Her journey from being a heartthrob to an admirable philanthropist is beyond words. She is not merely a superstar but her life and thoughts inspire others to care, to be kind and show compassion towards the society and environment. She is highly protective and guarded about her children and family. Here is an open-heart conversation with Juhi Chawla- the progressively contributing human being – whom you may not have known so closely before! She is a doting mother-the art of letting go’ is what she practices in her life and in turn inspires others to do. She wants her children to be what they are born for and not what she wants them to be! This, however, is not the only virtue she possesses.
Juhi is immensely honest, utterly forthright- in admitting how and when she faltered in the past when she touched the pinnacle of success (over refusing movies that eventually became a super hit). She is too unpretentious to be called a social worker per say. Whatever she has done so far, as a contribution to the society, has been unadulterated and straight from the heart. She struggled and campaigned for the cause of over-exposure to ‘harmful radiations’, and took the cause further to create mass awareness. She then became extremely sensitive to people’s health and the environment’s health. The awareness campaigns on plastic toxicity by her are a case in point.
What may seem a multi-dimensional activity but is a part of her humaneness, Juhi is an organic farmer too, which she began for the sake of her children and family initially and now vouches for it!
On Her Children & Family
“Both my children are going to be exactly what they want to be. I have to let go and I must help them blossom in whatever they wish to be. They cannot live my dreams. Like my guru says- one cannot imagine the world our children will be in. You just have to trust the universe, allow them to do what they want to do. My mother left me about 20 years ago. One morning in Prague, when we were shooting for the movie Duplicate, she went for a morning walk and never came back. It was a big shock for me. If I had her only for a day, I would hug her tight and cry in her lap. I rather say that one must not take mother’s love for granted,” she expounds.
“As I was growing up, I really admired and loved my mom. I always wanted to be like her. She was a working woman who dressed up very nicely. She was dignified, pretty and people had lovely things to say about her. I really thought I will grow up and be like her. Although I feel I never did something as great as she was, but perhaps I lived what I admired about her. For instance, I became a working woman, had a career, got married and in a way could balance both.”
“At present, my mother-in-law is a great inspiration to me. She is highly spiritual, extremely fair and just. She is so secure in herself that she gives you all the space that you want as a person. From the time I got married and the circumstances in which I got married in- she has always told me to do what makes me happy. She always allowed me to be myself and it is a great thing,” she adds.
Juhi wants to be a mother-in-law just like her own, someday. “I realize what an amazing quality it is- not to try and control people, not try and bind them in any way and to just allow them to blossom!”
She hopes her children do not take the help and privilege they get at home for granted. “They are born in a beautiful privileged place but we cannot blame them for that! There are times when I feel like restricting them but then I prefer to set example rather than preach, hoping that they will remember the actions someday when they need it in life.”
“Whenever I am with my children, I try to hang out with them. As they are growing up more, they need less of that but we have a little simple rule at home. On the table when we sit together for lunch or dinner, all phones, all books are kept away. Sometimes if my phone or Jay’s phone lands up on the table, they pull us up- Mom why is your phone here?”
On Yoga, Fitness & Her Beauty Regime
“First thing in the morning, I drink lots of water. I eat everything in moderation as I go about my day. I avoid fried food. I meditate, do yoga in the morning or even go swimming. Yoga has got me focused and calmed me down as a person. It just helps me feel better! After each session of yoga, I feel so refreshed, calm and rejuvenated. It has given me a certain kind of inner strength, some strong self-assurance from inside. It has also made me much more flexible! I now adapt more easily to situations and find myself working better on them. Yoga cannot be compartmentalized no matter how and when you begin, as if you are in it, it is like a journey within and every time it takes you one step closer to yourself.”
Her regular beauty regime includes cleaning up her face, moisturizing it, putting on a mascara, the finishing powder, lip gloss and tons of smile!
“I recently suffered the most frightening chemical reaction on my scalp and face. I learnt a harsh lesson. So I embraced the best beauty kit ever, comprising of turmeric, ghee, almond oil, coconut oil, and baking soda. I have taken the organic route and use DIY face and hair masks. It may be hard to believe but my haircare routine comprises of oiling my hair a lot!”
On Mother’s Day and Her Yearning for her Mother
“Honestly, one part of me believes it is a marketing gimmick, one more reason for companies to sell more cards and flowers. On the other hand, I feel it is not really a bad thing! It is a good thing to remember your mom, make that special effort to say thank you and that you love her- which you may otherwise forget to do and take her for granted on other days.”
“I usually call up my mother-in law, speak to her. If she is in town, give her flowers and a little card and maybe have a dinner. Last year, our family had a dinner together on mother’s day, just the four of us- my husband, children and me, which is rare. We put our phones and gadgets far away. We spent two hours sitting and chatting and it was memorable.”
On being asked to define mother’s love, she sighs, “I would not even try defining a mother’s love. You don’t know it until you become one, you don’t know it that until you lose your mother. I have experienced both. I think mother’s love can’t be put in words. It is god’s love. When I was a little girl, I loved my mother for everything she was and she did. I remember as a child I used to have nightmares- some were about exams and others were about my mom- that for some reason she would go away and I would be sobbing in my sleep. I remember once in a while when she would get an asthmatic attack, it used to scare the life out of me, I would hug her so tight!”
Social Work & More
“In the last few years, I started practicing organic farming. This is in the little farms that I have outside of Mumbai. Once you have children, you start thinking about their health and what you feeding them. It is very disturbing that we have chemicals in our food, in our fruits and our vegetables. Since I had this beautiful land, a farm on the banks of the river Vaitarna, I grow lot of fruits there. I am excited and happy since I am planting a lot of trees. This year I am planting about 70-80 more trees so eventually I will have more than 500 trees on that land and it makes me feel good that we doing something for the planet. Also, whatever we get from our farm, atleast we know what we are eating is clean & healthy,” adds Juhi.
She believes in utilizing the power of being an actor for the good of the society. “With the presence of actors on social networking portals, we can use these platforms to spread more awareness and positivity. I am not sure if I am able to do my best for the causes I support but I use every platform, every event, or appearance that I make to talk about these little things that can make a difference.”
On Shahrukh, Her Equation with him & Kolkata Knight Riders
“Shahrukh has been a very good friend; we started our careers almost together. We saw dizzying heights of fame, name together. Of course he is still shining very bright, he is and will always be a good friend. We have been through big highs and big lows, but I don’t meet him as much now since he is busy working on his film projects. However what binds us together is our association with KKR, we now have Trinbago Knight Riders of Caribbean Premier League and we have Capetown Knight Riders, the global African league, this is a new league formed just about a month and a half ago. Our association in another way is growing or rather the Knight Rider family is growing!”
The Irony of Being Snatched a Role in School
“When I look back, it is amusing to see how life unfolded. I was in 7th class and the youngest member of the cast in an inter-house dramatics at school. I remember quiet clearly that I was in the yellow house and this house was staging a play which was a spoof on Bollywood films. The name of the play was ‘Mala meri Jaan’ and I was offered the role of Mala- the lead role. I was super excited. So we did our rehearsals and finally the big day arrived. The play was staged and we came last! Again there was an inter-college dramatics show and I signed up for it. Rehearsals begun and students were being shortlisting for acting. I was keen to take part in it but for some reason I had to leave the town for a family wedding in Delhi. I told the committee that I shall be back and I want to act! When I returned (this was in Sydenham College) they had actually struck off my name from the list! The only chance I had to be on stage was also taken, and I was in no play. Ironically I went on to be an actor in films which was so amazing.”
On Gulab Gang and the Negative Role
She made a full-fledged comeback in 2014 with the heavily hyped woman-centric ‘Gulaab Gang’ and eventually won the prestigious Best Actress award at the Dadasaheb Phalke Awards for her performance.
“I have done some lovely performances in a lot of films. But they were all funny, romantic, sweet and emotional characters. The one that stands out for me is Gulab Gang! It was a negative role and I had a great time working on it! It turned out to be so fantastic that even I was impressed with myself and the performance. Having said this, it was a challenge too. I did have an apprehension about how people would take this negative role and I was seriously worried. I also know Madhuri would have an upper hand and an advantage due to the character portrayal. I fought the battle inside my head and came out clear that this role was challenging. I did it with a lot of enthusiasm and had a great time.”
On Her Illustrious Film Career, Future Projects & The Campaigns
“I did a little cameo in a web-series for Nagesh Kukunoor and then I did lovely guest appearance in a children’s film in Kannada which is called Very Good 10/10 and I think Nagesh Kukunoor’s web-series is extremely well-written. There is something interesting that has come my way, but I would want the production house to make the announcement,” she adds.
As a child, Juhi never intended to do films. But it was destiny and great luck, she concurs, that landed her in the Miss India pageant first and then in the film industry, making her immensely popular.“It has been due to destiny, good luck and blessings, which I am extremely grateful for. I remember my first film Sultanat did not click, but my second film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak caught the fancy of the audience, became the hit it did and gave me my career. It really gave me a good anchor in the film industry. My endeavour throughout the film career was just to do my best. One thing that worked for me was a healthy attitude towards work, which also gave me a long inning.”Marriage and children did create a gap in her career,although for just a while. “There were patchy instances. Like after marriage, since Jay’s family was of industrialists, so the older relatives did ask me to give up acting and even I thought of it. It was sheer fate and I got to continue. Then after children, I took a break and I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted or get work. But much to my surprise, I was offered films like Jhankar Beats, Teen Dewarein and My Brother Nikhil. Advertising took off well during that time and I got a lot of endorsements. After the encouragement, I got from regional and national level award-winning films, although slow but my career kept moving! So I have been fortunate and feel grateful for whatever came my way.”
“I recently finished shooting for the first leg of Shelly Dhar’s film Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga, there’s this another psychological thriller with Arshad Warsi. I also play a role in the Gujarati film, an adaptation of Marathi film Ventilator.
“Apart from that I visit our Gurukul in Porbunder regularly- an institution my father-in-law set up and now the responsibility has been passed down to us. We plan the curriculum, activities, etc. ‘My Citizens for Tomorrow’ project keeps me busy as we are now actively working towards it and meeting important people who are instrumental in creating awareness for the plastic ban in Maharashtra.”