By Isha Manchanda
What is your earliest memory?
My father was a naval ADC. I remember sitting on the first floor of our house in Kerela. I remember my father in a stark white suit and my mother going swimming. I must have been 2 or 3 years old.
How has your family influenced your life?
My father died when I was 15 and he was 41. My intellectual strength came from him. When I’d wake up in the morning he would already be awake, smoking a cigarette and reading a book. My mother was a singer, my father even moved us to Madras to encourage her. I remember studying in the afternoon and she’d be singing with her guru. When she was depressed, she’s sing for an hour and come out beaming. When my father died, my grandmothers moved in to help my mother who was only 36. My father’s mother did her BA in 1928 and shouted ‘Simon Go Back’ slogans during the agitation. So I’ve grown up with some very strong women around me. That’s why all my films have such strong women characters and heroes who vanish.
What is your greatest fear?
One of the biting fears I have is that I may die young like my father. The other is that I would die without achieving much. Anxiety about mediocrity is definitely one of my biggest fears.
What’s your take on love and marriage?
We have a tendency to not remember the good stuff and to hold on to the hurtful, not just in love but also in life. If we can work towards being grateful for what we have instead of despairing over what we don’t, relationships will work.
Are you religious?
I’m agnostic. I can cry when I hear a devotional piece of music but find it very difficult to go to a temple, to believe in conventional religion, with all its trappings of money and power.
The most outrageous thing you’ve ever done?
Whenever I remove my moustache my children freak out. Everybody says I look like a monkey, even my maid laughs at me! I’ve only taken it off twice in my life.
What do you dislike most in other people?
In the industry I live in, a lot of people praise themselves. Worse, they put other people down to make themselves look better.
What do you dislike most about yourself?
I don’t like losing my temper. Also, I keep trying to lose weight. I lose two kilos but keep going back.