Neha Dhupia, who turns 41 today, is expecting her second baby with husband Angad Bedi. Currently in her third trimester, Neha has been working continuously all through her pregnancy. In this interview with News18.com, Neha reveals the reason to work during pregnancy, the misconception that being pregnant means one has to sit at home, the pressure of bouncing back and preparing Mehr about having a sibling. Excerpts:
What kind of headspace are you in currently?
It’s super hectic. I’ve just been treating this pregnancy a little differently than my first one. Not that I wasn’t working right up till the end during Mehr. I still remember I was producing and hosting No Filter Neha during the last two months. I am not going to lie, some days are really tough. I don’t want to make it out to be a situation but I want to say that pregnancy is not something that needs to come in the way of us wanting to have professional aspirations as well.
Was it a conscious decision to keep working?
As an actor, the joy of being in the film industry is that you can make your own decisions if people support you. The flipside is that they are very quick to judge. The minute you say ‘I am pregnant,’ many feel that the person is going to go on a sabbatical and I just want to change that perception. But I can’t do that alone. I am not a one woman army. There should be people who are willing to work with you and one such case was director Behzad Khambata and producer Ronnie Screwvala with whom I am working on a film titled A Thursday in which I am playing a cop. They willingly changed the script around. We locked the film last November when I was not pregnant. The shoot was delayed because of Covid and when I went back to them and told them about my pregnancy, they said ‘You are playing a cop, you’re not the first cop to get pregnant, you’re not the first female actor to get pregnant, so we will combine and support you through it.’
At the same time, I lost out on a lot of opportunities. So there is a sense of security and insecurity and I want to change that around. If I do this, it may allow a few women the encouragement to not curb their personal aspirations. When female actors take a break for a few years and come back, everyone terms it as a ‘comeback.’ On the other hand, male actors who become fathers and are on a break, don’t have to take sabbatical and make a comeback. This is the world that we are living in. We are talking about equal parenting and paternity leave. So I just want to say that pregnancies don’t make women weaker, it just makes them stronger.
Why is the industry still wary about working with pregnant women?
There is a child involved and people want to work with caution as no one wants to be in a situation which they regret later. So it’s not that they are bad people. Having said that, if you’re willing to go out there and work, then the opportunity should be given. There are many women who want to continue working for various reasons and there is nothing wrong with that too.
How difficult is it to then maintain a work life balance? Are there times when you feel like just putting your feet up and doing nothing?
Yes, I do feel like doing that. But then you can’t because like I said, my first pregnancy was all about me because we were still awaiting Mehr’s arrival. But my second pregnancy is about making sure that I’m healthy enough to carry a baby and also look after another one. I have immense support from Angad. He is simply fantastic. There are times when I am lying down and can’t turn to my side and get up from the other side and help me do it. There are days when it does get overwhelming. There are some extremely bad nights and you wake up with morning sickness. I just want to tell people that it’s not as pretty as the pictures that one sees with, you know, flowing gowns and Mama holding their bellies (Laughs). So, I know I have been unreasonable at times, but Angad has always been there. When I am shooting, he is filing in. We have a schedule chalked out for Mehr through the week as I feel like kids on schedule are easier to manage. I feel equal parenting is such an unsaid kind of understanding. I’m ambitious about my career, but I’ve always prioritised and balanced my family life.
Did you always want to have a second child?
I am not sure. Sometimes we think yes and sometimes we are like okay it just happened. But yes Angad and I were never going to be ‘one and done’ kind of parents. Also, it is only because of Mehr that we had the encouragement of having another baby.
How different has it been this time around? With the pandemic, have you been extra cautious?
It has been tough. I contracted a mild version of Covid and I was scared because I was completing my first month of pregnancy. I had to stay away from Mehr and was sleeping on the floor in a certain position and she would often question why I wasn’t sleeping next to her and I had to make her understand. But thankfully we passed that too. I have started shooting and that hasn’t been easy. I am in my third trimester and it does get exhausting. There are many protocols to follow but thankfully the people around me have been really sweet and have taken extra care. The one thing that definitely changed is that you’re the best person giving yourself advice as opposed to your first pregnancy when everyone around you is giving you advice. I am aware and conscious about the things that I do. A large part of this pregnancy is making sure that, you know, we make Mehr understand what’s happening as she is going to have a higher sense of adjustment when she sees the baby, as opposed to the baby. I am just making sure that a lot of my time is dedicated towards looking after the baby, my health, Mehr and of course Angad and I are taking one day at a time with immense amounts of patience.
Mehr will turn three soon. What is the kind of conversation that you’ll be having with her about the arrival of a new member?
We are getting her ready about having a sibling. She goes to her friends houses who have newborns so she has seen it. We are making her ready by saying that she will soon have to share her room. Sometimes I show her own photographs when she was a baby and she sweetly says, ‘That’s the baby who is coming,’ and I tell her that’s you (Laughs). What I have heard is that elder sisters are caring and only time will tell that but she is otherwise an extremely caring person. I’m a little wary only because there is a possibility of a third wave coming in. And as a mother, I am overprotective that nothing should harm my children.
In a recent interview, Megan Fox shared her voice about the pressure of being a working mom, and how Hollywood is not adapted to it. She also said that female actors are eager to get back to work, just because of societal pressure and getting back in shape. Do these thoughts come to your mind too?
Of course it does. There is a huge pressure to bounce back as the like that kind of doubles up as mothers and actors. And that’s what you need to fight. That is one of the reasons when you have to work through your pregnancy because you don’t need to be in a situation where you are gone. The one thing that has changed is it depends on the kind of roles you actually want to do. The definition of a leading lady has changed and it is all because of many female actors who have tried really hard to break the notions or myths of the roles that one can portray in films. Not every woman has to have a certain kind of body type or features. But is there a certain amount of pressure to bounce back? Of course there is. It is created by everybody who is watching you. But even after having Mehr, I lost my pregnancy weight much later, as I started training when I thought I was ready for it. The reason behind that was because I found the whole process of breastfeeding was very tiring, even more tiring than being pregnant. See, you know, no matter what you do, there are people who are going to be quick to judge, but it is better to do what you feel like.
I am curious to know how you handled things like doctor visits and ultrasound appointments while being followed by paparazzi, your every move watched.
I don’t care much about it for myself. The truth is that I signed up for it. I decided to be a public figure. The moments that are private for me are when I am with Mehr or my family. As long as their privacy is protected. I’m okay. Yes there are days when it’s hard and you don’t need to be photographed. Like a couple of days back, I had a terrible morning as I was up all night due to extreme exhaustion due to shooting.
Is that the reason, Angad and you haven’t really put out any photographs of Mehr on social media. Her first photograph was put out by your father-in-law Bishen Singh Bedi, a year after she was born, while you were visiting Amritsar?
I think he was more excited about us visiting the ancestral home. His intention was never to put the picture out. But he is allowed everything. But yes, Angad and I have put out pictures where her face isn’t visible. The reason behind that is the day she is ready and has her mind of her own, and if she doesn’t want any of her pictures out there then we did the right thing and if she does, she can always do it on her own.