Sridevi opens up about playing a mother — in real and reel life, and why she is drawn to ‘mom’ characters now
Nayandeep Rakshit (DNA; June 22, 2017)

She’s a woman of few words. But, she doesn’t need them. She walks into a room and owns it. Sridevi has a royal aura about her. The actress carries herself with dignity and style. She has been missing from the big screen for the last five years — since English Vinglish. Now, she returns with Mom. Ask her about the long gap, and she jokes about her long maternity break, “Pehle 15 saal ka gap tha. Abhi paach saal ka. So I’m improving.” And, we start laughing.

Over the next 30 minutes, Sridevi opens up about playing a mother — in real and reel life, and why she is drawn to ‘mom’ characters now. Read on for excerpts...

Five years from English Vinglish to Mom. Didn’t you get any interesting offers in the interim?
It’s not about the offers. I don’t want to do a film just for the sake of doing it. My first priority is always my children. So, when I did English Vinglish, the schedule was according to my convenience. R Balki (producer of English Vinglish) is a dear friend, so he worked out the schedule in a way that my children could be with me. Bachchon ki holidays chal rahi thi, so we shot in those two months. After that, some offers came but I didn’t end up taking them because of several reasons like being on outdoors and being away from the kids, and sometimes, you are just not happy with the script. I am not keen on taking up these films. It’s not necessary that I have to keep myself busy. I should love the subject, it should touch my heart, I should feel for my character and the other characters around me — then I will do it for sure. All of this matters. But the main thing is it has to be done according to my convenience.

Several actresses your age have made comebacks. But your choices are dramatically different. Comment.
I always go with my instincts. More than anything, the character has to suit me. I can’t do stuff that I did 10 or 20 years ago. I won’t be comfortable doing it anymore. I want my children to feel proud of what I’m doing. So, yes, obviously, I will pick films that have great stories and which don’t require me to be who I was years ago. It won’t seem or look logical anymore.

A lot has changed since you made a comeback. Twenty years ago, there would be no contracts, people did films on face value and for relationships...
(Cuts in) Yes, that used to happen so much. Koi producer problem mein hai toh we used to do his film to help him out. I, too, have done so many films like that. There would be no bound scripts, contracts toh chhod hi do.

But now, it’s become more professional and structured...
I love that. It’s become more professional, there’s a time frame now. The environment is good. Plus, every department is handled by different people. It’s systematic, so that’s really good.

Why did you take up Mom?
Has to be the plot. And the relationship between the mother and daughter, it touched me. And, like I said, I always go by my instincts. I thought Mom would be the right film for me, right now.

In your previous interview with After Hrs, you said you love being called a mom. Does that affect your choices in films?
Yes, absolutely. Because I am a mother, I know exactly what the character is going through. I can relate to that. I could feel for the character in Mom. She is a strong mother, devoted to her children and she goes to any extent for her children’s sake. These are the qualities you like and you would love to show on screen as well.

It is a revenge drama? Avenging her daughter..
(Interrupts) It’s not revenge. I would call it giving punishment.

What is it that scares you as a mother?
There are many things that scare me. There’s an insecurity about my children, when they go out, till they are back I am worried. I call them several times to just find out ki kya ho raha, gaadi kahi ruk gayi hai ya nahi. These are all the basic things that any other mother keeps worrying about when it comes to her children.

Are you protective or possessive as a mother?
No, I am not at all possessive. But, I am extremely protective.

Do you have a curfew time for your daughters?
Yes, rules are same for both Jhanvi and Khushi. They know they have a curfew time and they have to be back home. Else, I will keep calling and inquiring.

How do they react to the calls?
They react by bargaining. They will be like, ‘Mama, half-an-hour more? Mama, 20 minutes more, please?' But they are very obedient children. Touchwood. Both Jhanvi and Khushi are very understanding, and they know their limits really well. So they don’t trouble me much (smiles).

How different are you as a mother from what your mom was to you?
If I was even close to what my mother was to me, they will pack my bags and tell me, ‘You go and live in Chennai’. (Laughs) I cannot expect my children to be how I was with my mother. Times have changed and I have changed with it. Both Jhanvi and Khushi understand where I’m coming from. I am also not a hi-tech modern mom — for whom everything is fine and cool.

What are the do's and dont's for your daughters?
Of course, there are lots of them. And they know where to draw a line. Sometimes, they don’t even come and ask. I only tell them sometimes, ‘There’s a get together’. They will be like, ‘No Mama, it’s too late. I don’t think I will be comfortable.’ Both of them are extremely health conscious and I don’t have to control them. It’s not like everything’s going haywire, it has never reached that level. Sometimes, one late night and the next day they start cribbing saying ‘we can’t handle it’. So it’s good that they know the value of being healthy so I don’t have to push them too much.

Do you put special emphasis on what your daughters eat at home? Do you cook for them?
I don’t cook. I go to the kitchen, I supervise and plan menus for my kids. But cooking toh bohut dur ki baat hai. Janvi is very fond of cooking. She is fond of baking cakes, custards, cookies and all. That I enjoy eating! (Laughs) Instead of me cooking and giving them, they do it for me and I eat. (Smiles)

In terms of personality, who is closer to you — Jhanvi or Khushi?
Jhanvi is more like me. She’s very sensitive, naive, obedient... I see so much of myself in her. Khushi is independent, strong and has her own mind.

Jhanvi is entering Bollywood now. Was it a conscious decision to not produce her first film?
Aisa kuch nahi hai.

Recently, Saif said that although Sara is joining films, he is not happy that she chose to act as it is an insecure profession. Do you agree?
I absolutely agree with what Saif said. In the beginning, I didn’t want Jhanvi to become an actress. As a parent, one is naturally protective of their children and you are literally exposing them to the world. Itne saal aapne usko protect kiya and you want them to just happily settle. Bas stress-free ho jao but that doesn’t happen. Today, children too have their own minds and beginning mein, I ignored it and tried to caution her saying that this is a tough job. There’s so much sacrifice, so much to give — no pain, no gain. But it seems she’s ready for it. As parents, we will support her.

Did she dance to your songs while growing up?
No, never. Jhanvi has not seen my films. I have never made my kids sit and watch my movies. I think they haven’t seen most of them, except for Mr India and a few others. The first time Jhanvi confessed that she wanted to become an actress was when someone asked her what she wanted to do in life. She said, ‘I will become a doctor. But not in real life. In a movie, I will play a doctor.’ It was so funny and I was like, ‘Hello, what are you saying?’ (Laughs) Maybe, at the back of her mind, she had decided, but she was too shy to express it to us. Slowly, slowly bomb phoda!

How did you react to it?
I didn’t get angry. (Laughs) But I went up to Boneyji and said this is what she wants. So dono sar pe haath rakh ke baith gaye ki yeh kya ho gaya. (Laughs) Slowly, we psyched ourselves and came to terms with it.

Jhanvi didn’t know Hindi. Has she learnt it now?
Yes, a lot of it now. She can speak Urdu also very well. But of course, she speaks Hindi also very well now.

You are like a friend to your daughters. Do they talk about their personal lives and boyfriends to you as well?
Yes, we do that. Both the kids share everything with me. Even I do the same thing. We are more or less like friends only. So, whatever is going on in their lives, I am one of the first to know about it.

Your daughters will be compared to you. Comment.
We can’t run away from that. She has to face the pressure. When she has decided to enter Bollywood, she has to go through all this. She’s prepared for all that, and I am also preparing myself for it. Sometimes, it scares me. So many thoughts come and you feel why is she doing this? But then, if you feel that is her aim and happiness, as a mother, I will support her like my mom supported me. We weren’t from a film background but it happened and she stood by me, fought for me and made sure I am happy. That’s how I would also like to be with Jhanvi.

Did tears come naturally to you during Mom? Did you think about Janvi and Khushi while shooting those scenes?
No, I never thought about Jhanvi and Khushi at all. Bhagwan kare ki aisa never happens with anybody. The characters in Mom go through hell and I don’t wish that for anyone. I was so involved and in character that I was thinking what that mother would have gone through. Many times, I had tears naturally. I don’t remember using glycerine.