Growing up as the legendary Kamala Haasan’s daughter- who were your influences from the guests who visited home?
As a child you don’t know the uncle and aunties who visit your home would influence you. But they do and I have many memories. For example, my father has been extremely close to Ilayaraja sir who is nothing short of being legendary. For him to have given me that little 5 minutes extra, is nothing short of a miracle. One day, the doorbell rang and Ashaji (Asha Bhosale) was visiting. I welcomed her and asked her to wait while I rushed upstairs to call my mother. My mother asked her to join her upstairs and as I rushed back to her, I was stunned by what I saw. Ashaji, was in this beautiful white, silk saree standing in the middle of the room looking towards the garden and singing to herself. I will never forget the scene. Someday I want a young girl to look at me and remember me in the exact same way. Sitting and sketching with M F Hussain is yet another memory I cherish, though, that time in childhood, I didn’t know how big he was. Also, the Queen of England attended my father’s film premiere for Indian. And I have many such memories but all of this didn’t seem abnormal to me. The women I am truly inspired by are my god-mother Rukku aunty and Lakshmi aunty, my friend’s mother.
What inspired you about them?
Lakshmi aunty was a parent in my school and very different than my parents. Her background was different and I was fascinated by her. She ran a business and a home with equal ease. Both my parents are mercurial people and I learnt temperance from her – to think before reacting, to step back before responding etc. Rukku aunty is my god-mother and I learnt how to be a lady from her – how to set the table, plan the menu, treat your friend with love etc. She is a fantastic interior designer and at 80 years of age today, lives on her own terms. I want everybody I know, to meet her.
What about your bond with your little sister Akshara?
Akshu and I are like a band of brothers and you can catch us discussing video games. I am super-protective of her and she has taught me unconditional love. We are as different as chalk and cheese and she is more social and friendlier than me. I didn’t give her much advice when she did her first film because she has been a successful assistant director. But during shoots when people say great things about her, my heart swells with pride.
You have espoused the cause of PCOs, anxiety and body image?
We as women are very resilient. When I was 26-27 years old, I had debilitating pain and many times I had to be hospitalized. I had endometriosis and the treatment was uncomfortable and very painful. Today there is more awareness about it and one in every four women has PCOs. Your hormones play up, they alter your appearance and though you try various antidotes to quell the probe, it isn’t an easy journey. My gynecologist though told me to not complain about the pain but understand it as the way the body celebrates fertility.
Actresses shoot rain sequences, dance and action sequences battling these issues. I have collapsed in the middle of my shoot and taken an hour to pump myself back to work. Also, for the last three years I have been sober and though I don’t take a moralistic stand on the issue I believe that any external substance can change the balance of your body. Today I can happily walk into a party and ask for my cranberry juice and have fun. Also, anxiety is an issue I have dealt with apart from body image.
You struggled with self-image and how did you win over it?
There has been a lot of talk about it and it has to be understood with great sensitivity. I grew up feeling not very attractive and so developed my mind and creativity. Slowly I became appealing to people and I was like, oh, people like me. I was always a geek inside but I was happy to be different and I get that from both my parents. After my first movie, I broke my nose and I wasn’t happy. Honestly there was a lot of pressure too – people said I looked manly and that I looked strong and not feminine. So, I decided to use fillers and make my face rounder. I accept myself totally along with the changes I have done to myself. I don’t promote or encourage it but accept yourself. It is like colouring your hair. No one can tell you that you shouldn’t do it.
People in the industry often hide that they have done face-lifts and surgeries. You chose to speak out?
Everybody you see in the limelight has done something or the other to themselves. And to each his or her own. I am very happy to have reached the place of self-acceptance today. I am really comfortable with myself. I don’t need to explain to anyone. I like explaining it to those who have got a wrong message about themselves. I am the girl who got the message wrong and I don’t want to give out that message.
Do you speak all South Indian languages?
I follow Malayalam a bit and though I have sung in Kannada I cannot speak that either. I find Telugu very tough and I speak Tamil that is my mother tongue. Each film industry of the South does its own thing and we are telling out stories in our own way. There is deep mutual respect among them.