By Geneive D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | July 02, 2017
Pooja Kanwal-Mahtani is a host who is busy with multiple shows on television. Apart from television, she is also the most sought-after hostess for ‘live’ events. Currently, a show where she dons different looks on Aaj Tak, updating us on Hindi serials, is very popular. “Just before I started this I was hosting shows on CNBC. I also did LIME Season 6 and the food show,” reveals the hostess who began her career as an actress over a decade ago with Uff Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai.
Apart from being an actor and a host, Pooja has spent nearly twelve years learning different kinds of dance forms from Jazz to contemporary. Dance is something that she still keeps in touch with despite her hectic schedule.
Geneive D’Souza chats with the naughty, yet conscientious actor who talks nineteen to the dozen.
You have spent a lot of time pursuing different dance forms. Do you still pursue dancing?
Unfortunately, time does not permit me but I try to keep in touch with kathak. Every dance form I have learnt has a place in my heart. However, because of my work schedule and my daughter Avika, I don’t get the time I need, to practice dance. Having said that, I try to keep in touch with Bollyood dance!
What got you interested in dancing?
I was interested in dancing even before acting. Initially, I wasn’t even aware of what dance can do to one’s confidence. When I was about twelve years old, dancing was my hobby. I danced at every birthday party in the neighbourhood and whenever I was at family weddings. People were very appreciative of my dance moves and when people appreciate you, you get a confidence boost. Dancing was also a very good stress-buster for me. It still is!
How supportive is your husband towards your profession?
My husband is super supportive. He always wanted me to be who I am. He keeps telling me ‘you can do this and I can help you’. I never felt chained after marriage and in fact I have even more freedom to pursue my career.
Do you complement him like he does you in your profession?
We are both supportive towards each other. I don’t think that I am a nagging wife. Even if he takes up a sport for a hobby I don’t think I would be grumbling about his coming home late. I would feel happy that he has found something to do in this stressful life. If he wants to do something, it would be good for his mind, body and soul!
How much of an influence has your mother been to you on your choice of career?
Pretty much 100 per cent! I used to go on sets with my mom (Anita Kanwal). Whenever there was an exam, mum would make sure I had my books with me so that I could be prepared for the next day. This was a normal part of our day-to-day life. I remember my mother telling me: ‘Even as a baby you were very clear that acting was what you were going to do’.
Do you regret doing any film or not taking up an offer?
I don’t think I regret doing any film because they are all experiences and we have to learn. I am glad that I did each and everyone one of them. I do regret not doing some good television offers though. And now when I look back, I think that it wouldn’t have been a bad idea, had I taken up those offers.
How easy or difficult do you find it to balance career and family life?
Everyone in my family is very work-oriented. The challenge came when my daughter came along. It got very difficult. I do want to be a hands-on mom and give my 100 percent in both. Coming from work to home and going back to work is just like a roller-coaster and I would not say it is easy. But having the support that I have at home from my in-laws, husband and my mother, I can say that I have been able to manage well.
In a recent interview, you have mentioned that you wouldn’t want your daughter to pursue acting as you don’t want to put limitations to her choice of career. Is acting a limited career?
I would not really want to push her into becoming an actor, but in the last 15 years of my career, I have seen a lot of ups and downs, which I’m sure every career has. If she decides to take up something, I am going to support her and I want her to do what she loves doing. The tough things to handle are the ups and downs, the security, the success and failure and I have been doing this since I was 17-years-old. I have seen all sorts of highs and lows.
As a young parent, what are the challenges you face bringing up your daughter considering both you and your husband are working?
There is never any rest or getaway; sometimes you get exhausted at a certain level. A naughty 4-year-old does take up a lot of your energy. Also, another worrying factor is the things you hear these days through newspaper and television. We need to know exactly when the time is right to let them be independent and to let them fly.
How was your daughter’s first at school at Kindergarten? Did you cry?
He first day of school was moving for her as she went around telling all the kids asking them ‘why are you crying? I am here’. She, unlike me, is a very cool sort of a person. No. I did not cry but when my best friend’s son was howling, looking at him, I did get a bit teary-eyed!
Considering your daughter was born on the day Student of the Year released, how much of an influence has Alia Bhatt on her?
[Laughs] My daughter is too small to understand Hindi films and the actors. Avika is still into Peppa Pig and Winnie The Pooh. Honestly, she does not even know Alia Bhatt!
Going back in time, how were you as a student in school?
I think all my teachers remember me very fondly. I was naughty but very conscientious. I was the most talkative one but like everyone else, my homework would be submitted on time. I was not a topper, but I would definitely come in the first five to six ranks of class. I never had to be told to study or do my homework. I was extremely organized about what I needed to do.
Are you in touch with any of your favourite teachers from school?
Surprisingly, a co-actor of mine married the son of my favourite teacher. This has helped me keep in touch with her as we meet very often.
(Geneive D’Souza is a Grade VIII student from Don Bosco International School, Matunga, Mumbai. She loves writing and is a voracious reader. She is also passionate about sports, Lionel Messi, Selena Gomez and music.)
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