‘I was never known for my style…’

A talented actor, director and mother, Konkona Sensharma wears many hats. With her versatile acting skills, she has carved a unique path in the Indian entertainment industry. She received widespread praise and awards for films such as Wake Up Sid (2009), Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016) and her latest project Killer Soup (2024). In addition to her acting talents, Konkona has also ventured into directing and helmed the thought-provoking drama A Death in the Gunj (2016).

Her ability to balance her professional pursuits with her role as a mother, she serves as an inspiration to women who strive to excel in both their careers and personal lives. With her signature candor and wisdom, she shares insights on parenting, fitness, fashion and pursuing mental wellness in an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com. Read the edited excerpts below:

How do you manage to balance your professional obligations with your responsibilities as a parent?

Konkona Sensharma: Not me (jokes). I mean, you know, it’s a struggle every day to find that balance, because in our work no day is the same. It’s not like I have an office job, so I can make an annual plan. So I have to figure out how every day or at least will be every week. But if you are clear about your values ​​and priorities, you can focus on the main issues. Furthermore, you have to turn a blind eye, because you can’t do everything.

I find it inspiring that so many women, including the housekeepers who come to my home, all have children and work. Very few women can be stay-at-home moms or have chosen to be one. Some women do not have that choice and have to work. I’m inspired by that, and I also saw it growing up because I had a working mother myself.

What was it like having a working mother? Do you see similarities between you and her?

Konkona Sensharma: I remember my mother always taking me everywhere to work. As a young child, it was interesting to see your mother being so powerful and fulfilling different roles. She edited a women’s magazine and directed, wrote and acted in films. There were production meetings at home and sometimes she studied with me, but not on a regular basis. I was fortunate to have a mother who understood my individual needs.

What does your fitness routine look like? How do you keep yourself fit?

Konkona Sensharma: For the longest time, until I was thirty, I did nothing. There wasn’t much awareness either, and you have youth on your side, where you can enjoy a bit without any significant effects. I had my son in my early 30s, and then I really got into yoga in a big way. I was have been doing yoga for 10-12 years now.

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Post that I started strength training at the age of forty, and it has changed me mentally and physically in a tremendous way. If I can do both yoga and strength training, which is difficult to do every week, it has really helped me. It’s not about losing weight; it’s about keeping your muscles strong, good for your brain, mobility, agility and balance. But if people are interested in weight loss, it’s actually 80-85% diet.

Is there anything specific in terms of nutrition that you swear by to maintain your energy and health?

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Konkona Sensharma: I don’t think I’ve ever eaten healthier since I was 35. I have become much more aware of the benefits of strength training, magnesium, and so on. I try to eat with a high protein intake so that I get enough fruits and vegetables. I’m also becoming aware of things like insulin resistance, which we have to consider in our early 40s. So I have fruit with nuts, chia seeds, flaxseed powder, things like that.

I also do intermittent fasting, which is very helpful for me personally. I don’t act very hectic; I don’t like extremes. I would usually fast for 14 hours four to five times a week. If some days I’m not able to fast for 14 hours, perhaps because I haven’t slept well, I try to maintain a 12-hour digestive gap.

Does Intermittent Fasting Affect Your Energy Levels?

Konkona Sensharma: I have so much more energy. I don’t advise anyone; I’m just saying it works for me. I often do fasting training and I notice that it makes me much more energetic. But I am by no means advocating this, and no one should follow this advice without checking with their doctors and considering their pre-existing conditions.

Your style is admired both on and off the red carpet. How would you describe your fashion philosophy?

Konkona Sensharma: I’m so happy because I was never known for my style, even though I’ve had the same aesthetic for as long as I can remember. In the past, these items of clothing were not available. When I started my acting career, there were hardly any options. Of course there were always saris, and I always loved saris, my mother’s saris. I have my own enviable collection now, but I have always worn my mother’s saris since I was a child. I have always loved Indian textiles for home, clothes, everything.

Even trouser suits, which are so comfortable and beautiful, used to be nothing. Oversized clothing was previously unavailable. But now I have a great stylist, so I can focus on other things.

How do you prioritize your mental health?

Konkona Sensharma: One of the things is sleep, exercise and nutrition. I tell myself and my child that there are five pillars of health: sleep, enough sleep, good nutrition, because a lot of our junk food is very inflammatory and also not good for our brains. Then there is exercise and therapy if you need it. There have been times in my life when I have seen a therapist and found it very helpful. And finally: good social connections, meaningful interactions with people, having a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and thinking outside of yourself and about others. All this together is important. It’s not just one thing.

As you said earlier, education is crucial for social development and the development of children. How do you ensure that your son receives the best possible education?

Konkona Sensharma: One realization I had was that no school is perfect and no school is going to give you everything. You have to find that balance. If your school is good at sports and extracurricular activities, you may need to look into academics. If the school is good with academics, you may need to focus on sports and extracurricular activities. Not all households can do that.

With my child, I want to make sure he reads the right books, or at least reads them every day, and not just watches movies. So sitting with him, watching different kinds of movies, reading different books, talking about it age-appropriate political events or current affairs, and being emotionally attuned to that is important. Because if you are not emotionally well, you will not be able to absorb anything. That’s why children who experience things like death, divorce, abuse are in survival mode and are unable to absorb.

Not all parents have the time to spend time with their children. Sometimes both parents have to work, or you only have one parent. These are realities, so you need some support. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and where is that village these days? In our case, we don’t have grandparents living in the same city, and many families are migrant or underserved communities with many other things to take care of. You have to make sure the kids are not slip through the cracks. How can we help, uplift and reach them?

That is why initiatives like P&G Shiksha are important because if you only depend on the school, your children’s needs will not be fully met. I also appreciated this initiative because earlier they looked more at building schools and infrastructure, but today the need has changed. There is talk of school registration, but how much can the children take in? How many dropouts are there? How many children stay in school? This kind of things.