Dubai based Soniya Mehra, the late Vinod Mehra’s daughter who is a yoga expert talks about her Bollywood stint, her tryst with yoga and her life in Dubai.
What brings you to Dubai and the Arab world?
Dubai is a really good place for opportunities and growth. I got offered a job to teach yoga here in 2016 at a studio. Now I freelance at different studios and have a lot of private clients. Also, Dubai is centrally located between Mumbai, London and Kenya, the three places I travel to frequently.
Tell us about your tryst with yoga?
I started yoga when I was around 15 -16 years of age when I started suffering from a lower back pain. It started when I was only 13 years old and got worse over the next couple of years. I have actually been teaching in Mumbai as well (part time to doing my auditions and other work) since around end of 2011- early 2012 and was teaching many different clients from the film fraternity there, who were extremely supportive of my new venture.
Was taking up acting a natural course of action for you?
Yes I wanted to be an actor eve since I can remember I even did LAMDA(London Academy of music dramatic arts) along with my school in Mombasa (Kenya) since I was around eight years old. I used to always take part in all the school plays and I was one of those little kids that would just go up on stages at parties and take over the microphone from the live band. I would always either sing, perform a choreographed dance or recite one of my monologues. I look back now remembering all the grown-ups being so entertained and I always brought a smile to people’s faces. I then went on to Arts Educational Schools of London in London for my 6th form (High School/A levels). I didn’t actually finish high school or go to university as I had an opportunity to join Anupam Kher’s “Actor Prepares” in Mumbai. I’m trained in various forms of dance since the age of 4 from- Ballet, Jazz, Ballroom Dancing (Tango, Salsa, Cha cha, Jive, Foxtrot, blues), Kathak, Bollywood dance, Hip Hop, contemporary dance, belly dancing and I have recently been teaching myself Afrodance. I’m also a trained singer.
You grew up in Kenya with your mother and brother. How did you take to Bollywood cinema there?
So to be very honest Bollywood didn’t come into my life until I was in my teens. When we were really little I used to watch more Disney/fantasy movies. But then I really got into it as a teenager And had a fond desire to then join Bollywood. We only had one cinema in Mombasa (it is literally a really small coastal town), but they would show Bollywood movies over there and I would go watch them
What are your father’s movies you like the most and why?
Ghar is such a beautiful story and love both the characters so much
Do Phool is hilarious and has wonderful performances by both Mehmoodji and my dad.
Burning Train for its gripping story and absolutely stellar star cast
Will you act with your brother Rohan Mehra ( of Bazaar fame) in a movie together?
Oh wow! Nobody has really asked me this question before, and to be honest that would honestly be such a dream come true to share the screen with him. He is really such a powerful, phenomenal and hard-working artist. It truly would be such a pleasure to do so.
What is the OTT series you binge on?
Oh there’s just too many on the list. I’m a Netflix, Hulu & Amazon Prime addict! Even Apple + has some really fantastic content too. Let’s just say I’m one of those who can sit and binge a good show over 2 nights.
How did yoga help you deal with your stress?
One main thing I have learnt through my practice is the power of the breath. You can be in the most stressful situation and just by taking, even the basic, 3 deep inhales from your nose and 3 long exhales from your mouth, you can be charge of yourself. The breath is a wonderful tool that has the power to destress, help you release unwanted emotions and can energise you. Just by taking deep breaths you can actually send signals to your nervous system that then further, sends signals to your body/ mind to relax- be in their “Sattvic (Zen)” state.
You call yourself a spiritual explorer? Tell us more.
So ever since I was little I felt a very strong connection to the spiritual realm. I always receive signs from my dad- literally since I was a small child (he passed away when I was just a year and 10 months). I always also have very intense, colourful dreams with strong messages, also since I was a small child. I started yoga in my teens and I started getting interested in healing practices towards the end of my teens. In 2010 I dove into my first healing arts – Reiki. I have completed my Reiki Masters. I also practice and am certified in Crystal Healing Therapy (I absolutely love crystals and the magical healing powers they hold within them). I have also completed Sound Healing with Tibetan Bowls and last but not least I absolutely adore reading Oracle Cards. I also have sessions where I offer a mixture of the above along with some form of spiritual guidance (how someone can start their journey and learn tools to help them with life) and life coaching.
What are your plans with film production?
So my dad actually opened VM productions and produced and directed the film Gurudev. Unfortunately, he passed away after only completing 50% of the film. I have never really thought about whether producing films would be for me, but I guess life is filled with surprises and I don’t like to not take up good opportunities if they come knocking at my door.