Dressed in pants from Istanbul and a simple kurta complemented by silver jewellery and a stack of bangles, Neena Gupta rocked the desi-chic look. We loved her wooden watch from Covent Garden (below). Don’t miss those eye-catching Bottega Veneta flats! Picture: Rashbehari Das
Neena Gupta was in town on Monday to finalise talks about daughter Masaba Gupta’s maiden venture in the city — a store in the brand new Quest mall on Syed Amir Ali Avenue. t2 caught up with her at Taj Bengal’s Sonargaon…
Masaba Gupta coming to Calcutta with a store is great news! Is it a result of the response she got during her exhibitions here?
That is a very important part, but we’ve been wanting to open in Calcutta for a very long time because our sensibility and the Bengali sensibility are similar. We’ve been wanting to open since the very beginning, more so because of the saris. And the taste is very close even to the common people here and not just the fashionable people. But it is a very difficult task to open a store outside of where you stay. Actually, I am very excited that it is in a mall (Devansh Jhunjhunwala and S.K. Choraria are the store partners). It is a new mall opening and people will be excited in coming and seeing the mall.
What are your expectations from the Calcutta market?
I feel people who like Masaba’s stuff will definitely come and buy and people who will come to a luxury mall can easily afford Masaba’s clothes. There will be some people who will be curious to know what she makes. The store will be ready end-December.
What will you be launching with?
We will have a special print done for Calcutta and we will have the usual stuff. We are working on that special print.
Is the store also a strategy to beat the copy market?
Copy toh sab jagah hai. Delhi mein copy hai, Bombay mein copy hai, ek ek dukaan mein copy hai. We are not bothered about copies anymore. Copies are copies! Sometimes it is a very bad copy and sometimes it is a very good copy also.
You help Masaba manage her business?
I am running the business for her. She does the creative work mostly and I do the dirty work for her! I am doing the mother’s work actually. And I am learning business also.
Did you take it up on her request?
I am not doing anything of my own other than this. I retire by seven in the evening. Sometimes I tell her, ‘Kal baat karenge’. (Smiles) Actually, she doesn’t have time. I have to take her appointment to talk!
So, post-seven is me-time?
I go for a walk. I come and cook sometimes, whatever I want to eat. I have a drink and I see English serials. That’s my time. Or, sit with my husband (Vivek Mehra) or go visit somebody or a friend might come.
You don’t miss acting?
I miss acting a lot. Recently, a good role came, but a good role on TV means (working) 24x7. That I cannot do. Now I am married and I have responsibilities. I cannot work day and night… no Sundays. If I want to do less work, then there is no good role. Films toh bhool hi jao. You hardly get anything. I am thinking now of going back to theatre.
What has running Masaba’s business taught you?
My husband is a CA and he has helped me a lot. I am that kind of a person who will say, ‘I will buy a store for her.’ He will say, ‘Are you mad? You save that money and then you open more stores.’ I have learnt to be practical… then not to hurry things.
I have learnt a lot on how to handle staff. I have learnt a lot about things that I did not know.... I am not short-tempered and I am not a perfectionist. I am very good at compromising, but I cannot tolerate laziness. Once during a show, the iron was missing from the checklist! Why?! Then I shout.
I have got a new girl from Jaipur and I have told her that she has to sweep the floors too. I am from theatre. Hum sab kuch karte hain. I cannot bear taking things for granted. I am learning it.
You must be so proud of Masaba...
Yeah… I am also proud because I like her work, personally. I would like to wear her stuff. That is very important. Agar woh meri beti hai, toh mere jaisi hi banayegi! The gene will be the same.
Do you see a younger Neena Gupta in Masaba?
Yeah, a lot. I remember telling her, ‘Mere jaise mat karna. Maine yeh galti ki.’ She is a lot like her father (Vivian Richards) also. Like I will reach everywhere much before time. And Vivian, if he has to leave by 10, he will be getting ready even at two minutes to 10, but he will reach on time. I will be ready at 9.30! So, she is like him in that regard. (Smiles) She can laugh at herself like me, which I like. Life is much easier.
You have a distinct style. Is there a reflection of that in her work?
There is but she does things which I cannot imagine… the colours. She knows what today’s young people want, which I don’t. Basically, I am like a bouncing board for her. If I say, ‘I don’t like it’, she gets very angry! She goes and then she comes back in the evening and asks what I didn’t like about it. She’ll listen to me, but she has a mind of her own.
What has she designed for you?
She never makes, which is my complaint! So, I wear other people’s clothes!
What does Masaba love from your body of work?
That’s a very interesting question. Ask her next time! I don’t think she’s seen much. I think during Saans she was too small. She doesn’t see… very bad, very selfish. I’ll ask her today. But she’s very proud of me that I am known as a good actress. I know that. In fact, she was keen that I work (again).
How are you guiding her?
I keep guiding her… how much to tell friends, not to gossip. I tell her about her health a lot because she is so stressed. I am very much after her ‘ke yeh khao’ and go for a walk.... We share a lot of things.
Where do you see Masaba headed in the immediate future?
She wants to become like, to start with, say Fabindia. She wants to design other things also… jewellery, bed linen, furniture, shoes, bags. I have asked her, ‘I am taking so much of a risk for you for retail. Are you going to be in retail?’ She wants to do retail.