There’s something about this hardcore gooner, vegan, reader and non-conformist. Here’s getting to know Esha Gupta
all over again.
by Meher Bajwa
Browse through Esha Gupta’s Twitter feed and you’ll find yourself stretching for a bowl of popcorn and a pint of Bira White as you settle down to enjoy her volleys with Twitter peeps who insist on calling her a gunner instead of a gooner. I’ve watched my fair share of football but I’ve never witnessed someone as amped up about their team as this athletically-inclined girl is about Arsenal. “I’m not a gunner, I don’t play for the team, do I? I mean, people don’t have that much sense! I’m a gooner, not a gunner!”
Got it. Another item that really sets her off are the recent government-imposed bans—from porn to beef. She tweeted: “Porn ban? I hope the govt is not going to start regulating our bedroom activities as well.fab move, smart decision, welcome to the jungle”.
“It’s crazy! What are they going to ban next?” the 20-something actress tells me. “How is it their business what someone does in the privacy of their homes? It’s like the beef ban. I’m a vegan and I don’t eat meat, but I still think it’s wrong. If you’ve decided killing cows is wrong, then killing chickens should be wrong too, no?” Did I mention she’s a solid PETA supporter?
She’s just returned from a whirlwind trip to Dubai where she attended the South India International Movie Awards and made her presence felt with bang-on fashion choices for the red carpet. “Because I’m debuting next in the South with a bilingual movie in Tamil and Telugu, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to meet everyone. And it’s actually like IIFA in a way but for the South movie industry. For me it was a chance to meet new people because I only know a few of them, but it was fun!”
Gupta harbours a special love for the Emirati city because its residents are just as in-tune with Bollywood films and stars as anyone in India. “Like even when you go to a mall you know there are at the very least 10-15 people who will recognise you. I love Dubai. I think being recognised wherever you go is the best thing that any actor feels. I love it. I mean if they (actors) hate it, and it’s not because it’s a security threat, then they shouldn’t be in this industry. Like if someone tells me, “Oh, I hate people recognising me,” I think they’re just lying. Imagine never having met someone in your life and knowing they know you and what you’ve done—it’s the biggest high you can ever get in your life.”
Twenty minutes into our conversation, and we’ve already discussed porn, nomophobia, sacred cows, mobs, the English Premier League and Paulo Coelho. It’s evident she likes to read. A lot. Surpisingly, despite being part of a generation that thrives on social media, this well-read girl hates being on her phone for longer than necessary (Hint: Those Twitter rants) and instead carries a book with her everywhere she goes. “I think it’s rude when people are on their phones all the time. I never take my phone on set with me unless I’m expecting an important call.”
While growing up, Gupta and her family moved often because her father was in the Air Force and postings took her to cities like Pune and Hyderabad before she finally settled down in New Delhi. She doesn’t complain about it though. “The thing with kids from the armed forces is that we end up being very confident and self-assured. We’re used to moving to a new place and having to make new friends every couple of years. That helps later in life.” While she’s now based out of Mumbai, the original Delhi girl tells me how much she misses the food in the capital city along with the wide open roads and greenery. What she doesn’t miss though, is the people. “There is just so much showing off that happens.”
The light-eyed beauty admits hers was a classic case of an ugly duckling turning ino a swan in her late teens, but she was as confident or more than any girl her age back then. “I was a total tomboy. I had a unibrow ya! I hated attention from boys. I didn’t understand why they would look at me. And suddenly the transformation happened. I don’t know when. It’s really funny. Sometimes I just look at myself in the mirror and I wonder when this happened to me.”
In between dreams of becoming a chef and studying to become a lawyer in London, Gupta decided to take part in the Miss India pageant in 2007 at her mother’s suggestion. She was crowned a runner-up without having “prepared for months like all the other girls.” Her newfound beauty had found a rapt audience. She then dabbled in modelling a little and bam(!), movies happened. You probably remember her debut in 2012’s Jannat 2, but it was in 2014’s Humshakals (with Saif Ali Khan and Riteish Deshmukh) that Gupta really made her presence felt. If there’s anyone she would love to work with again, it would be the same duo. “You know, Saif has that typically dry British humour, and not everyone gets it. My dad has the same sense of humour, so I was in splits most of the time on set. Then Riteish says these statements with a completely straight face in a room full of people, and I would just be like...OMG did anyone else get that? I would look at him and really try to control my laughter.”
Days are a constant whirl of waking up, working out, going to set, travelling the world and relaxing with her girlfriends over the weekend. “I don’t really drink and I don’t like going out. I’ll probably enjoy a nice glass of red wine once in a while. I prefer inviting my friends over and having a good catch-up session. At the end of the day we’re all so tired after our hectic schedules that it’s nice to just relax and gossip a little.”
When she’s not all dressed up for the red carpet (incidentally she says it takes her only an hour to get ready), she’s hanging around at home in shorts, a T-shirt and sneakers. “You know how you see me at airports? I like dressing like that. I would never wear my boyfriend’s boxers or shirt though. Unless we’re talking about the fashion style. I’m a tomboy on the inside, but I like getting dressed up and putting on a nice dress
when I’m heading out.”
As for now, she’s busy wrapping up her debut film in South India and working on Hera Pheri 3. She sounds very enthusiastic about the new Tamil/Telugu film, a role that took hours and hours of preparation and hard work to get right. “It’s not easy working in a language you don’t understand. I had a diction coach too. If you aren’t concentrating 100 percent you’ll lose the train of emotion because you don’t really know what you’re saying. But I had a great time doing it.”
As I wish her luck and press the end call button, I can’t help but think Esha Gupta is the one to watch out for in 2016.