A popular actor, a model, single mother, a television host, a social activist, and now a celebrated nutritionist, Pooja Bedi has donned many hats and has performed wonders in each of them. What sets Pooja apart is the fact that she is fully aware of her strengths and flaws and owns her life like nobody else.
In an exclusive conversation with Outlook’s Eshita Bhargava, Pooja talks about her debut film ‘Vishkanya’, ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’, which acquired a cult status over the years, her journey so far, daughter and Bollywood actor Alaya F, and her fitness venture ‘Happy Soul’.
Excerpts from the interview:
From being the fashion icon to a fitness enthusiast, how has the journey been?
For me, the journey of my life represents me simply doing what I love to do in my unconventional way. I have never followed fitness or fashion. For example, I never followed fashion blindly but instead chose to wear only what suited my personality, mood, body type, and occasion. My wardrobe comprises of the world’s top designers and is equally filled with shopping from roadside stalls and local shops because I believe “if it looks good, it looks good!” full stop. It’s the same for me with exercise and fitness, it could be as convenient as going to a gym or something unconventional like aerial silk or Tai Chi. Whatever motivates me and makes me want to get fit.
From being associated with bold roles to being recognised as a columnist today, how does that make you feel?
I’ve worn many professional hats over the last 3 decades but through it, all I have been recognised (and notoriously) for is speaking my mind and sharing views across all forms of media be it news debates, my talk show, my column, social media, and publications. It’s wonderful to know I can inspire and stimulate people to think differently, open their minds and hearts, and be proactive in bringing about positive change.
You’ve dabbled in theatre, films, written books, and been an interior decorator among other things. Now, you’re advising people on life and other issues. So, tell me which role has been the closest to your heart?
I love exploring life. Be it through personal experiences, relationships, travel, food, or the phenomenal body of research and courses I’ve done in alternative sciences, healing modalities, NLP, Behavioural resolutions, and more. People resonate with my advice because they know it comes from experience and that I’ve met every adversity life has thrown my way (and gosh! There have been too many!) with grace, humour and grown from strength to strength. It’s all about having the right attitude and to see situations differently.
How was it working with Masaba Gupta in Masaba Masaba? Do you relate to your role in any way?
Masaba is a friend, as is Neena Gupta, so it was all the more fun experience. The role was irreverent, comical, and pretty much a satire that lampooned my real life. Everyone should nurture the ability to laugh at themselves. The greatest problem is that we take ourselves and situations way too seriously and end up making a mess of it.
How was it taking care of two kids all alone?
Single parenting isn’t easy, but it’s a choice I made and as with everything else in my life it’s been a “give it your 100 per cent or don’t do it”. It’s come with its highs and lows and innumerable challenges but made me wiser, happier, more wholesome, and grateful. I can’t even begin to express how exhilarating it is to see them spread their wings and fly.
You received a lot of appreciation for ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’. Why didn’t we see you doing more films?
I allow life to lead me, and it seems that so many years later I’m back on-screen through web series which have been so well received. Masaba Masaba was #1 on Netflix and it was a thrill to see that. My second web series for Zee5, comedy couple releases late October 2020, and again, the character is a realistically spoofy version of me!
Speaking of your debut film, ‘Vishkanya’ in 1991, how sure were you about what you were getting into back then?
I was a class topper and thought I was headed to Wall Street to be part of the movers and shakers of the financial world. Life had different plans for me. Be it my personal life or professional life, I never seem to know what I’m getting into. I just follow my intuition and have immense faith and trust in the universe.
Today, when any star kid is launched, they have so much care and attention, they are groomed and they are media savvy. They are famous much before their first film because of social media. How do you compare it with your generation?
All opportunities today are met with incredible preparation because there is so much competition. Before it was a profession, now it’s a business that involves managers, PR teams, social media, and promotions and in fact, kids, today earn far more from social media. They enjoy popularity and a large fan base through social media than they probably do from the profession. Our generation didn’t have the kind of connection with fans that the generation of today does.
And your daughter Alaya is a rage on Instagram. How does that make you feel?
It’s bloody hard work that she puts into her posts and the passion, integrity, responsibility, and discipline with which she handles it is apparent. It’s so elating to see her being adored, loved, followed, and the fact that she inspires and helps others be the best versions of themselves.
What kind of bond do you share with her?
A very deep, loving, trusting bond, and I give her all the space so she can discover her power. A parent’s role is not to control, it’s to guide and to help them stand firm on their two feet and be independent. She knows I always have her back and the joy is in knowing that today, she has mine as well.
Lastly, being someone who has seen life in various shades, what would be your advice to young girls out there?
To believe in equality, not feminism. True freedom isn’t about competing or putting down another gender. It’s about being the best they can be in every circumstance. Also, learn to recognise when they are victims of social conditioning and to always work at breaking free of limiting patterns and belief systems that may be age-old, but redundant.
Bold and Rapid:
The last few months have panned out differently for different people. How have you coped with the new normal?
I see the pandemic as a giant reset button and a fabulous time to introspect, reinvent, and re-evaluate priorities and meaning/journey of life. I’ve been super busy through the lockdown setting up ‘Happy Soul’ and expanding it into various verticals of wellness. It’s been a hugely productive period.
Tell us about your wellness venture?
It’s a wellness wonderland focussed on the best in health and wellness and encompasses a multivendor e-commerce portal, retail stores, and wellness centres with a franchise model, our production line of products, and look forward to expanding it further into festivals and awards.
One thing you can't live without?
Activity. My life is a blizzard, and I feel like a Goddess Durga with 10 arms at all points of time with all the multitasking I do.
Your skincare routine?
I loooooove organic extra virgin cold-pressed coconut oil and natural chemical-free products.
Do we hear wedding bells anytime soon?
I have an engagement ring on my finger and I feel utterly loved and stable in this wonderful relationship. Marriage is just a formality and will happen when it does.
Your most expensive indulgence?
Having kids (She said with a big smile on her face)
When not working, we can find Pooja doing what?
When you’re a single parent, the lady of your home, and a working professional there is virtually no time you’re not working one of those departments. My detox is massage time and when I exercise.
One word/sentence when I say:
The happiest hormone
My magical soul group
Inky pinky ponky….
How do you dress up when:
Jumpsuits & shorts, no make-up.
Going out with friends:
Comfortable and elegant, make-up.
Sexy, high heels, make-up.