Shriya Saran is back in India after two years, and she speaks in a voice bursting with the delight of someone who has successfully managed to keep a secret. The actor recently opted for a baby reveal instead of a gender reveal — Radha, her daughter with entrepreneur husband Andrei Koscheev, was born in January this year in Barcelona, Spain.
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Now back in Mumbai with her family, and at work, Saran is part of several projects: SS Rajamouli’s ambitious RRR , Telugu film Gamanam that is coming out in four languages, the bilingual Music School , co-starring Sharman Joshi and with music by Ilaiyaraaja (the film’s choreographer, Adam Murray, was part of the Elton John film, Rocket Man ), besides her Tamil projects. Her film with Karthick Naren, Naragasooran , is due for release too.
In between shooting, she speaks about the journey of having Radha at a time when the world was in turmoil, coping with Covid-19, and staying relevant decades after she made her debut with the Telugu Ishtam in 2001.
Edited excerpts from an interview with The Hindu Weekend.
How did you manage to hold on to your happy secret and spring Radha as a surprise, while remaining active on social media?
While it is very difficult to keep something like this to yourself, I knew the world was going through a torrid time. I lost a friend in the second wave, and it was very hard for me. This put me in a space where I knew how precious a moment the pregnancy was, and I wanted to share it when I, and people were ready. It did not feel right to share it when there was grief around. I wanted Radha to be welcomed into the world when I was ready and she was big enough.
Although she was a planned baby, no one really prepares you for the journey. It is an intense process — I am a social person, but I chose to stay quiet. I grew happy and fat, wore what I wanted and read a book, went to a cafe and walked around in Barcelona. I really wanted to enjoy the last few months of life before the baby.
Was there any pressure on you, being a public figure, to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape?
Well, your body changes completely, and it was not a quick process to get back to what I was. My mother got back into shape in a month. I wanted to do so too, and I ate healthy and worked out. I did not post a picture because even though you’re used to negative comments on social media, I was not in the mindframe to receive them. I did not want to connect with negativity. I decided the best thing to do was to share images after Radha met her grandparents.
What was your routine like during pregnancy?
For the first three months, I was very careful. Then, I resumed my Kathak classes, yoga, and walking. It was difficult as we were all in our individual bubbles. Andrei and I were doing everything ourselves, and a two-week visit extended to two years. We did not have time to think; there was enough work to do, and there was dance.
How were the first few months of coping with motherhood?
My mother came by for a month, and then it was just the three of us. We were stressed out and needed family support. My mother-in-law chipped in when Andrei and I got Covid-19. I don’t know how we would have managed without her. But the journey and staying up during the night was worth it. Now, Radha has a lovely nanny in Mumbai, and my mother is also around.
Did you miss the sets these two years?
Not quite, because no one was really shooting then. I’ve always wanted to be a working mother and now I am back at work. I miss Radha, yes, but it’s nice to be back at work.
Radha is a well-travelled child...
Yes. It was really nice in Barcelona and then in Russia. We lived by a lake, and I took her swimming. She loves the water and it was fun.
Do you intend to pen down your pregnancy journey?
I don’t think I’ll do that. But it was an interesting one, like it was for any mother who had a baby during the pandemic. Intense and beautiful, all at once. I am just blessed and happy to have Radha and get some good medical help during these tough times. There was a lot of positivity and love in our lives and I am grateful for that.
Over the years, you’ve always reinvented yourself... stayed relevant.
Well, it’s about identifying something that challenges you and avoiding getting into a place where you do the same things repeatedly because it’s easier. I’ve always tried to push boundaries; I’ve done that in the Telugu film Gamanam too. It is a constant struggle, but as long as you are an artiste, you keep working on yourself. The process is always on.
A few years ago, you set up Spandana, a spa managed by the visually-challenged. How has the pandemic impacted this passion project?
The spa is on hold now because it is difficult to operate one during the pandemic. The people I was working with are super talented and have love in their hands.
During the pandemic, did you have a close circle to lean on?
Not really. I think for me it was all about Zoom classes, doing as many ‘lives’ as I could, and learning new things. I learnt to bake and cook. I had to be more careful because Covid-19 is more dangerous when one is pregnant, so I only went on long walks. My parents and friends were around, but my true circle was my husband. And then, there’s Radha, my constant companion during the pandemic — first inside of me and then in my arms!