CAFÉ CELEB LIVE: What is the first thing you remember about your mother?
I remember going with her to the Kathak centre and spending the entire day with her. I was treated to chat and then some Chhole Bhature, which was like a party for me. That is something, which has stayed with me and is an experience I cherish in my memory. She wasn’t an actress at that time.
CC: Did you ever feel that she was not around when you wanted her?
Shahid: Not really because either she used to be around or I used to be with her at her work place. At times I had my grand parents with me; moreover we used to live in a locality where there were many buildings in the same compound and I had my school at a walking distance, so I had a set of 20 – 25 friends. I used to be pretty involved with my own stuff playing in the garden, cricket, breaking windowpanes and things like that so even while she was at home I was occupied with my own thing.
CC: Did she fuss over you like a typical mom?
Shahid: Oh yes, she fussed over me also but she also punished me. But then, that is so typical of a mother. Somewhere she had to play the role of the mother and the father, so she had to be loving as a mother and strict as a father. But she was quite a chilled out mom too.
CC: Do you remember getting a beating from her for anything?
Shahid: Yes, I had been beaten quite a few times but that was only till I was 11 or 12 years old. After that mom never used a hand on me. I wonder why (laughs)… I was a pretty naughty kid. But I guess she realized that now I was growing up and entering my teens so the violence had to stop (laughs out loud and tells me that it was a joke).
CC: Did you resent your mom being a working mother? Or did you understand that she had to work to bring you up?
Shahid: I don’t understand why some kids have this problem. It is actually very selfish of them to think so and resent their mothers being working women. I never felt that way and I was quite comfortable with her working.
CC: How do you relate to her more?
Shahid: It is a very one-to-one relationship, quite on an equal footing I think. And we have this special bond between us; we share everything and it is an unsaid bond where you don’t need to constantly profess to each other that one is there for the other or we are always there for each other… it is unspoken and I think it is very beautiful.
CC: Do you share your secrets with her?
Shahid: Yes she knows everything. About my girl friends, my fights, my achievements, my humiliations, every bad thing that I did and every good thing that I did. She knows each and everything about my life.
CC: You must have seen her low at many times? What did you want to do to wipe her tears away?
Shahid: I think everybody goes through their happy and sad phases; it is a part of our lives and beyond a point it is up to every individual to work it out himself/herself. All that one can do is be there and support her…and that is what I have always done. But at the end of the day every person has his own journey and his own battles to fight out in life. You cannot fight their battles for them but you can always stand beside them and that’s what I did for her.
CC: The ambition to become an actor was for yourself or to do something for your mother?
Shahid: I have always been independent this way and it is my belief that since it is my life, the decision of the profession I choose must be mine too. So this was my personal decision. I never expressed to her that I wanted to act, in fact I told her that I was doing this film and she was all surprised because I was this 21 / year / old and doing a lead. All that she told me was to be sure of what I was doing before I started and I had in my mind that I should not embarrass my mom, she is such a fine artiste and I shouldn’t make a fool out of myself!
CC: What did you do when you got your first pay packet? Take her out or buy something for her?
Shahid: I am quite selfish and I spent it all on myself (laughs). No, but honestly when I started doing Ishq Vishq we were quite tight on money and she had to pay for my gym and supplements so I paid for all those expenses and helped her. She did not have to pay for me on those essentials and her burden was lesser. She was a single parent and had to bring us up all by herself and we weren’t all that well to do in those days. So I spent the money on essentials and not on partying and all.
CC: What is your state of mind today when you have achieved success?
Shahid: I don’t think I can ever be as good a parent as mom is. She puts her children before herself and it is not an easy quality to come by. She sacrificed her career for making ours. I know my success means a lot to her. We have struggled a lot and we have together seen difficult times but we just held hands and made sure that we stayed afloat and didn’t drown. Today, things are looking good and it is a very emotionally satisfying situation for me that I can do something for my mother.
CC: How much of your success do you owe to her?
Shahid: I am what I am today because of her – the way she brought me up and the things that she taught me about life. It is largely because of her that I can see things falling into place today. So I do owe my success to her partly directly and partly indirectly. Whatever I do, including what I do in my work is a reflection of how she has brought me up.
CC: In one word – how would you describe your relationship with her?
CAFÉ CELEB LIVE: What was your feeling when you first took Shahid in your arms?
When Shahid was born, I was a teenager myself. He was amazing to look at and now we all keep teasing him what happened to you, you were such a beautiful baby. The first thing I felt was that this could not be my baby, ye toh firangi lagtha hai, mera to bunder jaisa bachcha hona chaiye. And ever since then, Shahid has been nothing but pleasure, happiness and joy.
CC: Did you feel that this was someone who would always belong to you?
Neelima: He was my special gift. Since my childhood I wanted someone very special of my own. Shahid has been a very consistent factor in my life and vice versa. We have been through lots of ups and downs but we have come through the worst. This makes us closely bonded as mother and son. My sons, both of them, are the best thing that happened to me.
CC: Were there any regrets when you were working and you could not give him enough time?
Neelima: He is the best person to be asked this question whether he felt left out or neglected at any time of his life. I haven’t done a lot of work. Everyone I have met has brought up this question as to why they didn’t see more of me. I have done just enough work necessary to survive and bring them up. And satisfy the creative side inside me to some extent. I saw to it that the mother in me has always given more priority to that area of my life than the actress or the woman in me. So, now that Shahid is stabilized and he is there and we have a certain economic base, I might be able to do more.
CC: When did you first feel that you are both beginning to bond as friends?
Neelima: If you are talking about bonding as friends, maybe at the time when he was three and a half or four years, because we used to have a lot of fun together, as I said I was young then. After Shahid was born there was this whole period where I wasn’t working much. For the first five years of his life I gave him ample time and I even left my dancing for a while, so those were the years when we really bonded as friends. We did a lot of mad things together. He travelled a lot with me; I wouldn’t even go shopping without him. He has been a very major part of my growing up too (she smiles).
CC: Can you recall the most touching moments spent with Shahid?
Neelima: Yes, we went to Kashmir and we were playing with tadpoles, which we weren’t allowed to do (laughs). We went to the messy areas of the Dal Lake where these cute Kashmiri kids were catching tadpoles and getting dirty and messy. We saw our first kingfisher together in the Nageen Lake in Kashmir. There are lots of such occasions but there is this particular thing that I want to tell you about. We went to Belgium, and there was this Frenchman who got after me on the road. And this six year old, my Shahid was furious and threatened him, “Hey mister you better stop this! She is my mother you are talking to. You have to deal with me before you deal with her.” He has been like that since the beginning… amazingly protective kid.
CC: Something special he did for you?
Neelima: Even in the most confusing times for a teenager to understand certain things about my life, which were pretty complicated, Shahid never failed me as far as trust and faith is concerned. He has always been there for me and even today it means much more to me than any special moment. Shahid has given me the strength to believe in myself because he believes in me so much.
CC: Why did you make him retain the Kapur surname, why not Azim?
Neelima: Well, Azim is not too lucky for me as I always end up becoming Azim (laughs). I had two broken marriages (I could see a wonderful and strong person behind that laughter). Jokes apart, I believe in an individual’s freedom. I want enough breathing space in my life and I give others the same too. I think Shahid wanted to retain this surname and I never even questioned it in my mind. That might have made him feel more complete. It’s all positive; there is nothing negative here. I think the name, blood relation, attached logos, and all this branded stuff doesn’t work and it is only the quality of the relationship that matters. And any which ways he wouldn’t have had my name. His name can’t be Shahid Neelima, it could have been Shahid Azim but Azim is not my name, it’s my father’s name, so why not let him have his own father’s name instead of mine?
CC: When did you first learn that he wanted to be an actor?
Neelima: I saw the sparks of an actor in him when he did this one story for a series called Pukar at seven. It was after the break up of my first marriage when Shahid was also facing this divorce in my life and the story too revolved around such circumstances so people questioned me if it was a wise thing to let him do something like that. But I feel that an artiste can bring out a lot through his performance. He had a very difficult scene to do with Anita Kanwar and Kanwaljit as their child. The father gets the child’s custody and the mother has to go away and come back when the child turned 18. He did a mind blowing scene in the court… no glycerin nothing… in a matter of seconds he broke down and mind you, he was playing football just ten minutes before that. That’s when I saw his potential.
CC: So after that, did you decide that he should be an actor?
Neelima: Not at all. Had he chosen any other profession, I would have still supported him all the way.
CC: Were you worried about how much he may have to struggle, knowing how insecure an actor’s life is?
Neelima: Well, it has been a roller coaster ride for all of us in this industry. It’s a huge responsibility and it is very difficult for a 22 year old to be that sensible all the time. But Shahid is managing it quite well.
CC: When you are feeling low do you or don’t you let him know?
Neelima: I have a very transparent face. My sons can just look at me and say if I had a good day or a bad day…
CC: When his film became a success and he was signed again, what was the graduation of your feelings?
Neelima: I don’t interfere in his professional life and as Ishq Vishq was complete I just packed up from there. I have a whole lot of things to look after as well. I have another son; I have to make myself financially more stable, which I have been postponing for years. So I have shifted my concern from there. But obviously I am there for him whenever he needs me otherwise he is on his own now. Till the time Ishq Vishq released he was emotionally dependent on me. The moment Ishq Vishq was out and it clicked, Shahid became his own person. He is making his own choices and I am not a part of it and I think it is very sensible as it is his life and his career. He knows exactly what he wants to do so how can I interfere in those areas? But I can see that he is making a good selection and I am happy about it.
CC: Do you feel a sense of achievement? That – ‘yes! You have done it?’ Or is it the mitigation of anger that you had to do this alone [bringing him up]?
Neelima: It is a big time achievement and I won’t let anyone else take the credit in this area. I see a lot of me in him on the screen. He is spontaneous, he is bubbly, he has a lot of energy, he is attractive, a good actor and he is a wonderful dancer and very cute and I think even I was cute…
CC: How does he react when you are friendly with a man? Is he possessive?
Neelima: He is very possessive. He won’t like to see his mother in trouble. If there is any possibility of a new relationship or any threatening arrival of a new person then he is like – ‘mom take care of yourself and you don’t need to get into situations where you are giving and gaining nothing.’ He is quite protective but he is not stupidly possessive.
CC: Is it difficult for a mother to let go of a son as he grows up, especially now that he is very busy?
Neelima: Relationships are very complex, very complicated and on a psychological level you have lots of fears. You want to see everything working out well and positive for your children. But like I say, you cannot rob a person’s freedom from him and you can’t drain out a person because of your own concerns, worries or anxieties. There are a lot of areas in Shahid’s life where I just want to pick up an iron and straighten out things for him. At my age, I can see a lot of stuff, which he can’t so I am a lot wiser but I can’t wipe out the wrinkles in his life. I think that is where mothers go wrong when they think they can take a certain initiative about the kid’s life without consulting him.
CC: Do you feel like depending on him or do you still want to work and remain independent?
Neelima: I have been earning since a very young age in my life and secondly I haven’t had a stable man in my life from whom I can expect monetary help so now it is a habit to keep myself financially independent however little I can. I have loved and I have lost… so I have this constant need to assure myself that I can take care of my matters.
CC: You have been an actress and been photographed many times but what is your feeling today when you are doing a photo session with him as Shahid Kapur’s mother?
Neelima: It is a unique feeling to bask in the glory of your child. I just can’t express it in words. People tell me that I am looking good these days. This is a glow that has come on my face because I am so happy for Shahid. He is a beautiful extension of my own self. It’s a wonderful feeling!