Kiran Rao on parenting, privacy and the art of juggling

Kiran Rao visits Yahoo!Friendly, down-to-earth and buoyant that’s what comes to mind when Kiran Rao comes sailing into the room with unbridled energy. Dressed in a cream top and black leggings and boots, with her trademark tendrils streaming down, there’s nothing that screams celebrity about her. In fact, as we sit down for an exclusive chat with her, about Aamir, Azad and everything in between, it’s pretty clear Kiran inhabits a world far from the arc lights and loves being there. What is most striking is her intensity and passion for film-making and of course her mad love for the two men in her life. Most recently in the news for her association with Anand Gandhi’s film Ship of Theseus, the 39-year-old new mom gleefully juggles interviews with checking up on her son’s daily progress while away from him. Nothing is off limits as we get the filmmaker to spill the beans on parenting, privacy, Aamir’s critiquing and things we didn’t know about her. Read on for more…

Two things we don’t know about Kiran Rao
[Laughs] I love to dance! Any beat gets me going. And, I have always wanted to learn to draw and paint. I have always been interested in sketching and drawing.

Is juggling a word you use often, given the crazy world of film-making and the demanding world of motherhood?
Yeah that’s totally true. And it’s also a problem, since neither of them are time bound, they eat into each other a lot,  there’s always a constant overlap. In some ways it’s good, because life adds to the way that you make films, so your child sitting in the room when you’re writing might change the way you write and how you write. There’s a certain advantage I have over lots of people who have to leave their kids behind and go to work. Life sort of insidiously finds its way into my work. That’s fun for me, the fact that I can be around for my baby, take him to the park, have lunch with him. It’s not that much juggling really. I have the best of both worlds. I suppose when I get down to the harder job of writing my next film, you should ask me that question, because then I will be cursing [laughs].

Kiran Rao chats exclusively with Yahoo!Has your perception in any way changed since becoming a mother?
I feel like I am changing every day. I may not even be aware of it. I am learning a lot as Azad grows. I am constantly absorbing things that he is absorbing and re-looking at things that I took for granted many moons ago. It somehow brings into focus what you would like to see for your child and in a sense you start curating experiences for your child. I think I have changed quite a bit, children make you slow down. Children make you take that deep breath and be patient. You don’t always succeed of course! Children open you up. You stop being the centre of your own world and universe. That’s the biggest shift that happens. Nothing is about you anymore.

So are you one of those mums who melts into a puddle every time Azad does something new?
[Smiling] Yes, figuratively speaking, I melt. It’s very exciting. New words are so much excitement. He’s about a year and seven months old now, 19 months. New words, new actions, he’s climbing, doing all new things.
Kiran Rao and son AzadBeing married to a superstar and being a celebrity yourself, was it tough getting used to the fame and the flashes?
Yeah, it’s been a slow process of assimilation into this new world. In the beginning it was quite alien. It took a while to figure out why people were interested in me in the first place! I always knew Aamir as a person, I never saw him through the lense of being this big superstar, even when I was working with him on commercials and films. I knew he was a big star. But my association was always through work so it was always a very practical sort of interaction. That’s why I never had that aura of someone who looks at them from the outside. Even when we got together, it took a while to figure out why it was such a big deal. I have gotten much more comfortable with the idea of being a humongous icon’s wife. It feels extremely good, I get so much love because of the love people have for Aamir. I am included in that love and it’s a great feeling. Practically my life has only changed a little bit, but at a very basic level, I haven’t had to change who I am. I have been lucky.

Aamir Khan and Kiran RaoDo you strive hard to ensure your privacy is intact?
I don’t have to work very hard, because Aamir did all the hard work. He has lived in the same building since he was born. We continue to be the only big star family who lives in an apartment. It grounds you.  We have never felt that we were any different than anyone else and so I have never to fight for our privacy. We go to society meetings, to fight for our say. We have pretty regular lives. I worry about privacy for my son but for me, it helps me get tables in restaurants when there aren’t any [laughs]! There is an advantage there. 

What is the one thing you cannot live without ?
One thing only? Aamir and my son. It would have to be them.

A defining moment in your life?
The day Azad was born it changed me, it changed my life.

Three words to describe yourself.
I am fairly happy. I am fairly curious and I also quite an anxious person. About people being comfortable, all the people who go to bed hungry. Maybe not anxious, but I am concerned.

Quotable quote?
All artists are willing to suffer for their work but very few artists are willing to learn how to draw. 

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Of course! All the time! Constantly. Who says I get out of it? I labour through it and keep hacking through it. Chiselling an idea always difficult. It’s just doing that helps. Just hack away at that computer until those words begin to flow. This inspiration thing is highly overrated. Ideas get chiseled and honed and faceted and none of it comes immediately. You might have a kernel and it might end up not being a real diamond.

Is Aamir your toughest critic?
Not really. One of my closest friends is . Aamir  doesn’t criticize for the sake of it. He’s very open with his feedback and very generous. He’s very willing to engage with your idea and what he thinks of it.

When you wake up in the morning and you look in the mirror?
[Smiles] I see a slightly myopic, slightly middle aged person who is ready to start another day.