She came, she grooved, and she conquered the entire nation’s heart with Khallas in Ram Gopal Varma’s Company in 2002. Isha Koppikar Narang had begun her acting career in the late 90s, but it was her appearance in this item song that changed the game for her. That same year, another item song, Ishq samundar from Sanjay Gupta’s Kaante, also became quite the rage. Isha has always balanced her movie choices between Bollywood and the south Indian film industry. Hence it comes as no surprise that she is continuing that even now. We caught up with her for an exclusive conversation. Excerpts:
You are teaming up with Ram Gopal Varma once again. You seem to be his protégé. What changes do you note in him?
Yes. I share an excellent rapport with Ramu. I did get the “Khallas” tag for doing a song number in his film. Everybody changes, but your creativity never dies. It’s a web series presented by Ramu, titled, Kadappa. It is based on a very ultra-violent region in the South. It’s a true-life story that occurred during NTR’s time. My character is a North Indian who is posted out there and speaks Hindi.
You work in Hindi and South Indian cinema; which one would you choose over the other if the dates of your schedules ever clashed?
It depends on the script and the role, simple. I will unhesitatingly decide to take up the role where the story is intriguing and above all my character is strong be it any language then.
Over the years, you have played romantic roles as well as villainous ones. Do you think your career has been satisfactory?
Satisfactory no, but it has been a great journey. I am always hungry for good work. I’m never satisfied and shall be the same till my last day. My acting and my work is my first love. It’s my passion, and there is always room to learn. The day you stop learning, you stagnate. I think I would always want to try challenging roles. Each day for each role, I have to surpass the performances of my earlier characters. I compete with myself. I never watch the monitor while doing a scene. I just leave it to the director to choose whatever is on the editing table.
Could you tell us about your upcoming films?
I have been bestowed upon not one but a few chances again, and it feels so nice. Ayalaan, directed by R Ravi Kumar, is a sci-fi film. It is a multilingual film in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam. It’s very different, and Hindi audiences will also love this film. Then I have an untitled Hindi film which is a political satire. It has great actors like Manoj Joshi, Dhananjay Pandey and Ali Asgar. I am playing a politician in it. I have just finished dubbing for it.
Filmmakers / actors seem to be anxious for their films to reach theatres after a long break. What’s your take?
I think theatres are evergreen, and they will never die. But at the same time, digital medium, which is web series, is also here to stay because it’s at your disposal. Many people want to release their movies held due to the Covid-19 pandemic in theatres. Sooryavanshi took the lead. There are other films that are ready and set to release in theatres, but quite a few are releasing digitally, and they are doing very well. Because of the pandemic, people got fed up sitting at home, so everybody wants to get out. Thus it’s a great time now for big-screen releases. Audiences love to be entertained, and what better than theatres.
Normally, actresses tend to slow down post-marriage, but you have been working quite regularly...
If you’re a talented actor, you will live forever, and some kind of a role definitely comes up for you. If married, whether you have children or not it does not matter. But if you only have been glamorous and everything is only about appearance, then you have to be careful. Truly speaking, talent is what’s important.
The support of one’s other half is very important. How supportive is your husband, Timmy Narang?
I have a hugely supportive husband. I am extremely lucky. He says, ‘Your happiness is paramount; you got to be happy in what you’re doing. Only then, you have peace in the family.’ Recently, I was busy shooting late, and he had to go to Mussoorie for a business meeting; he took our little girl Rianna along with him for four days with her nanny. Fortunately, the school assignments can be completed online. If I were in Mumbai, he would not have taken her; she is seven years old.
Could you give us a glimpse into your lifestyle and health mantra?
I prefer a good lifestyle. I started in my teens. I was always very particular about my food habits, workout regime and sleep pattern. I was very disciplined and never let anything stop me from following it. I think all that counts.
What about your style mantra?
I must confess that comfort is my style. I have to be comfortable in whatever I wear. Plus, as actors, we have our own stylist and designer.
How do you strike a balance between your personal and professional life?
I think it eventually falls into place, and you need to prioritise. You need to take up whatever is important at that moment. Like if it’s a business meeting that can wait, I will attend it later. Rianna is my priority, especially if she needs any help. Then I will leave that business meeting. But if I have to go for a shoot and she needs to go to school, since I live in a joint family, and my husband is a hands-on father, I go to the shoot. Also, I have a nanny for her. Thus, it’s been well managed. God has been kind to me; he just made sure things fall into place for me.
You have changed the spelling of your name twice in the past. What is your take on numerology?
I believe it guides you, but you can’t treat it like the ultimate truth. I am not going to live my life because of somebody's predictions. I believe more in karma, prayers and hard work.
You are still active in politics. What’s your take on politics?
I think the whole idea is to serve and give back. The proper medium and channel to do it with more authority just helps you. That was my only agenda; associated with some authorities, you can help others. God has been kind. I have a certain status. I have reached a particular level in my life where I need to pay back to my society.
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