Despite the stammer, how have you managed such a successful acting career?
I was very conscious of it [stammering] early on in life, so I made sure that I worked towards my lines (from films) in such a way that I knew them thoroughly and I would know where to take the pauses exactly to be able to camouflage that. I always choose to look at the positive side of things. In fact, spending time with Adira (her daughter with husband Aditya Chopra) and seeing her happy gave me a lot of strength to come out of a sort of depression that I got into because of my father passing away recently.
But you never mentioned anything about stammering. Is there a reason why you didn’t want anyone to know about it?
I didn’t think it was something that needed to be spoken about at that point. But today, many want to know about people, who have had such ‘weaknesses’ so that such examples can encourage other people — who are also going experiencing the same things — to come out of it. It possibly gives a lot of inspiration to people to follow that kind of an example. That’s why it’s more relevant in today’s time because there is more media as well as social media presence. So, there are more ways of reaching out to people.
Do you feel that even people’s mindset have changed in today’s dayandage?
Earlier, I think people were more interested in your performance and your film. They would know their actors from a distance. There was still a magic around an artiste or an illusion wherein you couldn’t touch the artiste. But nowadays, people are more accepting because people are coming out on social media and talking about their weaknesses, their flaws, and they are making it an example for people to follow. So, I guess today, such things have become very relevant. Yes, and I think it always comes from the kind of look that you get when a person stammers. I don’t look at it as discrimination in terms of it being a disease but the fact that one looks at it as a weakness. Stammering falls under the ‘discrimination’ bracket when people look at you and wonder why you talk in a certain manner or they feel uncomfortable when somebody stammers and so, don’t know how to react.
You earlier mentioned that some of your mother’s family members also used to stammer…
Yes, my mum used to talk about her uncle who had a stammering problem. I think after a while, when you accept that you stammer, you actually go ahead and can laugh about it. It’s nothing to feel conscious or shy about. Since my mother would tell me stories about herself and my uncle, she – in a way – made it quite normal for us to not attach any kind of stigma to it. So, it wasn’t like, ‘oh, if you stammer, that’s something out of the blue’. We were told, ‘it’s okay to have a stammer as you can still pursue your career and live life with it’. You’ve to overcome that in your own way.
Going by so many examples around you, do you personally feel no one should let stammering become a hindrance in their lives?
Yes, and it’s because you never know how it starts. I have to research and understand as to why do stuttering or stammering happens. It has something to do with a part of your nervous system that controls your speech. I feel the good part in life is that if you have positive people around you, you can be an achiever and turn that weakness into your strength. You have to tackle it yourself because if you get upset about a certain flaw in you, that can take you towards a ‘not very nice place.’ So, it’s way better to come out triumphed. It’s better to set an example rather than becoming an example yourself.