Pooja Bedi

22 Aug

“I was voted hottest sex symbol of India two years in a row by public poll in film magazines, splashed all over posters and glossies” – Pooja Bedi

Pooja Bedi may be controversial but her ideals and thoughts are as progressive as they get. Daughter to the incredibly talented Kabir Bedi and beautiful model-dancer Protima Bedi, Pooja herself has dabbled in a number of fields all closely related to the entertainment arena. But most importantly, Pooja has redefined the modern Indian woman and yet has managed to remain as Indian as they get. She isn’t afraid to voice her opinion, isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade and has found herself in numerous situations. But thanks to her quick wit and brutal honesty, the model-actress-dancer-television host has come out of every ordeal a complete winner with no one to applaud but herself. While it was Priyanka Chopra who danced to the song of Desi Girl, clearly the song belongs to the ultra modern and yet Desi, Pooja Bedi. If you’re looking for some amazing inspiration and advice for life, you’ve come to the right place. Pooja Bedi exclusively speaks to Roshni Magazine about life, its hassles, how to get by and forming the epitome of the avant-garde Desi woman.

You’ve always been in the public eye right from the beginning, From Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, to being a model, a theatre actress, television host and most importantly you defined the modern Indian woman. How has the journey been?
Well, it has definitely been a roller coaster ride and I’ve donned many hats through the years; starting off as a film actress, theatre actor in “Wow, what a girl!” and “Carry on Papa”; a model for Tips and Toes, Frooti and Kamasutra amongst others; then settling into holy matrimony and returning as a talk show host, dancer on Jhalak Dikhlaja and Nach Baliye; author for Timepass published by Penguin, India— which was on top 10 national best seller list; a daredevil with Khatron Ke Khiladi, and a columnist for Mid-Day, Hindustan Times and Times of India. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it! I’m happy to symbolise the modern Indian woman that respect her Indian identity and role in the family yet leads life on her own terms and values her own identity and rights as a human being and individual.

Your upbringing is said to be pretty liberal. How do you feel it has made you the person you are and are you the same with your children?
I certainly am a product of my environment and I’m eternally grateful to my parents for teaching me by example. I have been brought up to question, not blindly follow; to be unafraid of expressing thoughts, feelings and emotions, to fight for what is deserved and fair; to stand up for what is right and to enjoy the journey of life. And most importantly, I thank them for their sunny, positive outlook to everything. Having said that, my childhood was shaped in an ultra bohemian environment and my kids have a far more traditional one. I’m a loving, doting, fun, hands-on-mom but also an utter disciplinarian. I’ve involved them a lot in my charity causes and they are the most amazing loving, responsible, intelligent and caring children a mother could have.

Your most popular advertisement was the Kama Sutra ad which basically demonstrated New Age Indian women were. Were you sceptical when you agreed to the ad? And as much as you can remember, what was that experience like?
Nope. Not at all sceptical! My parents were averse to me getting into films but my mom was thrilled when I told her about the Kamasutra campaign. She felt it was a wonderful platform and medium to spread awareness about HIV, unwanted pregnancies and STD’s in India. At that time, 1991, sex was a taboo subject and awareness levels were so dismal that HIV was considered to be just a gay disease. I know it made a lot of people sit up and take note of issues that needed to be addressed and opened up the floodgates of discussion on the topic.

Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar went to put you on the map as an actress and you were seen as the nineties sex symbol. At that time, what did you think of that title?
To me, being elevated to that position just by virtue of wearing a short skirt or a bikini was astonishing! I was voted hottest sex symbol of India two years in a row by public poll in film magazines, splashed all over posters and glossies. My Kamasutra campaign was heralded by British tabloids as the beginning of the sexual revolution in India. I had fans stalking me, professing their love and writing to me in blood. I was so utterly amused by all of it. I went along with all the hype and hoopla, played it to the hilt. And then one fine day I chucked it all up for holy matrimony and settled down to a life of domestic bliss.

Your father is an internationally recognized actor. Was there any pressure from him and otherwise, to succeed as an actress?
My dad and mom both were not too keen on my joining films. I was a class topper in India and used to sign the book of honor. I then went to study in Los Angeles with the intention and dream of being on Wall Street. I just got terribly homesick and used my first film offer as an excuse to return to India. But when I returned one offer led to another and destiny took over!

And then a whole range of theatre came your way. How was it different acting on stage? What made you venture into theatre and move away from film?
Acting on stage has instant gratification. There’s an instant connect with the audience and both my plays, “Carry on Papa” and “Wow! What a Girl”, were comedies and ran to packed houses! Films however, survive the test of time. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar still airs routinely on television and I have developed a huge fan base that has remembered me through the years because of it.

More recently, you’ve become a well-known dancer which is a talent you weren’t initially so confident about. How do you feel about it now post Jhalak Dikhlaja?
Both Jhalak and Nach Baliye 3 did wonders for my dancing skills. I love to develop new talents and skills and I’m thrilled that in such cases, I get paid to learn!

Just Pooja, your talk show, has gained immense recognition, won numerous awards and given you a new platform. Did you expect the accolades and where do you hope to take the show?
I’m a people’s person and I’m genuinely interested in the people I interview and topics we discuss. I think that it automatically translates into a highly involving and engrossing show. I was thrilled to bits when I started winning awards and accolades. It was so utterly gratifying and motivating. So were all the comments from people across all age groups and strata’s of life when they told me how the shows had brought them closer to reality and had altered their thought processes and shaped and changed their lives. My family and friends think it’s the perfect forum for me as I talk and question nonstop even in my off screen life. My greatest desire now is to have a talk show on a major network to reach a larger audience.

Oh! I’m dying to also know, you also were the post-host of Bigg Boss! Are we going to see you on the next season and how comfortable are you with asking the contestants such intimate questions?
I have no reservations or apprehensions asking questions that should and need to be asked. We are all responsible for our actions and if the contestants choose to put themselves, their lives and emotions on display on television, they have to account for it on the same medium

Similarly, your personal relationships are always in the limelight – for good and bad reasons. How have you learnt to deal with the constant media scrutiny? And you are extremely honest and open about them—why is that?
I accepted a long time ago that if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen! In my profession, you are always under scrutiny. Your clothes, your handbags, your relationships, your friendships, your professional achievements and debacles – it’s all under the microscope. Either you can attempt to hide it and risk something really untrue or distorted to emerge as an end result of rumour mongering, or you can just come clean, state what is a reality with dignity.

And if that isn’t enough, you get unnecessarily dragged into different controversies! Do they follow you or vice versa? And how do you managed to stay so composed and calm?
My mother taught me that if you believe in what you do you shouldn’t fear ridicule or scrutiny. And that if the world laughs, laugh right back, it’s as funny as you are! I just tend to walk on a road less traveled and lead my life in a very open, non-conformist manner and that does tend to raise follow-the-herd mentality eyebrows. I believe in the purity and clarity of my thought processes and actions, my strength comes from that conviction and I simply plod on undeterred.

You’ve openly advocated cosmetic procedures for women including Botox. In fact you’re known as India’s Botox Babe. How does that make you feel and what is your honest take on it? Do you admit to using it? And seriously, do Botox parties actually take place?
(Laughs) I’m not sure about the Botox parties as I’ve never been invited to one. But yes, I do use Botox. I think it’s amazing that medical science has discovered such wonderful effective ways to look younger. The most important thing about Botox is going to a qualified practitioner for the administering of it to avoid misuse and adverse reactions. There’s nothing wrong in wanting to look better and more attractive and youthful. I’m personally against surgery to change body parts and facial features, unless there’s a deformity, because I think everyone should revel in their uniqueness. However, maintaining youthfulness is not something I’m averse to. Every one does it whether by virtue of using face creams, hair dye, make up etc. For me Botox is just another tool for the same purpose.

What’s the secret to your fabulous body, great looks and positive outlook on life?
I’m happy on the inside! I believe in being the fountain of happiness for those around me! I love to laugh and make others laugh and smile. I enjoy my happy times and share them with others and as strange as it may sound, I even enjoy the bad times because I know they are necessary experiences. Life cannot just be all up and no down. No one on planet earth has had that privilege! As for my body…gosh! I have a huge appetite and I love my food! I’m very particular about quality and taste as I believe calories must be worth the workout. I very easily get bored with work out routines and change them routinely. I alternate between Tai Chi, Kick Boxing, swimming, walking, Bikram Hot Yoga, cycling, the Power Plate and so on.

What is your attitude and take on life?
We’re born and we die. In between we have a short and wonderful experience called life. All we have to do is enjoy the journey and experience, experience experience—  countries, cultures, movies, music, nature, human beings, animals, pets, food, fashion, television, books, sports, the list is endless! And all most people do is get bogged down by conformity and stick to what is familiar and known, which is so unfortunate. I believe in abiding by the law but will never conform to societal diktat just because it is expected. I do realise that when your head sticks out of a crowd you should expect both brickbats and bouquet and that’s ok with me! It’s my life. And I will experience it to the fullest! It’s my God given right. Most importantly, we need to be sensitive to the suffering of others. I’m a firm believer in humanity and Karma. We all have the power to help those less fortunate than us. If we reach out with our position, our time, or our money and help even one person, India would be a much happier, stronger, and spiritually richer country.

How has the modern Indian woman changed? What changes do they need to make?
The modern Indian woman is a wondrous and amazing phenomenon!! She has emerged from the clearly defined boundaries of her home and entered schools, colleges, and defined her right and role in the work place. She effectively juggles a work life, her home, children and traditions and festivities. She’s a great blend of Western emancipation and Indian warmth, compassion, family values and traditions. This emergence has taken place only in the past few decades, starting with urban metro’s and though she is gaining acceptability in smaller towns the change has yet to permeate to grass root level.

Who is Pooja Bedi? How would you describe yourself?
Pooja is a happy soul. A free spirit. Child of the universe. God loving, not God Fearing.

What is your message to women all around the world?
Enjoy and revel in your femininity. Emancipation does not mean being a better man. Our strength lies in us being women. And most importantly, let us women put a stop to the horrific practice of discriminating against women. Female foeticide and infanticide, dowry are all discriminatory practices. We need to put an end to it. And it starts with YOU.

~ Roshni M.
(August, 2009)

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One Response to “Pooja Bedi”

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  1. Personal Care 101 - July 16, 2010

    Pooja Bedi…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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