Nadia has a brand of body confidence that’ll make even young actresses envious. Sashidhar Adivi catches up with her for an insightful conversation.
I was born and raised in Mumbai to Mayalai parents. I’m a Mumbaikar, although my roots are in Kerala. I’m married to a Maharashtraian and as such, I’m also fluent in Marathi. I have acted and directed several plays while I was in school and mimicked teachers. Director Fasil first encouraged me to take up films after he saw my dance and acting skills. I debuted with his Malayalam film ‘Nokkethadhoorathu Kannum Nattu’ in 1984. I was in plus 2 at that time and used to shoot only during holidays. After the success of the film, I decided to peruse a career in acting.
Films kept me busy till marriage and life in films made me understand the world better. Back then, my father and I used to tell filmmakers upfront about any objectionable scenes during the narration itself. Cinema taught me a lot and changed me as a person. It kept me grounded than ever because I realized it is a very short-lived industry. The glamour field might take you to a new high altogether, so you need to have your own people around to keep you grounded. And the fall can be very fast and brutal too. So cinema has always been my passion and not priority.
My boyfriend proposed to me first
I met my husband even before I got into films. I have known him since I was 17. He used to live in our neighborhood. Six months later, after getting familiar with each other, he proposed to me and we started seeing each other. Soon, he left aboard for higher studies. So we pursued a long distance relationship and we used to meet once in a year whenever he came to Mumbai for vacation. He used to visit me on the sets if I were shooting elsewhere.
When I asked my boyfriend about my debut film offer, he said, “We are in a very early stage of relationship for me to say ‘no’ to the offer. It’s your family’s decision and if your parents think it’s good, go ahead.” He came back to India on a holiday and I met him for the first time after my debut film was a huge hit. We had a serious discussion on how to go about our lives. He was actually worried that I became an actress; my lifestyle had changed and he wondered whether I can adjust with him (smiles). But I reinforced that I’m happy spending the rest of my life with him and quit films. So I always knew that I’m not going to be in the industry for a long time. I was waiting for him to finish education so that we can get married and settle down.
Marriage or films?
Just when I was about to get married, I was offered Bhagyashree’s role in ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. But I had turned down the offer and entered into wedlock with my boyfriend. I was so much in love with him that I just want to marry and spend time with him because we were staying away from each other for a long time. So I decided to get married. It was the best decision I took in my life and I credit my parents for that because when I decided to quit films they stood by me. They don’t want cinema to always be my life but only a part. They believe there’s life beyond cinema. So my last film before marriage was Rajinikanth’s ‘Raja di Raja’ and I remember he gave a nice farewell party after the shoot.
Life in USA
After marriage, I left for Boston. We started to understand and enjoy each other’s company. His friends taught me cooking (smiles). Also, I persued an Associate Degree in Communication Arts (Radio and Television) in USA on my husband’s advice. I enjoyed being a homemaker too. I realised that women as homemakers need to be thanked endlessly for their job. But I was missing my parents (mother and dad) more than cinema.
It was tough and there were times when I cried for them. Then my husband asked me to go to India and visit my parents so that I’ll feel better. In one of my trips to Mumbai, Tamil filmmakers approached me with a script. I wasn’t prepared for it but my husband convinced me saying that if people still like to see me on screen after so many years, I should take it up. Then I shot for a couple of films during my holiday trips in 1994. Later I moved to India since my husband found his work in Mumbai and I staged a comeback with ‘M Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi’ film in 2004. I started taking up projects slowly and also make time for my family too. I’m able to balance it well with their cooperation.
Mom, I didn’t know you’re so popular!
A couple of weeks back in Dubai people were clicking pics with me. My younger daughter (15) said, “Mom, I didn’t know you’re so popular (smiles)! Thanks to the Telugu films that are being dubbed in Hindi and aired. But it comes to parenting, I’m a strict mom but my husband goes easy. I listen a lot to what my children say. We have healthy debates on various topics like relationships, crush, marriage, careers, etc.
Recently, when ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ was aired on TV, I told my kids that I was supposed to do Bhagyashree role. My kids asked me ‘how could I turn down a Salman Khan film (smiles)? I told them at that point of time,
“I have to choose between Salman Khan and marriage, and I picked your dad (smiles).”