Aar­tii Naagpal opens up about her ca­reer and on­go­ing di­vorce bat­tle…

Savvy - - Contents -

Ac­tress, home­maker, mother, writer, two-time win­ner of the Dadasa­heb Phalke Award for Short Film Di­rec­tor and black belt mar­tial artiste, I am Aar­tii Naagpal, a woman who wears many hats but gives ev­ery­thing she does her all.

CHILD’S PLAY

I was born to ac­tress, pro­ducer, so­cial worker and politi­cian Shrad­hha Pan­chotia, daugh­ter of film­maker Shri Vit­thal­das Pan­chotia and Ashwini

Ku­mar Nag­pal. I was very at­tached to my mom but when I was three, I was sent to board­ing school as both mum and dad were busy with their very pub­lic ca­reers and wanted my sis­ter Deepshikha and me to study in the ‘right’ at­mos­phere. My mom lost her three younger brothers and though she had a sis­ter, she was nanaji’s ‘son’ and she tried her level best to live up to his ex­pec­ta­tions. She even kept his sur­name after get­ting mar­ried. My par­ents ar­gued a lot about this, but mom was res­o­lute. She was a true brave heart and will al­ways be my idol.

BOND­ING WITH MY GRAND­PAR­ENTS

My nanaji had walked with Gand­hiji dur­ing the Satya­graha dandi march and knew his life closely. At the age of 90, he was work­ing on a film called ‘Gandhi’ and would make me write a draft of the film

after I got home from school. I was a hy­per­ac­tive child and wanted to play most of the time. But nanaji would ask me to write his script as he nar­rated it. So, I used to run away to play in be­tween but then I would come back to see him still nar­rat­ing with his eyes closed! I would feel bad and out of re­spect would start writ­ing again. My naniji would make me fast for Navra­tri and Shankar Par­vati vrat. I used to help her do all the chores at home as I was the only phys­i­cally present sup­port they had at that time.

LIFE IN BOARD­ING SCHOOL

Board­ing school was tough. We had to wake up at 4 a.m for ha­vans and had to prac­tise bharat­natyam

and malkham. Ev­ery­thing was on a sched­ule; we weren’t al­lowed to sleep late and had to eat what­ever was served, be it karela or neem juice. There were fixed tim­ings for stud­ies and play­ing, and I didn’t like it. I re­mem­ber stand­ing out­side, look­ing up at the sky, wait­ing for mom to swoop in and take me away from there, but she never came. I missed my mom, as grow­ing up she wasn’t around much. I cried and pleaded for two years and was fi­nally brought back to Mum­bai. It didn’t help though as mom was busy in Gu­jarat with her projects and I was liv­ing with my nana and nani. I was put in an all-girls school in Mum­bai. I was very ath­letic and prac­tised karate till Stan­dard 10. I also par­tic­i­pated in sports like the 100 me­ter race, high jump and long jump, and even dance com­pe­ti­tions. I was the head scout, and a favourite of many teach­ers even though I was one of the naugh­ti­est girls in class. I was also in­de­pen­dent, tough and used to speak up and fight with the boys who mis­be­haved with me or my friends. My dad too was very lib­eral and treated me like his son, but he was very strict about the time I had to be home.

THE ACT­ING BUG

I al­ways wanted to be an IAS of­fi­cer and do some­thing spe­cial for my coun­try, but I was un­know­ingly thrust into the film in­dus­try. My mom wanted me to be an ac­tress; she be­lieved in the tal­ent even I didn’t know

I re­mem­ber stand­ing out­side, look­ing up at the sky, wait­ing for mom to swoop in and take me away from there, but she never came.

I had. I got my first act­ing gig when I was in the fifth stan­dard - my mom made me act in ‘Jwa­har Bhatta’. I didn’t know any­thing about act­ing, but did it for fun and also be­cause it meant my mother would be around. I then acted in a doc­u­men­tary called ‘Gaya And­hera Hua Ujala’. My par­ents made this film which was a com­ment against the dowry sys­tem. But the first film I did as an adult was ‘Gang­ster’ di­rected by Dev Anandji. I had ac­tu­ally ac­com­pa­nied my sis­ter for the au­di­tion, and they wanted a hero­ine who was also a good dancer. When they played the song ‘Hoto pe aisi baat’ from ‘Jewel Thief’, I just danced away un­con­sciously. I think that blew Dev sa­hab’s mind and I was on the project.

THE UN­PLEAS­ANT RE­QUEST

While I was still shoot­ing for ‘Gang­ster’, mom in­tro­duced me to Ratan Jain who of­fered me ‘Baazi­gar’ after our very first meet­ing. Shortly after that, I met Hari Singh who was Sridevi’s sec­re­tary at that time. He wanted to han­dle my work as Sri ma’am was leav­ing the in­dus­try. But he asked me to strip down to a bikini for him and that made me re­ally an­gry. He wanted full control of my life and that was un­ac­cept­able. I re­fused to meet him and avoided his calls.

I was in­de­pen­dent, tough and used to speak up and fight with the boys who mis­be­haved with me or my friends.

With par­ents and sis­ter

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