Neetu Kapoor is all set to make a comeback in Raj Mehta’s Jug Jugg Jeeyo. Neetu had left acting years back to take care of her kids and be the emotional anchor to husband Rishi Kapoor. After she lost Rishi Kapoor in April last year, Neetu decided that one way to deal with her sorrow was to start acting again. On Mother’s day, she narrates her struggles of becoming a full-time actor once more. And she also shares glimpses of what life was as a hands-on mother in an actor’s household.
You are starting life anew as an actor with Jug Jugg Jeeyo, How is life different on set now compared to how it was back then?
When I did those 70-80 movies, I was very young and my mother used to accompany me. And then I did those two movies with my husband. For me to come in Jug Jugg Jeeyo took a lot because for the first time I was alone and I didn’t have anyone with me. It was quite an experience. Also, my husband had passed away recently, so I was a bit shaken up inside but I needed something to make me feel stronger. I was very anxious initially, but gradually you become used to it and everybody made me feel good on the sets. Anil Kapoor was so lovely, the director was lovely (Raj Mehta), Kiara (Advani), Varun (Dhawan), everyone was so beautiful. So, I relaxed after a few days, but I felt a bit anxious that’s it. But I am glad I did it.
Your son, Ranbir Kapoor is one of the finest actors we have today. Has your decision to join films again changed the equation you share with him?
Actually, it has bonded us more. We always discussed movies, Ranbir and myself, we discussed actors, we discussed performances, since the beginning. We’ve always had that relationship. That’s our passion. I am a total movie buff. I see the worst movies too. I am that kind of a movie buff. Now I am discussing my roles. Any movie offered to me, I will discuss with him. It’s a better bond now, because now I am discussing myself. Earlier we were discussing other people. But now it is better. He also discusses his films with me when he wants, though he makes his own decisions. But once in a while he also wants my take on the script. So, we have that relationship of movies, scripts, performances and now it’s become even better.
What’s your fondest memory of Riddhima Kapoor Sahni and Ranbir Kapoor from their childhood.
For a mother, her children are her world. For me every day is a memory. I remember a nice incident of Ranbir from a Mother’s Day gone by. He had just started earning, I think she was an assistant director in Black then and he had made some money and it was Mother’s Day and he took me to a restaurant called Just Eat Around the Corner. It served lunches for Rs 100 or so and we had to fill the whole plate at one go. So that was my best Mother’s Day as we stood in a line with a plate and I saw everyone was piling up their plate with food as you could go only once to fill the plate. And I was the proudest mother that day, as that was the first ever lunch my son had taken me out for. With Riddhima it was in London and she was studying there and she started doing some part time jobs and it was her own money that she was earning while studying. So, once I was going to meet her to see her during one of her vacations. When I landed, she had arranged for a Limo with her money as she wanted to make me feel special and there was champagne she had arranged for. I said Riddhima are you crazy, such a big champagne bottle at 11 am, she said no mom, I just wanted to do the best for you. And I stayed with her in her apartment and she had all these beautiful cards all over with welcome to my home written on it and she had posted all over. They did so many things, I could write a book on them. They always asked me as children — whom do you love more? I used to say I love Riddhima two years more because she is older. Both were special to me, but because she came earlier, I loved her two years more. This was my constant answer.
How different are Riddhima and Ranbir from each other?
Riddhima is a hands-down daughter. She goes crazy worrying over me even if I cough a little or even if I say I am tired. She goes crazy in her head. She will make sure she will send messages, she will give me all her home-made cures, she will chew my head but she wants her mother to be okay. Ranbir is different, he is more on the quieter side. He will be worried, but he’ll just ask me, how are you doing mom, are you okay. They are very different, he is more of a quiet person and Riddhima is more like, she goes crazy in her head. Though Ranbir’s one call or message just makes me feel better, whatever I am going through. They all have their own things to make me feel good.
People say things change once you become a mother…
That’s exactly what I used to tell my daughter. She used to always say I am going here, I am going there, meeting this one, meeting that one and I used to say Riddhima go and have a kid. Your life will change. But she used to tell me, no mom, I want to enjoy life, Bharat and me both want to have fun and stuff like that. I said no, even Bharat will get a new meaning to life. And ever since she had Samara, that’s her world now. She tells me that now, mom you were so right. Your life changes, your life has a meaning, motherhood is the greatest gift from god.
What were the changes that came into your life when you first became a mother?
I was so obsessed with my kids, that I forgot the world for the first 10 years. I had to drop my children to school, pick them up, you know I was that crazy. I had to be home when they were there. I had to make something special for them, like Ranbir loved Butter Chicken, so I made sure that my Butter Chicken is the best but that never used to happen (laughs). So, for me, to make them happy, to give them whatever they wanted was my life. It had become like that. In the process I lost a lot of friends, but then I reconnected later on of course. Even my husband was obsessed with the kids. Once a year we would go to Kashmir or somewhere for vacation. We used to plan their holidays in such a way that when the shooting is happening in hill-stations, we would take them. Either it was in Kashmir or Manali or once in a while abroad like Switzerland or somewhere. Those days Switzerland was very much in fashion. Everyone was shooting songs or movies there. And every time we went for dinners, my husband would play a game with them, like who answers the fastest. Motherhood doesn’t change anything, you just feel more complete, I guess.
One thing that you find most fulfilling for a mother?
When people come and tell me oh Ranbir is such a good boy, he is so respectful, he is such a well brought up guy, I think that gives me the greatest happiness. And when people say about Riddhima that she is so loving, she is always the first one to wish you, she is very caring. You can go with your problems to Riddhima and she will make sure she sorts it out for you. These things make me the proudest. That I did well. I did well with them. People love them, I feel the proudest when I hear these things.
As kids we all have that one thing that can fix our mood instantly, what was that for Ranbir and Riddhima?
For Ranbir it was GI Joe toys. He was obsessed with it. It was in stages, I guess. When he became a little older, he wanted a bike, then a car. Then my husband said no car, because he did not want to spoil the children. Then after so much convincing he finally got the car when he was 18 or 19. Riddhima wanted to highlight her hair at one point and I said no way are you highlighting. She was also about 15 or 16. She wrote me such a long letter, saying mom this is the only thing I want in life, I will never ask for anything ever. Please let me do the highlights. I did not believe in highlights, because I thought it’ll spoil her hair and all that. So many times when they wanted something and I did not want to spoil them and my husband did not want to spoil them so we would say no. When Ranbir was assisting in Black, he told him to go by an auto or a bus. I never ever bought Riddhima a designer bag. Because how will they value what they get in life or from their partners, if you spoil them when you are children. Today she values it when Bharat buys her something. And Ranbir poor thing, he was so tall and he had to go to America on these long flights and he had to go in economy, he used to say mom, my legs get numb, I get jammed. The only thing I used to make sure then was to give him an aisle seat. So at least he can stretch his legs. I think these things are important. I would give the credit of this to my husband, because I used to spoil them. So basically, we just wanted them to learn the value of life, value of money. This has been our upbringing for them. That helped them in the way they are today. They value a lot of things.
How do they manage their time with you and vice versa
I want them to be busy with their lives. I say mere dil mein raho, mere sar pe mat chadho (stay in my heart, don’t stand on my head). When Riddhima was with me for the pandemic, I was so stressed for one year because she couldn’t go back. I used to get so restless. I used to tell her Riddhima to go back, Bharat is alone. I was literally pushing her away. I like my privacy. I am used to this way of life. I remember when Riddhima was going to London to study I used to howl for days. If someone would even come to meet her and say goodbye I used to start crying. But when years later Ranbir went, I didn’t. He told me, mom you don’t love me. But it isn’t that. It was just that I had gotten used to that life, of living away from a child. So when it happened again, I was prepared. I think those times when they were abroad made me stronger and made me feel that I am okay being alone. Also, they have to get on with their lives. I get happy when they come, but I want them to go back to their homes and be settled. I just say one thing, don’t meet me every day, but stay connected. I don’t want them to be around me all the time, I am very independent that way. I love my life the way it is.
One thing you wish you would have done differently as a mother…
I became a mother at 22. Maybe sometimes I screamed at them when I was angry. I now understand that if a child is behaving in a different way there has to be an issue. Don’t scream, get to the bottom of it. I analyse things now. I don’t get upset or don’t get angry with them. That time I was so young I used to just be like just shut up, just do that. I feel one should have children at a later stage, when you are more calm.
Listen in to the interview right here…