With the lavish sets serving as the backdrop, Nadhiya scurries between shots to memorize her lines, interact with the contestants, touch up her makeup, sign autographs and, talk to us. In the ensuing mayhem, Nadhiya retains a cool demeanor and takes on the chaos with amazing nonchalance. She flashes her signature smile and settles down for a quick chat. Reminiscing about the good old days, she states, “I was lucky for someone who came into the industry to just casually do a film. And, to get that kind of accolade, I think it was purely luck”.
THE ACCIDENTAL FORAY
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Nadhiya studied in a Parsi, girls school called J.B. Wacha High School before going on to J.J School of Arts where she pursued a course in commercial arts. “I used to get modeling offers while in college, but I never took it up because I didn’t know anyone in the industry. Films happened by accident. Incidentally, director Fazil’s brother was my dad’s very good friend and he had come down to Mumbai for my uncle’s wedding. It was around that time that his brother, Mr. Fazil was looking for a new facae for his film. He took the wedding tape and showed it to Mr. Fazil who watched the tape and decided that I fit his script perfectly. He then came down to Mumbai and narrated the story to me. I clearly remember that it was evening and Mr. Fazil suggested that we take a walk. This was his way of understanding me better and he asked me questions like what I liked to do, what my hobbies were, what was fun for me and so on. As we were having this chat, there was this young guy cycling by and he passed some snide comment. I turn around and gave him this very stern, nasty look. Later on, Mr. Fazil told me that was the moment where he found his character in me. And since we knew this family well, we decided to give it a shot. We knew the people and what could possibly go wrong?” she relates.
Finally, it was decided that Nadiya would do the film. Since she was still in college, the shooting took place during her Diwali and Christmas holidays. “During those days, Malayalam films would not take more than 15 - 20 days at the maximum. Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu was the first Malayalam film which I acted alongside Mohanlal and Padmini. We immediately remade it in Tamil as Poove Poochudava. The film did equally well in both the languages. After the film, I did go back to college for the next 6 or 7 months but offers started pouring in and then, we (as a family) decided that it was God’s way of showing us this new path”.
THE STYLE ICON
A trendsetter in those glorious days, Nadiya’s simple yet elegant style was a runaway hit – on and off the screen. Right from her accessories to her neat chignon and a sophisticated sense of dressing, it was Nadiya all the way. She brought about a freshness during those days, when many heroines wore clothes and showcased hairdos which were quite over the top and could not be worn by a common person.“My style seemed very accessible. In fact, I should give a lot of credit to the characters I played – a plain, down-to-earth, girl-next-door person. When I used to shop for costumes for the movie, I picked up stuff which I would have if I were going to college or things which I would normally wear. That was exactly what I wore on screen and it worked”.
“Right from the beginning, I had the liberty to choose my own costumes for the film. I would be given the gist of the character and the rest of the styling including the colours and designs was left up to me. I would literally run from one store to another, try out around 10 – 15 clothes and pick some of it. I didn’t go over the top with my clothing. I wasn’t trying to create a particular image and I had no role model, at least from the movie industry. It was just Nadiya – the cheap, economical stylist”, she smiles.
GAME PLAN OF LIFE
In the three years of her film career, Nadiya did countless Tamil, Malayalam and three Telegu films. Though her career in films was going on well, Nadiya was clear on what she wanted in the future. “I knew my husband even before I got into films. We were neighbours and we met when we were very young. My husband Sirish is into investments and he is a Maharashtrian. Back then, he was abroad studying while I was doing films here. I knew that I wouldn’t be here long because once he settled down, I wanted to get married and go where ever he went. That was the aim and films were just fun till I got married. When we were courting, it was tough because we would get to see each other once in a year when he used to come down for summer holidays. And, that was when I would take a break here for a month from work. So, no one in the industry really knew about our relationship. But, my parents knew about it”.
Just before she got married, Nadiya was offered the lead role in Salman Khan-starrer Maine Pyaar Kiya which went on to become a blockbuster. “There were a couple of other Hindi film producers who got in touch with me but I was too comfortable here, down south. I was not planning to be here that long any ways”.
STRINGS OF SUPPORT
Immediately after her wedding, Nadhiya shifted to the United States of America, moving from Boston to New York and then eventually, to London, UK. “I was having fun playing home maker. I just wanted to be with my husband. I didn’t really miss cinema during that time. But, I really missed my family as they had always been with me all the while. Not being able to see them often was what I missed the most. In fact, all through my career, it was my father who used to make the decisions and since I very young back then, he was a big support. Obviously, he knew that he couldn’t let an 18-year old take all the decisions and he took over, which was fantastic. So, he was always there and till today, he still accompanies me to most of my shoots. Honestly speaking, I’ve always had my parent’s backing throughout my career and till date, I continue to have it. That has been an amazing balancing factor in my life. I’ve been very fortunate and so, I never was carried away by fame”.
A mother to two girls Sanam (13) and Jana (9), Nadiya shares an easy camaraderie with her children. “Now, we’re back in India and my girls have settled down remarkably well in Mumbai. Every time I have to come down to Chennai for shooting, my mum moves in and takes over. Moreover, my husband is quite hands on with the girls. During holidays, they come to the sets but it doesn’t excite them as much. I must say, they are quite involved and keen when I take up any projects. I take their inputs when the story is narrated to me and ask their opinion on that particular role. They will have certain suggestions and I really value their opinion a lot. Because, it is honest, innocent and at the end of it, they’re also viewers who enjoy a certain kind of films”.
BACK TO BUSINESS
While she was on a trip to Mumbai, Nadiya received a call from director Raja and that was when her comeback film, M.Kumaran s/o Mahalakshmi happened. In her trademark style, Nadiya set a new trend of ‘cool’ mothers to their grown up children. She smiles, “Again, it was accidental. When Raja called me, I was just about to leave for London. So, I didn’t know if I really had the time for anything. But, he insisted on meeting me and narrating the story. He came over the very next day but I was a bit apprehensive in the beginning because it was the role of a mother of a grown up kid - not even to a ten year old or whatever age my children were. But, I looked at the film and thought that at the end of the day, it was the role of a woman. And, they were good producers who had given successful films. So, I just did it without looking much ahead or thinking about the repercussions of playing such a matured character. I did the film but honestly, I didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. That film set about a trend of young mothers who are cool and more of confidantes than maternal characters. Somehow, that role fit me quite well even though I was not all that old to play Ravi’s mother. It was a good team and we looked good as a mother and son pair”.
M.Kumaran s/o Mahalakshmi had also ensured that Nadiya’s fan club now had youngsters. She nods her agreement, “I suddenly started getting the youth back into my fan club which I had lost down the years. Usually, it was all these middle aged women who were my fans, who had seen my films back then while the young crowd didn’t know me at all as I was never around. The film was a good thing as the youngsters looked at me like a ‘cool’ mum or sister to have”.
THE MIX OF CULTURES
Coming from a multi-racial family, Nadiya believes in absorbing the best of all the worlds. “My mum is a Hindu and my dad, a Muslim. I got married to a Brahmin but we’re open to a lot of things. In fact, till date, I say Parsi prayers before going to bed because I went to a Parsi school. I don’t know a word of what it means but I say it out of a matter of habit. We celebrate all festivals at home – it’s just an excuse to celebrate. My younger sister and I were raised to believe that there is one super power and he takes care of all of us. So, I would like to instill that in my kids as well. And, I’m someone who believes a lot in Karma – I believe that it’s better to be blessed that to be cursed”, she states with conviction.
Apart from movies, Nadiya is a self confessed homebody. “I get caught up in all the mundane things at home. I like my regular walks and I take time out for myself. I’m happy with my children, their school and things like that. I like being fit and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I would like to be a particular size or something. I make sure I get my regular exercise. I eat hard and I play hard. I love my food and I love working out as well. I’m a pretty good cook, or so my family says. And, I like to give a hundred percent to whatever little I do in life rather than putting my foot into too many different things.”
THE PARTING SHOT
As an actor, Nadiya’s realistic approach garnered an immense fan following among women across diverse segments. Her strong feminine side without the ‘femme fatale’ outlook made her an instant hit with the audience. “I have always played characters which were close to me. It was always the Nadiya who is just another woman who you would encounter in life. Sometimes things go much better when they are not planned and that’s how my life has been throughout”, she signs off, philosophically!