'When I got married, people told me I was insane'
Actresses, it seems, no longer call it quits after marriage.
Ayesha Takia Azmi, who scored her biggest hit right after her marriage (Wanted), is back with a new release this week, called Mod. Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, the film is inspired by a Taiwanese film called Keeping Watch.
In a frank chat with Sonil Dedhia, Ayesha spoke about the film, her relationship with husband Farhan Azmi, and life after marriage.
You are returning to films after a long break of two-and-a-half years. Are you excited?
I am very excited, especially because it's a film with Nagesh Kukunoor. This is my third film with him. I took a break of almost two-and-a-half years because I really needed a break. I deliberately stopped working after I got married because I have been acting since I was 15. I wanted to explore a lot of things. I wanted to travel, understand myself better and, most importantly, give time to my marriage.
Do you think you didn't build on the success of Wanted?
When I got married, a lot of people told me I was insane. Wanted released right after my marriage and it turned out to be a blockbuster, but I had already made a decision to take a break. I did not time my decision and fortunately or unfortunately, it happened at a time when I delivered one of the biggest films in my career.
Image: Ayesha Takia
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani
'I don't think it is easy to manage a family'
What made you take such keen interest in your business?
My husband Farhan Azmi is a restaurateur and owns three restaurants in Mumbai. After we got married, we started planning a cafe, Chai Cofi, and got busy in executing it. It is not easy to open a restaurant. I always wanted to get into the business of restaurants and was fortunate enough that Farhan's knowledge taught me a lot of things. We have already opened one cafe and are opening another one soon. We are also opening a boutique hotel in Goa which will be ready by next year.
Acting has always been special and will continue to remain so.
Was it a conscious decision not to do films? People think that your career was not shaping up the way you wanted.
I guess people can say that. One would think that I was not able to cash in on the success of Wanted but I never had any strategy or hidden formula for success. I have some of the best films to my name. I enjoy acting and when there is a script like Mod, why wouldn't I come back? I make the choices. I have never had a PR or a manager and have never been very media savvy. I like to live my life in a particular way and do things that make me happy.
Unlike some actresses who got married, quit acting, and turned homemaker, you seem to be going on a different path.
I think women who give attention to their family also do a commendable job. I don't think it is easy to manage a family. Fortunately for me, Farhan has a business that I am also very keen on and I have been learning it and developing a lot of interest in the last two years and now the businesswoman in me will always stay.
Image: Ayesha Takia
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
'I rejected Aashayien because of a kissing scene'
Did you agree to do Mod because it was a Nagesh Kukunoor film?
No. Nagesh and I have been very honest with each other. He came to me for Aashayien also, but I couldn't do it because there was a kissing scene in it. If I cannot do it, I have been very upfront with him. He doesn't need to cast me in all his films. I don't mix professionalism with friendship. Whenever Nagesh comes to me I know there will be something special in store.
How would you define his work?
Nagesh has always been special to me. He is my rakhi brother. This is my third film with him (after Dor and 8X10 Tasveer) and we share a relationship where we both know what we need from each other. My character in the film is unlike any other character I have played before. When you do a Nagesh Kukunoor film, you really go into details about the character, her mind and her life. When Nagesh said that Mod was his first love story and it revolves around the journey of a girl, I was excited.
Tell us about your character in the film.
I play a mature, independent girl called Aranya who is totally my opposite in real life. I can only relate to her in the way she perceives love. In real life I am not as independent as my character in the film. She has this clock store and earns her living through it. She meets Andy (Raanvijay) and falls in love with him and their journey forms the rest of the film.
After Dor, I didn't think it was possible to do such a role again, but Mod is the best film for me to do after a long wait.
Image: Nagesh Kukunoor and Ayesha Takia
'Wanted was my first ever blockbuster film'
What was the best part of playing this role?
I enjoyed doing this film because I felt my character gave me a chance to explore certain areas of acting and challenge myself as an actor. Wanted was out an out-and-out masala movie and I have generally been offered glamorous and bubbly roles. I enjoy them completely but when you are working with a filmmaker like Nagesh, you are sure the role is going to be more performance oriented than glamorous.
Which has been the most interesting mod (turning point) in your life?
There have been a few. Career wise, I think it has to be Socha Na Tha as it showed that this girl can give a good performance. The second one has to be Dor because my audience had typecast me as this bubbly girl and suddenly they saw me in a de-glam avatar turning in a stellar performance. The third one would be Wanted as it was my first ever blockbuster film.
On the personal front, I think the turning point has to be my marriage as it was a step ahead in my life. It has really been a beautiful journey so far.
You always speak about Socha Na Tha when Tarzan-The Wonder Car was actually your first film. Are you not happy with the way Tarzan shaped up?
No, I don't have anything against Tarzan as it was my debut film, but I signed Socha Na Tha before it and it took three years to make the film. My first experience on a film set, my first shot was with Socha Na Tha. I talk about it because it paved the way for how I would perceive a role and taught me the tricks of the trade. It was not only my first film but was a debut for Abhay Deol and director Imtiaz Ali too.
Image: A still from Wanted
'I never thought I would be married at 23'
You were in a relationship with Farhan before you married him. Have you seen any change in your relationship?
Things have just got better and better with time. I met him when I was 19 and since then we have changed a lot. We started out as friends and we went on to date each other and ultimately, marry. We are similar in many ways -- we are both very passionate about what we do. I think we are completely perfect for each other (Smiles).
Did you always wanted to get married so early?
No, I never thought I would be married at 23, but that's the fun thing about life -- you don't know what is waiting for you at the next corner. I have been lucky to be with Farhan. Before I got into films I would paint, read books and do a lot of things, but due to my acting commitments, they took a backseat. But now I am back to all of it and I love it.
Have your priorities changed after marriage. You think you have an added responsibility?
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a very spoilt child (smiles), not in an irritating manner, but I have always been pampered. I have always lived a life that is very comfortable and I love the fact that Farhan loves to pamper me. I don't think I have any added responsibility which stresses me. I am terrible at dealing with stress. I am just flowing with him.
Image: Farhan Azmi and Ayesha Takia Azmi
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
'I cannot cook at all!'
How would you define Farhan?
He is humble, modest and very hard-working. He enjoys his business and has a flair for it. He knows how to be a great friend and more than that, a great husband.
You once mentioned in an interview that you married Farhan because you don't know how to cook!
(Laughs) Actually, Farhan knows how to make a couple of pasta dishes, and that for me is cooking because I cannot cook at all!
Have you learnt to make pasta from him?
Yes, I make a crappier version of it (laughs).
Is your working relationship with him different from your personal one?
No, it's the same. When you are so close to each other, it is hard to differentiate. He will tell me or teach me things as a wife and not a business partner. I take a lot of advice from him rather than giving unnecessary opinions.
Image: A still from Mod
'Farhan has only seen two films of mine'
Apart from work, how do you bond with each other?
We share similar tastes apart from the fact that he doesn't really enjoy watching movies. We spend a lot of time at our restaurant and we travel a lot. Travelling has been an important part of our life.
Has he seen all your films?
Of the 15 films that I have done so far, he has only seen Socha Na Tha and Dor.
Is there anything you would like to change in him?
(Thinks) No, not really, but at times I jokingly mention to him that he has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). He likes things to be neat and clean. Generally it is women who want this, but in our case I am the messy one. He would want to be neater and I would want him to chill out a little and not be so perfect.
Any plans to start your own family?
No, as of now there are no such plans as Farhan and I have a lot on our plate. When it happens, I'll surely tell everyone (smiles).
Image: A still from Mod
'I am doing all the things that I dreamt of when I was a teenager'
You had expressed a desire to do a negative character. Any particular reason for it?
I would like to do all kinds of characters that challenge me and the fact is that no one sees me as someone who can do a negative role or a grey shade, so it sounds exciting as it builds up curiosity about me in the audience.
You have rarely been the subject of rumours...
Yes, I think I am very lucky. I am a very private person. Farhan and I don't like to attend too many parties. Even on my sets, once I give my shot, I go back to my van unless I know the people on the sets. I keep to myself. I only let a few people into my circle. Also, I hate these stupid and hideous rumours.
You are married, have become a businesswoman and are back to acting. Is this the best phase in your life?
I think for me this is a very important and exciting time. I am doing all the things that I dreamt of when I was a teenager. I attribute this to the early start of my career. I am quite settled and love every moment of it.
Image: Ayesha Takia Azmi