHER

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - News - Text by Ja­mal Shaikh Photos shot ex­clu­sively for HT Brunch by Ab­heet Gid­wani

It’s a muggy day in May, and we have just wrapped up a Brunch cover shoot in Lower Parel, an area in Mum­bai char­ac­terised by both, 25 storey-tall fives­tar build­ings and left­over chawls and mills.

As we de­scend the chipped stairs of the in­dus­trial com­plex where the stu­dio is lo­cated, Sh­weta Bachchan-Nanda wants to turn around and head back up. Has she for­got­ten some­thing? Should I send some­one to get it?

No. Sh­weta’s go­ing back for some­thing we can’t imag­ine. She’s look­ing for Raju, the ju­nior-most help, who is busy at the back, pack­ing away equip­ment.

“Thank you, Raju,” she tells him. “I just re­mem­bered I had for­got­ten to tell you bye!”

THE ‘LOW-KEY’ BACHCHAN

Meet the heart­warm­ing face of Bol­ly­wood roy­alty. Any­one who knows her by name will agree that the daugh­ter of Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan grew up in priv­i­lege. Af­ter mar­riage, she be­came a part of one of In­dia’s top­most busi­ness fam­i­lies. Yet, at the shoot that day, Sh­weta Bachchan-Nanda was hardly the star. Dur­ing lunch, she in­sisted that the en­tire crew of 10 squeeze into her tiny make-up room, which was orig­i­nally meant for three. Her ham­per of food from home was of­fered to ev­ery­one while she chomped on…be­lieve it or not, pizza!

Of her im­me­di­ate birth fam­ily of four, Sh­weta must be the most low-key of them all. “I don’t garner that kind of in­ter­est or at­ten­tion from the world at large, so yes, I’m low-key,” she says. “I like it that way.” Did she ever think of work­ing in the movies? “I don’t be­lieve I have the looks, tal­ent or men­tal and emo­tional make up to be an ac­tress,” she says. “I was an ex­tremely shy and awk­ward young girl; I wouldn’t have stood a chance in this kind of en­vi­ron­ment. You have to be ex­tremely strong to live and work in films.”

Yet, a cou­ple of years ago, as her chil­dren reached their teens and Sh­weta was in her late 30s, she launched a col­umn in a news­pa­per, of­fer­ing her read­ers a peek into her life. She wrote about the joys and chal­lenges of be­ing a mother, wife, daugh­ter and sis­ter, she spoke of her chang­ing equa­tion with her grow­ing chil­dren, and al­lowed the world into a per­sonal space that had, thus far, been ex­tremely pri­vate. What snapped? When did pri­vate Sh­weta Bachchan-Nanda be­come ready for pub­lic con­sump­tion?

Sh­weta laughs the hearty laugh no other Bachchan has. “Firstly, you’re wrong,” she chides me. “You’re a decade be­hind, be­cause I re­ally dis­cov­ered my­self in my 40s! I have al­ways writ­ten, but only for my­self. I kept a di­ary for years, but I never had the con­fi­dence or de­sire to make any of my work pub­lic. Pub­lic scru­tiny makes me very un­com­fort­able.”

Her col­umn came about when her chil­dren left for board­ing school and Sh­weta found her­self at a loss. “What do I do with this much free time, I asked my­self. A dear friend kept goad­ing me to start writ­ing, and my mother al­ways wanted me to write. I sent a sam­ple piece, they loved it, and I was in,” she says.

STO­RIES WITH A FIL­TER

But isn’t writ­ing also about bar­ing one’s soul? For be­ing an in­tensely pri­vate per­son like her­self, didn’t re­veal­ing de­tails of her life bring with it a mea­sure of in­se­cu­rity? “I wouldn’t say in­se­cu­rity, but yes, I was ret­i­cent,” she ad­mits. “I still feel I hold back a lot. I sup­pose you have to be re­spon­si­ble, es­pe­cially if so many peo­ple in your fam­ily are pub­lic fig­ures.”

Then how did she deal with the voyeurism of peo­ple who’d ob­vi­ously use her to gain a win­dow into the go­ings on of her loved ones? How does one share one’s life through one’s col­umns, yet keep away from feed­ing un­healthy ap­petites?

“Writ­ing can give away too much, and I am very con­scious about that,” Sh­weta says. “It would, for ex­am­ple, be ter­ri­ble if I es­pouse an opin­ion and some­one from my fam­ily has to bear the brunt of it. I would not be com­fort­able with that at all. But where un­healthy ap­petites are con­cerned, pretty

“I don’t be­lieve I have the looks, tal­ent or men­tal and emo­tional make up to be an ac­tress”

“When they were lit­tle, my chil­dren came to me with bruised knees. Now they come to me with bruised hearts.”

much ev­ery­one on any kind of so­cial me­dia to­day is laid bare and up for pub­lic con­sump­tion. Pri­vacy is a fad­ing in­sti­tu­tion, and it’s not just some­one who comes from my kind of back­ground who has to han­dle it; ev­ery­one is go­ing to get their 15 min­utes of fame, and – at some point – each of them will have to nav­i­gate this.”

Where, then, does she draw the line? “Well, I am ex­tremely cau­tious by na­ture, but if there is ever a doubt, I usu­ally reach out to my par­ents and ask them what I should do. In fact, my mother is my harsh­est critic, and in my writ­ing, it is of­ten her ap­pre­ci­a­tion that I seek the most. When I man­age to meet her stan­dards, noth­ing feels bet­ter than that!”

Wasn’t there a col­umn a few months ago where Sh­weta ap­pealed to peo­ple to leave her daugh­ter out of their com­ments? ‘I ap­peal to all to let my daugh­ter have her pri­vate life back!’ Sh­weta had writ­ten. We know we’re tread­ing on thin ice, but Sh­weta has an an­swer: “The peo­ple who have given my fa­ther love and re­spect have al­ways been very kind to us. Hav­ing said that, I also feel that chil­dren, till they choose pub­lic life, should get their pri­vacy or be shielded as much as is pos­si­ble or re­al­is­tic…. But then again, that may just be the over­pro­tec­tive mother in me say­ing this!”

THE MOD­ERN MOM

This state­ment, fi­nally, brings us to the heart of this story. In ad­di­tion to be­ing the re­spon­si­ble Bachchan-Nanda she is, Sh­weta rep­re­sents the mod­ern In­dian mother: One who may have spent years bring­ing up her chil­dren, but, as they reach their teens and ready them­selves for the world out­side, re­dis­cov­ers a life for her­self.

What is Sh­weta like as a mom? Is she now emo­tion­ally a mother who is turn­ing friend? “No, I am not their friend,” Sh­weta says def­i­nitely. “I am their mother! I have a com­mu­nica­tive and re­al­is­tic equa­tion with my chil­dren. When they were lit­tle, they came to me

“I do not ex­pect to know ev­ery­thing that is go­ing on in my chil­dren’s lives, but I am al­ways in on the im­por­tant stuff. For me, that is enough.”

with bruised knees. To­day, they come to me with bruised hearts. They ask my opin­ion, but they don’t have to obey it. I’m not strict about the teenage rites of pas­sage stuff. I am strict about be­hav­iour, that is very im­por­tant to me.”

And, does a mother find­ing her own in­ter­ests make her a mod­ern mom? “I ac­tu­ally os­cil­late be­tween tra­di­tional and mod­ern. I like some of our In­dian tra­di­tions. I like, for ex­am­ple, the re­spect we give our par­ents and el­ders here. It feels good, so I fol­low these tra­di­tions.”

Fi­nally, does be­ing a mother who has her own life mean dis­tanc­ing your­self from your kids’? “I do not ex­pect that I will know ev­ery­thing that is go­ing on in my chil­dren’s lives, but I am al­ways in on the im­por­tant stuff. For me, that is enough. I do not want to live through them. I do not want them to live the life I plan for them. I want them to chart their own path; if they fail, there is no shame, and I will be there to pick them up.”

#MOMMYBEAUTIFUL Sh­weta with her daugh­ter Navya Naveli Nanda

THE NANDA CLAN Nikhil Nanda (cen­tre) with kids, Navya Naveli (right) and Agstya

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