Before I was born, my parents desperately wanted their first child to be a daughter. In fact, they had only shopped for clothes for a baby girl. So though they got a boy, my mom dressed me as a girl till I was all of two years old. Similarly, I always only wanted daughters. I am extremely lucky because I have been gifted with two of them…Ananya and Rysa.
When Ananya was born, I was over the moon. She was born in the early hours of the morning … And when I first saw her, she was round-faced, had a full mop of hair and was hungry as hell. She almost bit off my nose when I tried to kiss her. Ananya is a honeymoon baby. She took birth 9 months and a few weeks after our marriage. Strangely, my wife Bhavna and I are also honeymoon babies. Also, all three of us are born in the year of the Tiger …what a strange coincidence!
The internet named her Ananya. Bhavna and I were new to computers then but we spent a lot of time browsing for names. And then we found Ananya! It’s a Sanskrit name that means matchless. We thought it was unique but by the time she went to school, there were a few more Ananyas in the same class and there was even a boy called Ananya!
As a child, Ananya started walking and talking very early. She was a very happy child. I had a new pet name for her every month. I spent a lot of time with her in the swimming pool. Bhavna, who is paranoid about water, always made sure that Ananya wore floats. One day, when Ananya was about two years old, she jumped into the deep end of the pool. My heart sank but fortunately she managed to thrash around and reach the safe edge of the pool. I figured she must have observed people swimming and learnt how to stay afloat. Ananya is a very good swimmer now.
In her growing years, I played the good cop and Bhavna the bad one. But Ananya is very close to Bhavna now. The first thing she asks when she enters the house is: ‘Where is mama?’ I have had to discipline her very rarely; and when I did, I have ended up buying lot of toys and books for her. I trust her immensely and she has never broken that trust.
Part of the first batch of students at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Ananya had lovely classmates and made some great friends…they are all still thick as thieves. She was a good student and an avid reader. She never missed a day at school unless she was ill. Who knew that some day she would make her acting debut in a film called Student Of The Year 2 (SOTY 2)!
Karan Johar has been like a father figure to her and she is very fortunate to get a platform like Dharma to showcase her talent in their production Student Of The Year 2. Karan is the best when it comes to spotting and grooming new talents. I’m sure she won’t disappoint him.
I wasn’t instrumental in Anaya signing her debut film. I have known Karan from his early years but I never really got a chance to work with him. He has seen Ananya since she was a baby, however, he had no clue she wanted to be an actor. Dharma was auditioning for SOTY 2 and the director Punit Malhotra auditioned her twice. I got to know about all this much later when Karan called Bhavna and told her Ananya had been finalised for the film.
Ananya has always been a Bollywood buff, and would listen and dance only to Hindi music; no rap, hip hop or any Hollywood stuff for her. She knows the hook steps of almost all Bollywood songs. KJo’s films have had a huge influence on her. So when she signed SOTY 2 it was a dream come true. For a parent there is no bigger happiness than seeing your child happy
My only advice to her is not to imitate anyone’s path to success. I tell her, ‘What has worked for someone else may not necessarily work for you. And don’t ever underestimate or write off any person. In our profession all it takes is one correct film to bounce back.’
I always tell this story to all newcomers: A producer asked God, ‘Will my film be a hit?’ God replied, ‘I can only tell you that on Friday after the first show.’ A film’s success and failure is never in an actor’s hands. So I told Ananya: ‘Forget about the outcome of the film, people should remember your character when they leave the theatre.’ She is still very young and is bound to make many good and bad decisions. It’s her journey. I want her to enjoy it. She has a very clear mind and a hunger to learn and experiment. Like all youngsters, she wants everything to happen yesterday! She can be impatient but she will learn in time.
When I attended the preview of SOTY 2, I was pleasantly shocked to see her onscreen. Her character Shreya had no resemblance to the girl I had raised. Bhavna was full of nerves so I told her that we had nothing to worry about. …Our girl can act!
I would like to be remembered as Ananya’s father. I would love to act in a comedy film with Ananya; she has the flair for it. We never have a straight conversation…We are always laughing or joking about everything. I miss the baby years of both my girls. I still can’t believe they are all grown up now.