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