Chahatt Khanna battles life’s adversaries boldly
Model, actress and mother of two adorable angels, I am Chahatt Khanna. No matter what life threw at me, I always bounced back and am ready to do whatever it takes to give my daughters the best life has to offer.
I am a proper Mumbaikar, born and brought up here, though for some reason a lot of people ask me if I’m from Delhi. I was raised in a nuclear Punjabi family with my parents and three siblings - two sisters and one brother - but was always surrounded by my cousins too. So it felt like we were living in a big joint family. Being the youngest, I never felt like I was pampered but my sisters say otherwise.
As a child, I was very shy and obedient. My mom tells me that I always listened to what she said. But incidentally, though I was the youngest, whenever anyone needed any advice, they always came to me. My parents always said I was the prettiest but I thought I was pretty average looking; in fact, my cousins and friends used to call me Olive - from the ‘Popeye’ cartoon - because I was skinny and dumb. People used to call me ‘duffer’ and till today I hate that word. Today, of course, people actually call me intelligent. It’s amazing how things change with time, once you make an effort to learn and grow…
MY AMAZING PARENTS
My mom has always been my backbone, mentor, friend and advisor. She has always stood by me and showed me the right way.
When I was younger, I had a very good relationship with my father; I was daddy’s little princess. However, for some time now, we have been arguing a lot. It’s not because we’re on different wavelengths. My father is an incredibly nice person, much nicer than I am, because of which people try to manipulate and take advantage of him. We end up fighting when I try to teach him not to be so good. This world is definitely not for people like him.
Growing up, we moved a lot between Mumbai and Thane (suburban Mumbai) on account of dad’s job, because of which my education suffered. I studied in three different schools, the longest I studied at was St Louis Convent High School, after which I opted for science in junior college but unfortunately didn’t pursue my studies beyond Std XII.
When I was young, I aspired to become a doctor but the fear of blood kept me from pursuing that dream. Beyond that, I didn’t know what I wanted to do as my interests kept shifting. However, when I was still in school, once we were asked to stand in front of the class and say what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I remember saying I wanted to be a model and the whole class started laughing at me.
FROM MODELLING TO MOVIES
While I was trying to figure out what to do next, a family friend suggested I make a portfolio and try my hand at modelling. And so I did. I was just 16 when I got my first break, shooting for a Cadbury ad with Pradeep Da (Sarkar). He thought I was different from the others who auditioned and gave me a slightly larger part than was earlier intended.
Shortly after that, I got a call from an agency for a role in a serial called ‘Avinash IPS’ on Star Plus. But when I got there, I realized that the role was for a junior artiste and so rejected it. The production team was obviously not happy and many said they could end my career for walking out, but I didn’t bother.
Thereafter, I was very careful and choosy about the roles I accepted. I continued to audition and finally got my first
People used to call me ‘duffer’ and till today I hate that word. Today, of course, people actually call me intelligent. It’s amazing how things change with time, once you make an effort to learn and grow…
real break with the film ‘7½ Phere’. What I remember about that experience was how hard it was to shoot in a bridal costume (which weighed 70 kgs – more than I did!), and I had to wear that for three days and do a lot of running around in it too.
THE CASTING COUCH
I think the biggest challenge I faced in the industry was not having a film background or any connections in the industry. I had to do things the hard way - audition and pray to get the role. As such, I encountered the infamous casting couch many times, but I always stood up for myself and refused to be a part of it. That is probably the reason for my slow progress. It was mostly because of the casting couch that I moved away from films and opted to work in daily soaps.
My first daily soap was ‘Sachi Baat Sab Jag Jane’ but the real turning point of my career was bagging a role on the very popular ‘Bade Achhe Lagte Hain’ on Sony TV. Till date, people know me as ‘Ayesha Sharma’ (I played Sakshi Tanwar’s younger sister). It was a great experience and I was blessed to have such caring and kind-hearted people around me. The serial was a hit and received many awards for its inspiring storyline and for the respectful and trusted relationship shown between Sakshi and Ram. Ekta Kapoor also received the ‘Kalakar Award’ for ‘The Best Serial’ in 2012. However, after a point, I felt my character had come to a standstill and I decided to leave the show. Sakshidi (Tanwar) and I, however, have a real life sisterly bond. I can share anything and everything with her. I am also close to Renukaji (Irani) who is also like an elder sister and keeps me motivated always, and Prithviji (Sharma) as well. Both are well-known
actors on TV. Ram (Kapoor), too, is a kind soul but we haven’t kept in touch. We never forget to wish each other on festivals though. Ekta is someone I really respect and admire. She gave me a part in her show and that contributed to who I am today, for which I am grateful.
FIRST MARRIAGE, FIRST DISASTER
I married Bharat Narsinghani (a businessman) in December 2006, but divorced him a few months later after being physically and mentally abused. His parents were not in favour of our marriage but he was insistent and so we went ahead. It wasn’t long before he started to beat me until I turned red. He also stopped me from going to work, as my in-laws were against working bahus. The final straw came when I was accused of trying to poison my in-laws and forced to eat the food to prove that I didn’t. What I didn’t know was that someone had mixed Baygon into the food and when I ate it, my nose and mouth started to bleed and I had to be hospitalized immediately. My parents begged me to come home immediately after I was discharged. I filed for divorce and left him.
FINDING LOVE AGAIN
Newly divorced, I was all set to get back to work, starting with a show called ‘Kajjal’ on Sony TV. Things picked up from there, and I started doing endorsements, ads and more TV shows. This continued for five years and finally
I felt like I was in a good place. That’s when Farhan came into my life and things changed once again.
Farhan Mirza (son of film producer Shahrukh Mirza) and I met through a common friend and instantly liked each other. We dated for six months before we got married. I’d like to say that we were in love and that’s why we decided to get married, but that really was not the case. Yes, we did care for each other but what he wanted was a live-in relationship. I was opposed to the idea and preferred to get married; and he agreed.
Before we got married, his mother asked for dowry but Farhan took a stand and refused. We got married in 2013.
SECOND MARRIAGE, DISASTER AGAIN
Things started going downhill from the wedding night itself. Farhan brought a girl to our wedding suite to sing a song for me as a gift. Later, I learnt that she was his ex-girlfriend and we fought like cats and dogs about it. But then, it dawned on me that this was my second marriage and I had to do my best to safeguard my relationship…
FROM BAD TO WORSE
Farhan then insisted that I quit working as there was no need to. I did that for six months but convinced him that I needed to work because I enjoyed it, and so returned to teleserials with ‘Qubool Hai’ on Zee TV. Farhan would accompany me to work often and make some surprise visits to check on me. He answered all my calls and became suspicious of me having an affair. He took complete control of everything - my finances, appointments, the jobs I took on and what I charged for them.
He convinced me that I was a superstar and deserved lead roles, and shouldn’t accept any offer that came my way. And because I cared for him, I let him dominate me and my work. That was probably the biggest mistake I ever made.
When I became pregnant for the first time, I thought things would be better but I was wrong. He would always ask if the baby was really his and would manhandle me. The same thing happened during my second pregnancy.
The final straw came when I was accused of trying to poison my in-laws and forced to eat the food to prove that I didn’t. What I didn’t know was that someone had mixed Baygon into the food and when I ate it, my nose and mouth started to bleed and I had to be hospitalized immediately.
MY MOM, MY STRENGTH
I wanted nothing more than to escape this life, but I was worried about what people would say. This was the second time something like this was happening. My mom helped me through this; she told me, ‘It’s okay if your second marriage didn’t work out, at least you are alive’. She reminded me that I did try to make things work, before helping me escape from a place where I was not respected, doubted, accused of prostitution, of having affairs with co-stars and whatnot!
By that time, I had no money left with me as Farhan had taken all my assets under his control, my cars, FDs, mutual funds, jewellery, expensive bags, shoes etc. I was left with nothing and had to sell my clothes on Elanic to get some money.
MY GIRLS, MY LIFE
My new motto in life is to make sure my daughters - Zohar, who’s two now, and Amaira, who’s one - are always happy and content. Even when I’m working, I take them with me or fix up schedules so that I can spend quality time with them. Recently, I arranged a
My second husband Farhan answered all my calls and became suspicious of me having an affair. He took complete control of everything - my finances, appointments, the jobs I took on and what I charged for them. And because I cared for him, I let him dominate me and my work. That was probably the biggest mistake I ever made.
birthday party for Zohar at Sahara Star. I invited all my friends, celebrities and non-celebrities alike, with their children. Both my girls enjoyed themselves and I loved seeing them having fun and running around. I even invited Farhan - whatever tiffs we have between us, we are still their parents and I wanted Zohar to celebrate her birthday with her father too.
A HURT BABY
I believe that our problems should not interfere with the lives of our children. That is why I decided to let him spend time with them once every few days. A few days ago, I bowed down to his whims and fancies and left Zohar at his place, though she wasn’t accompanied by anyone from my side. But when she got back home, she was scratched all over, shivering with high fever, her thumb was swollen and her clothes were torn. Farhan didn’t give any explanation but I
My mom helped me through my second marriage. She told me, ‘It’s okay if your second marriage didn’t work out, at least you are alive’. She reminded me that I did try to make things work, before helping me escape from a place where I was not respected, doubted, accused of prostitution, of having affairs with co-stars and whatnot!
assume she was not handled carefully and must have been left near our pet dog, who is a Rottweiler, and Rottweilers are very ferocious and aggressive by nature. Over and above, Farhan accused me of not being around her when she was with him! I immediately took her to the doctor and it took two days for her to settle down. I have decided to take legal action against this - I have even clicked pictures of her miserable plight. I will not tolerate any harm to my daughters nor can I deal with such manipulative people. There may come a day when my daughters may fight with me for not allowing them to get to know their dad, but I will deal with that when the time comes. Their safety and well-being is my number one priority now.
ON THE WORK FRONT
I have joined Sahara India Pariwar as a corporate ambassador and I’m also working on a film called ‘Prassthanam’, a remake of a Telugu film, where I play the role of Sanjay Dutt and Manisha Koirala’s daughter. Though I am still reeling from all that has happened in my life, I am so busy these days that I don’t have time to sit and cry about anything. In fact, I have become almost numb to everything around me.
MY INCREDIBLE FANS
But my fans are truly amazing. They message me on Instagram saying I’m an inspiration and that I’m very strong. But I really feel that there are so many people out there who are so much stronger than me. One example is, in fact, a fan of mine. Coincidently, she got married the same year I did, and her husband’s name is Farhan too. She was nine months pregnant when she messaged me saying that things weren’t good between her husband and her, and that they were separating. She had the guts to walk out on him at such a crucial point in her life. Hats off to her! Wherever she is, I hope she reads this and knows that we really respect her.
Saint Mother Teresa has always been an inspiration to me. She was so kind and has done so much for
There may come a day when my daughters may fight with me for not allowing them to get to know their dad, but I will deal with that when the time comes. Their safety and well-being is my number one priority now.
people. I truly believe in doing my part, not just for humans but every living being. I am associated with the Karuna Parivar Trust in Mumbai. It’s an NGO that works to safeguard the rights of animals. It organizes awareness programmes to educate people on how our behaviour actually harms animals. I’m also a part of a kids’ club, called the ‘Friendship Club’, where we try to share gifts with underprivileged children. Our motto is to bring a smile to all those we reach out to.
MY MESSAGE TO ALL WOMEN OUT THERE…
Feminism is a good thing, but don’t let it consume you and make you so angry that you become rigid and stiff. That being said, don’t give in to things so easily either. Do not let anyone take control and dictate the terms of your life.
Photograph Courtesy Luv Israni
Photograph Courtesy Luv Israni
With Sakshi Tanwar
Still from TV serial ‘Qubool Hai’
With husband Farhan Mirza
With Zohar, Amaira and a friend
Zohar’s second birthday
With her family
Photograph Courtesy Luv Israni
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