by ASJAD NAZIR ESHA DEOL ON BEING A WORKING MUM IT WASN’T a difficult decision for Esha Deol to walk away from the bright lights of Bollywood and start a family. The daughter of cinematic legends Hema Malini and Dharmendra got fulfilment from acting, but gained even greater joy from becoming a wife and mother. Now after some time away from the spotlight, the talented actress stepped in front of the camera again recently for short film Cakewalk. What has made the project extra special is that it has been directed by Ram Kamal Mukherjee, who wrote her mother Hema Malini’s authorised autobiography Beyond The Dreamgirl. But family still remains a priority for Esha, and that is why she was eager to return to her baby daughter in Mumbai when Eastern Eye caught up with her at a plush hotel in central London. She spoke about her acting comeback, motherhood and more… How do you look back today on your first stint in cinema? It was an adventurous ride, I would say. At times it was a lot of fun and at times it was a bit stressful. (Smiles) But none the less I survived. Was it an easy decision to walk away? Absolutely! Luckily for me, love came again in my life. (Husband) Bharat (Takhtani) and I were seeing each other when we were at school and college. We just reconnected and it all got rekindled. The timing was just amazing and now we have a beautiful baby together. Did you at any point start missing being in front of the camera after leaving Bollywood? I never missed anything because I had been in front of the camera from the age of 18 when I started acting, so I was missing out on having a personal life. I never had that as all I was doing was shooting, shooting and shooting. That was my life, Asjad! When I came across Bharat again, everything else took a back seat. I thought this was something I was missing, and when it came I felt complete. Now with a baby I feel even more complete. I think with every woman, it is important to do the right thing at the right time. How has the experience of motherhood changed you? It is just so lovely. Right now I have a camera installed in the room and I just keep looking at it. This is the first time I have left her for a trip abroad, so I am just waiting to get done and take the early flight out. What made you want to act in Cakewalk? The short film had a nice strong message which many will relate to. I know a lot of people with that lifestyle and background of the film’s setting who have gone through similar things. So I thought this would be a nice role to portray. I also did a short film because as a new mother, it would have been tough to get into a full-fledged feature. The baby is settled and so am I, but this was great as it was not so time-consuming. So it fell into place nicely and was something fun to take up after having a baby. What can you tell us about the story and character of Cakewalk? I can’t tell you much because it is a short film, so if I reveal anything it will give too much away. But it does have a nice message, which is very clear, that as a woman it is possible to have it all; a career, family and so on. So that is the message. Will this inspire you to start acting again more? Yes, definitely because acting is my profession. I am an actor and a dancer. I have just done Seeta in the Ramayan ballet, and when I go back to India I have a couple of shows lined up back-to-back. So dance shows also keep me busy. So yes, if there is something worth my time I would do it. The great thing is that today’s cinema has evolved a lot and our audiences are open to seeing all kinds of films. They are open to more things, so something that is really nice for girls like me who are at the same stage of life. If I get something good, it is worth the time and energy. You must be happy that more woman-centric films are being made? Yes, it is nice and I give credit to all the girls who have taken up those roles and portrayed them really well. You come from an illustrious film family, but what do you see as the future of Indian cinema? I see the entire digital platform as the future. It is becoming huge. Short films are also becoming very big. Of course there will always be the feature film, but I think web series and short films will very soon be the future. Everything is so easily available online that fewer people are watching things like cable TV. Our country is open to very different kinds of cinema, which was not the case in recent years, and that is also great. What is the secret of balancing motherhood with work? (Laughs) Having a good husband who understands you. But he is also a workaholic. We both have a rule that if I am out of town he is with the baby and vice versa. I also have a strong support system back home from my mother to my mother-in-law to family members who will always be there. So it is easy to have them around when you need them. Have you read your mother’s recently released autobiography written by Cakewalk director Ram Kamal Mukherjee? I have read a few chapters of the book and so far so good. It is a good read. Has anything surprised or shocked you in the book? Nothing has shocked me, because I think as a daughter I have the right to know my mother’s entire journey. Personally, we have discussed so many things which Ram has put very nicely in the book. Which of your mother’s many achievements are you most proud of? I am really proud of where she stands as a woman today because she is the dream girl who achieved a hugely-successful career, married the man of her dreams, had two beautiful girls and is now in politics making a difference. I think where she stands today is her biggest achievement. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from her? To maintain your dignity no matter what, and just be wise. Your mother is still looking like a goddess; what is her secret? (Laughs) Well, we all keep her happy. Her daughters don’t trouble her anymore. That is her secret. So she has a peaceful life at home. Do you have any other ambitions away from acting? I am definitely looking at my dance ballets. We have done Ramayan and there is something we are working on because dance is part of our family as well as acting. I think my mother should be brand ambassador for Indian cultural dance because she has taken it ahead. So in that field we are working on a couple of nice concepts for stage. What inspires you? What inspires me is when I wake up in the morning and I see my little daughter. Her smile and the way she looks at me is an inspiration and makes me feel that I have to be the best mother for her. What are your big passions in life away from family and films? I am a health freak. Right now I am in one of the healthiest phases of my life from the fact that I took it up as a challenge to get back into shape. I enjoy looking after myself to the fullest. Can you give me a health tip? I need it… Have a good balance of everything in life. Never overdo anything. Just be balanced and you will be healthy. What movies do you like watching? (Laughs) I have honestly not had the time to watch a single film. With the little bit of time that I get to myself, I like to watch an episode of Friends. That is my all-time favourite show. Nothing can beat that. Why do you love cinema? It is the one and only thing that is larger than life. It has a magnetic attraction for any human being and I am one who is fully attracted to cinema. I’m lucky enough to have been a huge part of cinema. Why should we watch Cakewalk? (Smiles) Well, you should watch it for me! A lot of my fans have been waiting to see me for a long time, which is sweet and encouraging. Watch for all the women in the world who are like my character Shilpa and cheer for them.