No substitute for love, care and attention

Actress Isha Koppikar on how she likes to lead her child by example, and how she finds digital gadgets a far bigger cause for worry than social media – BHUMIKA K.

Isha Koppikar

Model and actress Isha Koppikar and restaurateur Timmy Narang are parents of little Rianna, who will be five this month. Isha started modeling while still in college, and made her debut in Telugu cinema with Chandralekha in 1998. Since then, she has acted in a host of Tamil, Kannada and Bollywood/Hindi movies including En Swaasa Katre, Surya Vamsha, Fiza, Company, Kya Kool Hai Hum among others. She recently signed up as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party just before General Election 2019. But that hasn’t stopped her attempting a comeback in southern cinema again, specially Kannada and Tamil films.

Speaking to ParentsWorld, Isha explains her parenting style, and how being a celebrity-mother makes her no different from any other mom. She also busts several beauty myths and stresses that there are no shortcuts to health and looking good and fit. Excerpts:

What are the moments you enjoy most with Rianna?

We love to play music, dance and dabble in art. She’s just started cooking classes and she really seems to enjoy them. Her teacher is staging a joint mother and daughter cook-out. I am really looking forward to it.

You took a breather from films a few years ago. Was it because of motherhood? Did you feel the need to spend more time with your child?

Yes, I wanted to give full attention to Rianna in her first formative years. Nevertheless, I didn’t cut myself off from the film industry entirely. I did a couple of films in south India and Rianna travelled with me during those shoots. But I spent most of my time with my child. I believe that love, care, and undivided attention should be lavished on children in their earliest years. There’s no substitute for it.

What has been your biggest challenge as a parent?

It’s too early to define her character because right now I have my hands full dealing with her tantrums. Mind you, I don’t give in to my daughter’s tantrums easily because if I do, it will spoil her and will reward bad behaviour. So, I am firm on most occasions. But it really breaks my heart to see Rianna sad or crying. I don’t agree that sparing the rod spoils children. Although I am dead against corporal punishment, I am quite strict for her own good.

What is your parenting philosophy? What kind of parents are you and your husband?

We are hands-on parents and we usually walk our talk. So we try to model good behaviour to her. Basically, our parenting philosophy is to lead by example.

You are always in the limelight first as an actress now as a politician. How do you shield your daughter from the media glare, especially of social media?

I don’t believe I need to shield her from anything. I go with the flow. There are lots of times when she wants to be in the picture. When somebody wants to click pictures with me — a fan, people who love me — at the airport or in shopping malls, Rianna always wants to join in. I love that… it’s fine with me.

The only thing I am strict about is keeping her away from the cellphone and fancy gadgets — iPhone, the tablet, the iPad and television as well. Television viewing time is limited. I do all this because these gadgets can ruin a child’s eyesight and brain, so I am strict about these things.

As an actor, you need to maintain your body weight, image and complexion. A lot of teens today have body image issues because they have become very image conscious. Do you believe the film and beauty industry is largely driving this?

Yes, of course the film and beauty industry is largely driving this trend. Everybody wants to be perfect. Everybody wants to look good. Everybody wants to be thin. But this is not a socially beneficial development because let me tell you most of what we look like in our pictures, is photoshopped. We all have our flaws and assets. My advice to teens and young people is to be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else.

Just because somebody else has beautiful eyebrows, teens crave them. Somebody else has full lips, they get botox; somebody is size zero so they blow up money on liposuction. This is a sick, unhealthy trend. This issue needs to be addressed and I want to tell all my fans and all youngsters out there that their most important priority should be to maintain fitness and health. It is not so important to be a zero size or have a thin waist that you undergo treatment that changes your physiology. There are no shortcuts to being healthy and fit.

You have to have a balanced diet. Go to a good nutritionist if necessary, and adopt a good exercise regimen. It’s very important for all people to exercise. That’s the only way to become and remain fit.

God made us in a certain way. Accept it, live with it, love it. The day people start loving themselves and becoming confident about themselves, they start looking beautiful. Don’t listen to people who don’t matter. People who love you will love you for the way you are, anyway. So I don’t think you should bother about external, ephemeral beauty.

You have returned to the film world with gusto now, specially to the southern film industry and you have plunged into politics. Will that alter your relationship with your child?

I keep my personal and professional lives quite separate. I am very clear about my responsibilities and priorities. If I have to attend a parent-teachers meeting in Rihanna’s school and at the same time have a business meeting, I re-schedule the business meeting because I have to go for Rianna’s PTM.

There are times when you have to compromise and adjust — life is like that. So I would not say that only my profession or my family is important. I believe it is possible to balance family and professional life. And that’s the successful life we should strive for.

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