How does it feel getting back to acting after so many years?
The hours are so stretched out, sometimes I feel I'm overworked. We don't have a bank of episodes for the serial "Kavyanjali" that I'm doing. We're trying to create that. Which means lots more work. Fortunately, I've great help with the children. My grandmother is there to look after them, plus good servants and maids who have been with me from before my kids were born. Mashallah, I've no stress on that score.
It was so wonderful to see the whole industry come forward to take your side when Saif Ali Khan decided to disappear from your life.
But, my dear, there never was any battle. So why take sides? But the support has been wonderful and unquestioning. No one demands to know my side of the story. I love my kids too much to not ensure they sail through. Everything else in my life is so secondary. They're so bright and supportive. They are a true blessing.
Was returning to acting tough?
It was a little tough. It does take a little time to get into the groove. I don't know of anyone who stayed away for so long. It was more daunting for me to return. I was given to believe that actresses have a shelf life, and I thought mine had expired. It's so good to see a change in perceptions about an actress' life span. I couldn't have chosen a better time to come back. And my producer Ekta Kapoor has been mind-blowing. I've the highest regard for her. I got offers from almost every channel, and many movie offers in Bollywood. But I wanted to work with Ekta.
Good movie offers?
Well...a job is a job. I'm grateful that they even thought of me. It's good to know there's a job waiting for you. After 12 years of staying away from a career it gives a great sense of confidence and self-respect to a woman. I'm getting so much work I can't take it all. Thank god. If that one door hadn't shut in my face, I wouldn't have had so many other doors open for me (laughs).
Did you see the crisis coming?
Not at all. But I've always been pretty grown-up and capable of handling crisis. Life has been tough for me. I never got the chance to play the damsel in distress.
No Mills & Boon stuff in your growing years?
I'd have loved that! But I never got the opportunity to live that kind of life. I'd just love to ride off into the sunset with my love. I've only seen the sunset so far. Maybe I can earn my own Ferrari so I can ride off in the sunset without anyone by my side.
You never took your career as a movie actress seriously?
No never. I saw it as a chance to have my own identity, and loads and loads of money. At 17, movies gave me bread, butter, jam, caviar... dude, the works! I've seen so many generations of actors come and go. I left at the right time. I had done my bit, worked with the best.
I was quite tired of working. I wanted to get married and have my own kids... I don't regret any decision in my life... not my career, not marriage. Every experience has been so fulfilling in so many ways.
Is there any bitterness about the way your marriage ended?
Well, that's pretty private domain. Only Saif and I know what the truth is. Now I've come back at a time when both television and cinema have so much to offer me. I have to work. I need to work to support myself and my kids. No one pays for my support.
And the children?
Let's hope they'll be looked after. But I need to work to keep up a lifestyle which my kids and I are used to. And I'm not about to give up on that. Work is fantastic. My daughter tells me I'm crazy to be working like mad. I mean every woman takes care of her kids.
But to go out there and work at my age is no joke. You know, I do regret the fact that my son Ibrahim who's just four can't get the same attention from me as my daughter Sara did. Because Mama is out making a living. A fish can't swim and fly.
But then I average 20 days of work per month. For the rest of the month three of us take off on holiday, do whatever we want. My kids and I live like three fun-loving hermits. We're quite bohemian. My children are the most wonderful gifts god has given me. I'm so blessed...
But Sara seems to have established her own rapport with the entire industry. The topmost names whom I'd shiver to call are her friends. She can call up anyone.
What do you feel about your serial "Kavyanjali"?
We're just trying to find our footing. I think we still have to find our bearings in the plot. For people to write it off is premature and malicious. This isn't a film where fate is decided on one Friday. Did people expect me to be the central character? Wonder why!
Because it was always the story of the two people named in the title Kavya and Anjali. I'm happy being one of the central characters. I've seen far too many Bollywood divas take on a film and fall flat on their flashy faces. Now I need to get back on the big screen. I've been offered two-three films, one a biggie.