A new chapter for Karisma Kapoor

Suhani Singh

Karisma Kapoor has walked into Otter's Club, Bandra, and all eyes are on her. With a glowing complexion and a lean figure which would be the envy of any woman, the 39-year-old mother of two is nonchalant about all the attention. Her seven-year-old daughter, Samaira, is under the weather and Kapoor the mother is casting reproachful looks at the rains outside. Dressed in a black racerback top and light green track pants, Kapoor completes her look with a bright pink lipstick, black-rimmed glasses and black nail polish. The actress, the mother, the face of nine brands, elder sister of Kareena Kapoor, Karisma Kapoor is starting a new chapter in her life as an author.

This new avatar is as close as one will get to knowing the real Karisma Kapoor, a celebrity who has always been extremely guarded about her personal life. In the 200 plus pages of My Yummy Mummy Guide: From Getting Pregnant to Being a Successful Working Mom and Beyond, Kapoor shares her experiences and offers tips on prenatal care, motherhood, eating, fitness, fashion and raising kids. Written in collaboration with popular chic-lit author Madhuri Banerjee, the book showcases Kapoor's maternal side and details her fitness regimen as well as her diet mantras.

The book is a quick, breezy read with information broken down into bullet points and loaded with illustrations. No wonder Kapoor is excited about its release after spending over a year and a half working on the project. Shobhaa De goaded me into writing this book,says Kapoor. I felt I could help people by telling them things that I have been through myself. The aim, she adds, was to reach out to mothers and mothers-to-be who want to look good, be fit and be the best mom they can be. Of the many celebrity mothers in Bollywood, perhaps there's no better candidate than Karisma Kapoor to hold forth on the subject of motherhood. After all Kapoor inspired awe amongst mothers across India when she lost a whopping 24 kg after the birth of Samaira, in March 2005, and son Kiaan, in March 2010. Initially a gym enthusiast, Kapoor says she was inspired by sister Kareena to take up power yoga. She says her new routine not only helped her shed the kilos but also provided her spiritual comfort.

Even though she admits she wasn't entirely sold on the title, Kapoor says this book gave her an opportunity to reach out to readers and reminiscence about her two pregnancies. Of the many roles she has played on screen, it is the one of mother that gives Kapoor the most joy. It is an unbelievable bond. You're responsible for these two little human beings and they can't do without you. I do appreciate all the awards I have recieved but I think being a mother has been my greatest reward. You just have to be selfless. Kapoor's two children are top on her priority list today. Being a mother, is an everyday learning process, she says. I choose work keeping in my mind my children's schedules.

I sometimes even give up doing certain projects. One of them until last year included acting in films. Kapoor returned after a nine-year sabbatical to star in Dangerous Ishhq, a 3D reincarnation tale that left audiences cold. Sometimes something that sounds great on paper doesn't turn out the way it is meant to on the screen, Kapoor says. But adds that she has no regrets about choosing Vikram Bhatt's supernatural thriller.

My kids enjoyed the experience of visiting the film sets,she says. Speaking about Bollywood today, Kapoor says a lot has changed. The industry has become more disciplined and the work process more streamlined. Today, things are so much easier, she says. You get the best of everything on a platter,the best make-up artists, stylists and publicists. You can do one or two films a year. And look at the media coverage you get! It is amazing that you don't have to struggle to be noticed any more. Thanks to multiplexes, all kind of films are being made. There is work for everyone, she adds.

This is in stark contrast to the 1990s when Kapoor entered the industry. She was 16 and had just finished school when she landed on the sets to shoot her first film, Prem Qaidi, in 1990. For the next 14 years, Kapoor was one of the busiest actresses in the Hindi film industry, at times having seven releases in a year. In the early 90s, the more films you had, the more successful and happening you were considered, she says. I worked like a dog, doing three to four shifts a day. Her partnership with Govinda and director David Dhawan resulted in many hits such as Raja Babu, Coolie No 1, Hero No 1 and Biwi No 1. But as an actress she would be tested and receive due recognition when she worked outside the collaboration to star in Raja Hindustani, Dil To Pagal Hai, Fiza and Zubeidaa. The performances in these films would win her awards including the National Award for best supporting actress for Dil To Pagal Hai.

Kapoor says, When I did Fiza, Zubeidaa and Shakti, all highly intense films, I was burned out. I said to myself 'I cannot do another emotional movie now.' As demanding as being an actress was back then, Kapoor enjoyed the process. The entire experience made me a better actress and person. It taught me that you have to work for everything in life.Some 50 films later, she decided it was time for a much-needed break.

Escape came in the form of marriage to Delhi-based businessman Sunjay Kapur in 2003. Kapoor refuses to speak about her marriage, and the book barely mentions her husband. The clearest sign that all is not well between the couple is that Kapoor has been living with her children and mother Babita in Mumbai for the last several years. When asked about the constant speculation surrounding her personal life, Kapoor demurs, I try my best to shield the children from the media. I think it is better to keep them innocent for as long as one can. My privacy is very important to me. In the book, Kapoor writes that she would like her children to pursue higher education and enjoy campus life, experiences which she missed out on because she began working in films so early. Their primary focus should be on education, she says. Whatever profession they choose, I will always support them. I wouldn't push them to join films.In the book, Kapoor also writes about her mother Babita, a popular actor of the the 70s who separated from Randhir Kapoor and brought up Karisma and Kareena on her own.

Like Babita, Karisma has managed to keep her children away from the spotlight. As children, we went on shoots to RK Studios on a Sunday to meet our father and grandfather (Raj Kapoor). It was only when we were much older that our interest in films began to develop. When asked about her mother's influence in her life, Kapoor says, My mother has been a huge inspiration to both of us.

Her upbringing and simple lessons such as understanding the value of money go a long way in life.Apart from her mother's support in bringing up the children, Karisma also shares a great relationship with her film star sister Kareena. Asked what tips would she give Kareena, who married Saif Ali Khan in 2012, she laughs and says, She had better read the book, adding, She has been a part of it all and has a lot of experience so it will be much easier.Even as her younger sister continues to act post-marriage, Karisma isn't eager to return to the big screen. I do get offers but I have really not been excited about anything, says Kapoor. It is a big responsibility to take 80 to 100 days out of your life when you are a mother.

For the time being, Karisma Kapoor is content to allow her days to revolve around her children; she wakes them up at 7 am and puts them to bed by 9 pm while ensuring that their television viewing is restricted to BBC CBeebies and Disney Channel and that too only from Friday to Sunday. When Kapoor ventures out it is only after giving her mother some 50-odd instructions.

She often reminds me, 'You do realise I have raised two children on my own,'Kapoor laughs. Clearly Karisma Kapoor is in a happy space. I seek balance and normalcy in life. I have no trappings of a star. I am way beyond that stage today.

Karisma's top parenting tips: