How has the lockdown-like situation been for you?
To be honest, I’ve been extraordinarily busy throughout the pandemic. All I did for the entire duration of the lockdown in 2020 was working extensively on my health and wellness startup, based in Goa. My offices and retail store have been operational throughout the pandemic because they qualified as an essential store. I’m working nonstop round the clock. But I have no complaints on the work front, apart from the fact that the lockdown does make it very difficult for all of us to function. Work- from-home may work at times; but it also doesn’t work sometimes, especially with startups. And there are many variables to HR at this point in time, which is very frustrating, but completely understandable. So, I think, all in all, everything is good; my family seems healthy, happy, and hearty. We are not immune to the realities of what surrounds us and the fact that there’s a tremendous amount of pain, suffering, disease, and loss of life and jobs resulting in anger, anxiety, stress, and conflict. My endeavour is to always spread health, wellness, and healing positivity. I’ve been doing this continuously through my workshops which I’ve conducted over the past many months online.
Before entering the industry, you had been a part of a condom advertisement that created awareness for AIDS. Do you think we are not as open-minded now as we were earlier?
The times have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. Back then even speaking about sex was done in a hush-hush tone. Back then premarital sex was pretty much taboo, living together was still a sin, and being a divorcee was a stigma. There were many different attitudes towards relationships and sex, love and intercaste and inter-religious marriages. The reality 30 years ago was very different than what it is today. Today, we are living in a far more permissive society. Of course, there are people who’ve been pathbreakers, like my grandmother, or my mother, or me, or my daughter–we are very strong, independent, focus-driven women who are committed to having independent lives. We live by the law but yet have our own moral code of what we consider to be right for us, and how our journey should be.
My grandmother was a respected Buddhist nun, who gave up on her family and everything, to have that journey, because that’s her inner strength and calling, for the other women in the society. It’s been a very different way of showing strength and coming forward and breaking the shackles, taboos, stigmas, breaking boundaries, and breaking glass ceilings. When you look around us today, it’s evident that we have really transformed a lot. Fortunately, there have been laws now that been put into place to protect and empower women, in their personal lives, and even in the workplace. So for all these measures, we have all campaigned relentlessly hard, and for that matter, even men’s rights movements, because I believe in equality. For me, it’s not just about the woman being progressing and being empowered, but also equally about empowering men simultaneously, rather not disempowering them.
You come from a film family. What were your thoughts before entering Bollywood?
That’s a very different reality. I was a class topper and wanted to go to Wall Street to be among the movers and shakers of the planet. I wanted to be out there on the corridors of power and money, and to rule it– that was my agenda. It so happened that I was homesick and wanted to come back to India because I missed our country, its ethos, and people. Going to school there was very different because I was dealing with teenagers and young urban Americans. It fascinated me for the first few months, but I remember telling my father some point, ‘Papa, (there is) such inane chatter about the stars around nail polish, and some sort of a frivolous teenage conversation continues’. I grew up with my parents in an era of J Krishnamurti, Floyd, and Osho. Thus, I had to come back. I happened to get this movie offer while I was in America, and I thought it is my ticket back home. I just thought that I would use it as an excuse to come back to India. I thought to myself that after returning to India, I would do one film because I have to do it, and then get back to studies.
But when I came back, my mom encouraged me towards drama and wished me good luck. I was on my own, earning my own money at the age of 18 and wondering how to pay my next bill. That’s when I decided it would be better to start doing some ads and other things to keep the house running, keep my dog fed, keep my cook’s salary in stream. I just took off and went from strength to strength and I never looked back; it was the best thing that ever happened to me. So, I truly believe in letting life lead you.
You were recently trolled for posting a picture with your partner…
As someone who’s been in the public eye, and a very controversial figure, someone like me, who’s done a condom campaign, and stands up against governments, fights for women’s, human, and men’s rights, I’m used to bearing flak and getting trolled. I’m used to people turning around saying, ‘What’s that? That’s not normal.’ Maybe in a way, I’m a disrupter because I go with that. Me, my mother, we’re disruptors, we go out and we disrupt a chain of thought–maybe a negative flow–or something that is not in society’s interest. And that’s something I’ve been my whole life. So, the trolling doesn’t bother me. I understand where it comes from. In today’s times, there’s a lot of anger, anxiety, grief, fear, apprehension that people are consumed with. They don’t want to see people happy or know that someone’s life is going well. But that doesn’t mean that people will stop living their lives or stop earning their living, right?
I see wellness as holistic. I don’t see it as just going to a doctor, taking a pill, and saying I am well. Your emotional self, your physical self, social self, sexual self–all need to be in complete harmony for you to be considered well. Health is a very big issue today, and we’re all addressing that. It is important it is to think positive, be positive; we can’t stop the rain from falling, but we can certainly determine how we respond to what is happening. So, in that manner, if I go to a beach with my fiancé, and tell people to go and indulge in some exercise and sunshine, it grabs interest. When corona outbreak first happened, I was fanatical about sanitising every box, and keeping everything locked. I was taking photographs of people who were there on the beach, below my building, and calling them out as COVID threats. I was doing all of that because we didn’t know what we were dealing with. Today it has been over one year, people have been locked up indoors, people have been fearful, people have been sitting in a state of inertia, sadness, grief, the lives of loved ones lost their livelihoods, this pressure is not good for your immune system, this cannot be a constant way of life.
At some point, you have to turn around and start doing things that start correcting those processes of disrepair that you set your body and your immune system into. Being indoors is not good for our immune system, constant fear is not good for the immune system, sanitising is also destroying good bacteria. We Indians have a fantastic inbuilt, inherent immunity, and it’s very important for me being in health and wellness to spend whatever little bits I can about health and wellness as holistic. And I think people need to start building their immunity because we don’t know what we’re dealing with. So, where our immunity is today, is a result of the last year of lockdown, and all that you’ve encountered in the last year of lockdown has done nothing but deplete your immunity. Let’s work on getting our immunity strong. These are strong messages that need to be sent out.
Your father Kabir Bedi recently launched a tell-all book. Have you read it?
Well, if you had followed me on Instagram, you’d see me catch my daddy’s book very excitedly and read out a little message saying how excited I was to read it. But then chaos descended in my company; the entire team has been hit–either the families of my staff have been affected or they have resigned because they’re fearful of coming to work. The bottom line is, that I haven’t read it. I messaged my dad just to say, ‘Dad, I’m in chaos professionally.’ But, I’m waiting to read it.
When your father decided to marry again, you were quite upset and with him, and you have also been vocal about it. What exactly about it bothered you?
I have really liked all my father’s girlfriends, and wives, including Parveen (Babi). His first wife Suzan, from whom I have a wonderful brother, Adam, are exceptionally close till today; we have a group chat, and keep encouraging each other and, and sending love to each other on a regular basis. Then there’s Nikki Bedi, who he married next, and who was amazing; I loved her. We spent many happy holidays and moments together. Then there was Parveen and we had a fabulous relationship. One Google search will reveal how I was with her practically at every party. When Parveen first returned to India from London, she was alone and didn’t really know much, she used to be at home and I told Papa not to worry, that I will take her out and I will take care of her. I used to give her my clothes and jewelry, and we had a beautiful relationship. When I was shooting, she came with me to Egypt. When I had dengue, she was in the hospital, looking over me.
But every family has ups and downs, and situations that are unsavoury. There’s no family that’s not had internal politics or internal fighting. I think it’s the way that the issues were handled; it was unfortunate the way things shaped up and took a turn for the worse. And in the midst of this, I think my father decided to get married. I didn’t know about it at that time, and when I found out, I posted a tweet that was kind of tongue-in-cheek. But, it didn’t sound nice, so I just deleted it after an hour, but by that time, it had already gone viral. The news created friction between him and me; we had a bit of a tussle and a bit of a fallout at a certain point in time. But we are so good with each other today; we’re back to being loving and wonderful. I love him! I’m 51 years old today, I may have two-and-a-half years of friction with my father, but that doesn’t negate the 48 years (of love) that I’ve had, which have been just utterly fantastic and beautiful.