What is that one thing you’ve done as a woman that makes you proud?
The proudest thing that I have done as a woman is giving shoulders to my father when he passed away and lighting the pyre at his cremation. I think that was a pathbreaking act. I am very proud of it.
What are the important things needed in a place to create a supportive and safe environment for women both at home and in the workplace?
I think the most important thing is mental fitness and it can be initiated with sports. Be it a man or a woman, they should learn martial arts which will give them mental strength, keep them calm, busy, disciplined and responsible. They will be supported and cared for at home. They will feel safe and create a safe environment at home and at the workplace for themselves and women. I feel all parents should encourage their children for sports and martial arts.
What do you think are the ideals of feminism?
For me, feminism means supporting each other and not about thrashing men. It’s about standing up for each other and working together. It is the freedom to choose, to act, to react in every situation at home or workplace.
What will it take to eradicate the negative perception associated with feminism?
We need to stop forming a group of women to fight against men. We need more male feminists in society. I feel, we cannot do without them. We just have to be in our favour but not against them.
Who has been your biggest support in life and why?
My mother has been my biggest support in life since she has lived her life through me and things that I have done in my life. She is very charming and can help uplift anyone. I have always looked up to her and been inspired by her. Then comes my brother, sister and my father who is no more. My grandfather also lent me a lot of support along with my joint family.
If you were in a position of power, how would you change the assumptions made by men about women?
I feel women motivational speakers should guide powerful men in powerful positions and tell them what they often think of women is not right. There are positive thinkers as well but as women, we also need to keep working on ourselves to change these assumptions. We need to adopt a positive approach. Negativity versus negativity will always end up in a fight.
How can men contribute to achieving equality and mutual respect?
Men could open their minds and hear opinionated women in a positive way. Men could contribute by giving them equal opportunities to prove themselves. Men can look up to other women when they are doing better than them instead of having ego issues. Men can stand with their girlfriend, wives, sisters and mothers and support their ventures or businesses. It happens but there’s still a major gap that needs to be filled.
Have you faced any kind of discrimination as a woman compared to your male counterparts, be it at home or the workplace?
I have always been treated equally at home. I am single and I have two brothers. I have always told them that if I am a leader outside, I will be a leader at home as well. I practise what I preach. So I have not faced any kind of discrimination. My mother has brought us up equally and I want everybody to be as blessed as I am.
What are your expectations from men for creating a healthy, long-lasting relationship and keeping the spark alive?
To be very honest, men and women are very different from each other. It’s not fair to say that we have to be equally treated. Men have different kinds of hormones which work in different ways, I guess. But, I would expect him to have mutual respect for my lifestyle. I am not saying that we have to live separate lifestyles but a lifestyle which is mutually accepted and respected. That is very important. I am a health and fitness freak so I feel my man has to be a fitness freak as well, because I always feel that physical fitness leads to mental fitness. I don’t have a checklist but I always feel that cordial relationships and understanding each other is very important.
Did you ever have body image issues? How did you overcome them?
Always. Your body might grow or become smaller. As a female actor, people always expect you to be thin, have a good body, perfect waist and smile all the time. After I started working in different industries, I realised that I really don’t care. This is the way I am. Anyway, I am a fitness person so I don’t grow big. But yes, when I had hurt my knee, I sat at home for 6-7 months. I had put on a lot of weight and I could not tell this to the world. That was the time when people were body shaming me and telling me that your body is not that great, you have to work out. I don’t give any importance to them.
Have you ever faced unwelcome sexual advances from your co-workers? How did you tackle a tricky situation like that?
I guess every woman in the world has faced it. But, whenever I have faced it, I have been upfront and told the other person that this approach will spoil our relationship. So please stop. I say it in a very soft and polite way and try not to offend him with my words. But it’s fine. People do get attracted to you in a physical way and I don’t judge them. I appreciate them for getting attracted to me but I tell them politely, ‘Sorry, this cannot happen between us’. An educated and smart person will always understand and won’t make a mess out of the whole thing. It’s not a big deal actually. If you say no, they will go to other people who will say yes. So politely, just say no.
What advice would you like to give to your younger self?
I would tell myself, ‘Be careful of the fragile egos around you. Don’t say anything to people that will block you or shut you. There are so many things happening behind your back which you won’t even understand. Even if you are upfront, you can make use the right words, which I always did but sometimes I did make mistakes.’ I would also tell my younger self to keep reading more and because I feel readers are leaders. I feel that gap today, because I did not inculcate reading in my childhood.