when she visited her son’s school and the teachers gathered around her, Zohr thought the crowd was for him. “He was not allowed to watch TV and didn’t know that I acted in serials,” claims Smriti Irani alias Tulsi of Kyunki Saas bhi kabhi Bahu thi. As for herself, Smriti is a TV buff. The first thing she does after returning home from work, even if it is well past midnight, is switch on the TV.
“That’s her way of unwinding,” says Zubin, her husband. Beyond this nugget of information, Smriti will not let Zubin say anything more and threatens that if he does, it will mean the end of the dahi chicken she cooks for him on Sundays.
It is ironic that her roles, which often portray her as a strong-willed woman, are contrary to the life she led as a child. Smriti was born and brought up in a conservative household. Bubai to her parents, Smriti started her career by selling beauty products in New Delhi’s Janpath. “I sold them for Rs 250 per day,” she recalls. Before that, she had worked in her father’s courier company but quit because she was seen as ‘Daddy’s girl’. When her father learnt that she wanted to move to Mumbai, he ordered her to leave. “I told my family that they will only hear from me after I make it,” Smriti recalls. It took her less than a year to make a mark.
Born and brought up in Delhi, she went to a local school in the Capital’s Vasant Kunj area. “I never showed any spark or was considered as someone capable.” She says she was a ‘pipsqueak’ who would sit around at home. “I never played a prank, never bunked school and had no friends,” she says. The same, she says, is true at work. The only interesting thing she remembers having done as a kid was beat up a boy. “Some boys were harassing my sister. I caught hold of one of the guys and there was a scuffle. I could hear my mother scream.”
Her favourite chant is, “I am very, very boring”, and her style unassuming. In fact, her plain Jane looks are as deliberate as her not-so-flashy attire. She can easily pass off as the woman next door. It is perhaps for this reason that even in the heat and dust of UP, she did not attract much attention. She attributes this to the UP reality: there is no electricity for anyone to watch TV.