In the 1998 tear jerker film Stepmom, the angst-ridden adolescent Anna, on finding out that her dad is leaving her mother to marry a younger woman, screams: “You didn’t ask me if I wanted a new mother. You didn’t even ask me if I liked her!”
Of course, at the end of the movie, everyone loves stepmom and they all live happily ever after, except that real mom dies of cancer soon after. <b1>
But the point is stepmom, real mom, kids and dad all end up living together as one big happy family. Much like the “little Padamsee dynasty” as Sharon Prabhakar, actress and third wife of Alyque Padamsee likes to call her large extended family which includes her husband’s ex-wives (the late Pearl Padamsee and Dolly Thakore) and his two children from them (Raell and Quasar respectively).
“We are a need-based family,” says Prabhakar who also has a daughter, Shazahn, with Alyque. “We add tremendous value to each other’s lives.” Which means hounding Quasar for a phone number while he’s in Australia, doing a play with Raell, or taking her imaginary complaint book to Dolly, who she refers to as “Miss Universe”, for help. “We all take shameless advantage of each other,” laughs Sharon. “We pondered on each other’s positives instead of the negatives which forged a strong bond between us.”
Having such a complicated family tree could be daunting for any kid. But not for the Padamsee offspring. Until he was 15, however, Quasar grew up with the complex of having “step parents” and was full of self-pity.
“As a kid, I was fed a load of bull through fairy tales like Cinderella which portrayed the stepmother as an evil being,” he says. Far from evil, Quasar started to look to Pearl as a mentor and was shattered when she passed away in 2000. “She was my wise old aunt who opened up the world for me. Even though I wasn’t a blood relative, I stayed with her body the whole time during the funeral.”
On the other hand Sharon is more like a friend to Quasar. “It isn’t a parent-child equation with us. She has such a young vibe to her that we are more like equals,” says Quasar who recalls Sharon giving him his first ever music system. “She was a wonderful stepmother, ensuring that I spent time with my sister and nagging dad for my pocket money.”
The word “step” doesn’t figure in Shazahn’s vocabulary. “Family is family, be it exes or stepmothers,” she says firmly. Pearl was her kind godmother who used to invite her around for all the Jewish festivities. Dolly is like her aunt who never forgets her birthdays. She has deep respect for her half-sister Raell, but she’s closest to Quasar. “He is a very key person in my life today as I ask him for career advice before I take any decision,” says Shazahn who was ecstatic that Quasar was flying down from Delhi especially for her birthday party.
“With our family, conventional equations are thrown out the window,” says Quasar who is very attached to Shazahn. “Although we are not live-in siblings, we are just a phone call away from each other.”
While the Padamsee clan might seem straight out of a dysfunctional Sooraj Barjatya type happy family movie, Quasar admits that there were scars to be healed when his dad left his mom and married Sharon. He believes the birth of Shazahn played a major part in bringing the family together. “My parents made up after Shazahn was born because my mother wanted to get to know her.”
Being an only child and a girl, the whole family gravitated towards Shazahn. “Pearl Aunty got a god child and Q wanted a sister so it was a win-win situation for everyone,” smiles Shazahn.
Sharon on her part wanted to solidify the family from day one. “By nature I am a nurturer so I didn’t want any barriers to be preset between any of the family members,” she says. And it seems to have all worked out well in the end. The family gets together for birthdays, festivals, plays and movies. “We’re quite a gang,” smiles Sharon.