Special interview: Esha Deol Takhtani talks about Ek Duaa, her fashion and fitness choices and more
The famous Bollywood actor is now back Ek Duaa! We catch up with her to talk ha about her comeback and more
The biggest achievement of Esha Deol Takhtani is perhaps that when we recall her name, it doesn’t remind us of her star parents Dharmendra and Hema Malini. Esha reminds us of herself, in a very quiet, perseverant and dignified way.
For a star kid, who could probably have had the best launchpad for herself in Bollywood, Esha chose to debut in 2002 opposite Aftab Shivdasani in Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe. Though the film bombed at the box office, she impressed the critics and fans with her performance and went on to win the best debutante award.
Success didn’t come easy to Esha and she didn’t mind overcoming the hurdles on her way either. After a row of five films, Esha finally arrived with JP Dutta’s LOC Kargil, where her acting was noticed despite the limited scope of performance in this male-centric, multi-starrer war movie. Following that, Esha shone bright in her first action-packed role in Yash Raj Films’ Dhoom (directed by Sanjay Gadhvi) and she is still fondly remembered as the ‘Dhoom’ girl.
It can be safely said that if Bollywood would have attained the level of maturity that it has now, perhaps, it would have been a different journey for Esha and her contemporaries, who could have been better utilised in more meaningful cinema. And it’s precisely that kind of interesting work that’s currently being displayed both in Bollywood cinema and the web space that has drawn Esha out of her cloistered and blissful existence, to experience this new wave as an actor.
A mother of two beautiful daughters, Radhya and Miraya, Esha, who published her first book on the journey of motherhood, Amma Mia, in 2020, is back with Ek Duaa, directed by Ram Kamal Mukherjee. This hour-long film released a couple of days ago on Voot Select and has been garnering appreciation from the audience and critics since. A journey of a mother and a daughter, the film addresses the niggling issues of gender inequality and female foeticide through a well-scripted narrative and tight direction.
This film not only marks Esha’s comeback but also introduces her as a producer. A balanced person with a pleasant demeanour, we talk to Esha about her comeback, her role as a producer and more. Excerpts.
This is your comeback film and also the first one from your production house. How excited are you?
I am really looking forward to all of you watching the film and the kind of audience reaction I am getting is really making my day. The reason I chose the film is that it has a strong social message and I feel the film should reach out to all, cutting across age or gender. When it was narrated to me, it appealed to me not only as an actor but also, it touched me at a deep level and somehow I felt that I would like to contribute more to it than just as an actor.
I was already deliberating to start my journey as a producer and I felt nothing could be better than this film to start the journey with. It’s essentially a journey of a mother and her love for her daughter but while showcasing the same, the film subtly touches upon many glaring gender inequalities that still continue to exist in our society, sadly.
How did you prepare for the role?
Being a mom myself, it added a lot of depth to play the character Abida. The language of motherhood is universal, irrespective of your caste, creed, religion or race. Any mom in any part of the world would understand, feel and relate to the emotions of another mom. So, I could very well understand Abida and it felt as if I am organically going through her entire emotional journey.
For the looks, I had to gain weight to play Abida perfectly and it happened just when I became fitter and well-toned after shedding my post-pregnancy weight. Also, I had a lot of ghee in my diet to get that certain glow. I wanted to look as authentic and real as possible on screen.
You worked with Ram Kamal Mukherjee before for his short Cakewalk…
Yes, and it was an amazing experience and this time again when we connected for Ek Duaa it was a great collaboration too. He is a very creative storyteller who highlights the female point of view and tries to give a powerful message through his films.
Most of the movies, big and small, are releasing on OTTs. As an actor and a producer, how do you find this transition?
Given the current pandemic situation, OTT platforms are booming and besides big film releases, they have amazing content of their own. It’s a huge open field that gives actors the opportunity and liberty to choose projects that they enjoy doing. The kind of work coming my way gave me the incentive to start working again. I need to feel the satisfaction of performing in front of a camera as an actor and I am getting that today, so, I look forward to doing more projects. I have already signed a web project, Rudra, opposite Ajay Devgn, who had been a fantastic co-star in many of my films and there are some other projects too that I will announce when things materialise.
How did you cope with the pandemic? Did you learn anything new during the lockdown?
We were all thrown out of gear by the pandemic and it took a while to get used to it and adapt to it. I mostly enjoyed cooking and spending a lot of time with family, together with the babies and making them do creative things. I turned into their art and crafts teacher and made them learn nursery rhymes and do all the things together that any mother does.
How do you look at your journey so far in Bollywood and what’s one lesson that you picked up for life?
I started out as an 18-year-old teenager, raw and naïve, and over the years, the industry teaches us a lot and toughens us up. And today, I have a different level of maturity both as a human being and as an actor, especially where I am in life today, my choices have changed a lot.
Take six with Esha Deol Takhtani
Fitness regimen: Fitness is very sacred to me and the gym is like a temple for me. I had always been extremely athletic and I continue to be so even after having two babies. It requires a lot of discipline and hard work to knock off post-pregnancy weight. I do a mix of weights, cardio and have started doing yoga too since it keeps me calm, especially when I am juggling so many things.
Daily diet: It’s pretty simple. I avoid eating outside food and bring home-cooked food to sets which usually comprise brown rice, dal, green veggies and spinach. I have a small portion of papaya in the morning and avoid tea or dairy products. I like black coffee and have protein shakes with half an avocado. In the evenings I like having smoothie bowls with lots of berries and avocado; and dinner is mostly with simple quinoa cutlets, soups and salads.
I don’t like eating out but on Sundays, Bharat (Takhtani, her husband) and the kids love having a little Chinese or Mexican food, which too, at times, are cooked at home. Currently, I am into a lot of Chinese food and once in a blue moon, I have a cupcake.
Comfort drink: I love drinking warm water and sometimes a little sparkling water. Favourite health drink: Protein shakes from Soul Fuel.
Beauty regimen: I use natural organic products for my skin and hair. My scalp can’t take oil hence I apply coconut milk and I often massage my skin with mashed banana and honey.
Beauty essentials in your bag: Lip balm and my favourite perfume Pleasures by Estée Lauder.
Fashion choices: I am mostly in my track pants and T-shirts. I have nice clothes but I wear them only when I am stepping out for work or any event. I love wearing a nice black dress or a pencil suit with a nice white shirt inside. My favourite accessory is a bracelet cuff with two hearts and an evil eye and has the names of my daughters Radhya and Miraya inscribed on it.
Five wardrobe essentials: Black tracks, jeans, a cocktail dress, nice gym gear and a lovely chikankari salwar kurta.
Ek Duaa is now streaming on Voot Select.
sharmishtha.g @newindianexpress.com @sharmidas