Her surname screams ‘Kattappa’ from Baahubali. But Divya Sathyaraj is not the star kid to be known by her father’s laurels. The nutritionist and social crusader is an achiever in her own right, as Society finds out in this candid chat
Nutritionist and social crusader Divya Sathyaraj is not the star kid to be known by her father’s laurels. The daughter of prominent Tamil actor Sathyaraj is an achiever in her own right
Divya Sathyaraj was in the news when her open letter to our Prime Minister went viral. The letter urged that Mr Modi address the issue of harmful multivitamin supplements marketed by a few American pharmaceutical manufacturers in India. Divya stated in the letter how the supplements contained ingredients that should be banned from prescribing to patients. The vivacious and bold lady is none other than the daughter of superstar Sathyaraj, better known as Kattappa from Baahubali. Like her father, Divya too is a spirited girl, who dares to call a spade a spade and takes her social responsibility as a nutritionist very seriously. She is a qualified nutritionist by profession and is currently practising as a consultant in two different medical units (Suman clinic and Behanced clinic in Chennai), apart from pursuing her doctorate in the subject after having completed her MPhil as a dietitian. “I was the skinniest girl in our colony. I just hated the sight of food. My neighbours had fat and fluffy kids and my parents were desperate to make me eat. But they did not want to force feed me. Dad was against telling me stories of the boogey man to make me eat. So, my parents came up with an interesting manner of telling me stories about food and its nutritive value and gradually, I started enjoying food,” the nutritionist who once hated food, shares her interesting initiation into nutrition. She insists that hers is a very health-conscious family. “My brother and I tried different diets when we were teenagers. Dad would come back from his shoot and exercise, however tired he was and mum is a really good swimmer. She goes for a swim everyday. Hence, I had made the decision to study nutrition very early on in life. I believe food can heal and I have always believed that a balanced diet is important to build a strong immune system and for a healthy life,” opines the Goodwill Ambassador of The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF). Apart from working towards creating nutritious mid-day meals for underprivileged children through the foundation, Divya is in the process of authoring a book on nutrition.
“I don’t want to be preachy. But I also don’t want it to read like Dr Rujuta Diwekar’s book. I was taken aback on how she spoke about her patients, mocking their ignorance. I will never do that. That’s not my way to make it funny. On the other hand, dermatologist Rashmi Shetty spoke about procedures. I feel it’s not so glossy as she projected it. Also, I am quite an anti-procedures person. Moreover, Rujuta used Hindi words which many of us don’t fathom in the South. I don’t want to use local language in my book. These are the two challenges I am facing while writing my book,” the author-to-be shares her concerns. With numerous celebrity clients, both from Kollywood and the sports field, Divya is already in demand among the dietitians in Chennai. But that doesn’t stop her from being an avid film lover and critique. Although she has consciously kept away from taking to films as a career, she plays an active role in her dad’s career in terms of choosing his roles. In fact, she has been reading her dad’s bound scripts and giving her views on them since she was 10 years old. “I am very passionate about films but I always wanted a stable career and live a normal life,” Divya smiles, adding, “We are an out and out movie family though. Our conversations are basically about movies and food. Our way of celebrating birthdays is by watching a film and going out to eat.” Despite her father being the top league actor, the papa’s doll revels in the fact that her daddy dearest has always managed to strike a balance between his career and family. “Dad is a hands-on father. Unlike most star kids who tell me that their mothers brought them up as their dads were busy shooting, my dad never gave us a reason to feel his absence. He was there throughout. As a child, I could run to him for candies and toys. As a teenager, I could speak to him about PMS issues, crushes, boyfriends, break-ups, just about everything. He has been the go-to person for any crisis. On the other hand, mom has been a disciplinarian,” she says. Ever since the first part of Baahubali released, wherever Divya went, people were curious to know why Kattappa killed Baahubali. “I did not ask him about it even once and neither did my mom or brother. That was the only secret that dad kept from me though we are the best of friends,” she laughs. Coming back to nutrition, Divya strongly opines that medicines should be made more affordable. She did an in-depth research project on the working of government hospitals and ended up being utterly disappointed at the way they function. “People had to bribe to get more blankets. It was so wanting in terms of cleaning the operation theatres and reception areas,” she reveals. Divya is certainly inspired by her father in raising a voice against social injustices. Her open letter to the PM proved that as well. Recounting the situation, which demanded her to compromise on her ethical values,
“Why Kattappa killed Baahubali was the only secret that dad kept from me, though we are the best of friends”
Divya shares her first-hand experience with the manufacturers from US, who forced her to prescribe their products like weight gainers, weight losers and a multivitamin supplement. “I was shocked to see the label as the multivitamin had more than the approved Vitamin A which is damaging to the liver leading to malfunction and their fat burners and weight gainers were full of steroids. So I told them that I cannot prescribe them. The next I heard was that they will give me a higher commission for prescribing the drugs. Then they said they were being hosted by a minister which sounded more like a threat,” she recounts. When Divya demanded to see their medical approval certification, they said, ‘Since when did Indian doctors get so particular about scientific validity? Anyway, this will not cause a major side effect and by the time the patient realises it, you can ween them from it.’ Divya was so outraged that she bluntly refused to prescribe their products. The foreigners indulged in an aggressive verbal altercation, screaming at her and her receptionist before storming out. Next morning, Divya read a promotional article in the paper on the product and when she discussed the matter with some doctors, they said it was a central issue and she should refrain from getting involved in the controversy. “That’s when I decided to write an open letter to the Prime Minister. I listed the entire content and how they were not conducive to be consumed. I addressed everything including the dismal condition of government hospitals, the need to address issues like NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) and more,” she speaks in a tone that suggests utmost urgency. Five minutes after she posted the letter, it went viral. “I don’t know what action it initiated but the letter exposed the unhealthy nexus between the medical field and the manufacturing companies at the cost of public health. I am happy that it brought some awareness.” Divya plans to meet the Health Minister now to discuss the mid-day meal programs of TAPF and the cleanliness issue in hospitals. “I have plans of starting an organisation/clinic with a few friends who are doctors, where I provide free nutrition counselling and free vitamins to people below poverty line. I do not charge consultation fees from Tamil refugees and poor people even now and have been providing free vitamins to those who need them. But I would like to start an organisation that does it in a large and more organised manner. I am working on it right now and would like to start it in a couple of years with my own earnings. I don’t want to turn to my father for the finances. I have been financially independent for quite a while now,” she preens. Divya surely has her heart in the right place We wish her all the luck and success for this very noble vision.
“I am very passionate about films but I always wanted a stable career and a normal life”