I Be­lieve

Savvy - - Contents -

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.

GROWIN’ UP

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.

SCHOOL DAZE

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.

TELE SEN­SA­TION

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.

GIV­ING BACK

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.

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Pho­to­graph Cour­tesy Luv Is­rani

Pho­to­graph Cour­tesy Luv Is­rani

With Sak­shi Tan­war

Still from TV se­rial ‘Qu­bool Hai’

With hus­band Farhan Mirza

With Zo­har

With Zo­har, Amaira and a friend

Zo­har’s sec­ond birth­day

With her fam­ily

Pho­to­graph Cour­tesy Luv Is­rani

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