Tahira Kashyap Khurrana: The Power Of Being Unapologetically You
With a voice as powerful as her personality, the author-filmmaker is the ultimate go-getter. She’s bold, unfiltered, and a woman of substance.
It’s around 10:45 am, and Tahira enters wearing a quirky bomber jacket, her hair untamed, and not a hint of makeup. Her playful attitude carries over to her wardrobe and it’s evident. Acing the art of skinimalism, she's confident in her au-naturel look.
Reviewing the outfits selected for the shoot, Tahira is apprehensive. “I have never worn these clothes before,” she remarks. A minute later, radiating an infectiously positive smile, she’s up for the challenge. An hour into the shoot, she’s feeling confident. “I never had this kind of spunk and attitude with hair and makeup. I was really scared to tread this path. I am taking an analogy from this, and this is what happens in real life. It’s just a new version of me which I have not experienced before,” she says, wearing a big smile on her face.
So, it was indeed a beautiful disclosure to see her come out of her shell at the Zee Zest March 2023 Digital Cover shoot. She revealed elements of herself that the public eye hasn’t seen yet — unapologetically sensual with a powerful presence.
She continues, “Whenever you want to broaden your horizons, you are so conscious about it. You have so many insecurities and you are doubtful. That’s what a challenge is and whoever crosses that challenge becomes a new version of themselves.” She admits that she’s a tad bit experimental but not to the extent of doing something dramatically new. “But after this photoshoot, why not?” she says.
Given her impressive command of filmmaking, Tahira is a force to reckon with. She believes in creating memories everywhere (as her Instagram bio reads) and considers herself to be a compulsive storyteller. And what makes her the perfect fit for our Women’s Day special digital cover, is her deep understanding of human relationships, nuanced writing and empowering women-centric stories peppered with humour. “Humour is my coping mechanism in every situation. Even in the most tragic and saddest situations of my life, I just laugh. It’s dark humour and that’s just the way I am as a person. I think I have a funny bone or two,” explains the filmmaker, who prefers to choose humour for the earnest depiction of women in her films.
“Some things are best said, and more impactful when they are not said directly but in a subliminal way. With humour as the context, that comes across more strongly,” she explains. However, she feels it’s still not enough and she’s got so much more to tell.
It’s a great time for Indian cinema
The critically-acclaimed author-filmmaker marked her debut in 2017 with the short film Toffee followed by Pinni, part of Netflix’s anthology series Zindagi in Short in 2020, and Quaranteen Crush, part of the anthology series Feels Like Ishq released in 2021. Inspired by directors such as Martin Scorsese, Shakun Batra, Zoya Akhtar and Hansal Mehta, Tahira, one of the most promising female directors in the Indian film industry, believes it's a great time for Indian cinema, but when it comes to theatres it has been testing.
Driven by the vision she has for filmmaking, she says, “Movies have not been doing that great and earning that kind of revenue that they used to in the theatres. On the positive side, we have the advent of OTT where we are getting to see diverse content, languages and culture for which India is actually known, and it's truly coming forward and we are cherishing it more now. We are getting to see so many varied actors and people bouncing back as well. I always try to see the positive in every situation and moving forward, the world of cinema globalisation has a whole new meaning altogether with the conversions of culture not just within India but globally.”
Stressing the huge democratisation in Bollywood with the advent of OTT and regional movies becoming mainstream, she continues, “You are seeing different stories from different people and cultures and that’s what the beautiful part about cinema and storytelling is. It evokes an emotion in you and when there are visuals to it, you somehow relate more to it. I think for world cinema, it’s a great time when we are getting a sneak peek into each other’s lives. Today someone sitting in India from a middle-class family is also privy to European cinema, I think that is great thanks to OTT.”
A league of her own
Tahira is bold, unfiltered, unapologetic and has created an identity of her own. But does she still feel the pressures of being married to one of the most popular stars Ayushmann Khurrana, we ask. She replies with a laugh, “Koi pressure nahi hai. I have no pressures of dressing up a certain way, looking a certain way, keeping my hair length a certain way. I have married an artist, and I perceive him as that and I am just happy that he gets all the love and attention from the world around, that just makes my heart swell with pride and happiness. I really do not take any pressure and I am not saying just for the sake of saying it. It’s not to do with anybody. You have your own set of complexes and I think that’s something that comes from within because of your situation, your internal environment rather than your external environment. If your internal environment is weak and shaky, you go down.”
She confesses she did have insecurities in her 20s, but it had nothing to do with the pressures of being married to an actor and it was more about her acceptance of herself. She recalls, “And I really worked towards it. I think most of us deal with these issues and they are seldom to be blamed on any outside trigger or stimuli. It’s basically you being at peace with yourself. I don’t want to fit into any stereotypes.”
But then, as a celeb couple how do Tahira and Ayushmann keep it real? Tahira, offering a glimpse behind the curtain, says, “Maybe just not being aware of this term ‘celeb couple’ is what keeps it real for us. It’s a very real household and I don’t even know if there’s any effort put behind it.”
An honest take on star wives
When it comes to Tahira, she’s anything but an extension of her celebrity husband Ayushmann Khurrana, and perhaps one of the most opinionated women in the fraternity. So, we were curious about her take on why there are no ‘star husbands’? To which she says, grinning, “I don’t understand ‘star wives’. I absolutely don’t know what it actually means and how to get into this, what’s the qualification behind it. How much hard work do you need to put in to get this title? I am very sure those people who are termed as such don’t like it because everybody wants to be an individual in their own right and they are. These are terms coined by people and the media.” She pauses, and continues, “I really wish everybody becomes sensitive to each other and realises there is a human being behind that, and we need to cherish and move past this.”
And while she’s an author, filmmaker, women’s rights champion and her husband is a Bollywood star, we were keen on how they keep their individual personalities and growth intact. It’s a no-brainer that art is something they both consume and are attracted to, but the ways of expressing it are different. “We have been very instrumental in each other’s growth; at the same time, we don’t impose our thoughts and opinions on each other. Art drives us both but then there’s a different way to express for each of us. He’s a performer, he’s also a poet, he likes to write. I am more of a storyteller. I love to write stories and direct.”
The art of practising self-love
Her journey to self-acceptance can be chronicled through her battle with cancer, but the filmmaker refrains from talking about it. “I don’t want to think about my past because it’s already done. For the future, there’s no point overthinking.” She further explains that insecurities are basically how you feel about yourself and to justify that we blame it on people, outside situations, the environment, our bosses, our spouses, partners, neighbours, friends. “But the thing is coming from within, the problem is within. So, we really need to be aware and fix the thing, which is within us, the outside will correspond to that.” Of course, she’s aware of how society's perception towards women can wear them down. She suggests, “We should not be bogged down by any stereotype or a benchmark of beauty or success. We are individuals in our own right, and no one is a replica of each other, and we truly need to cherish ourselves.”
We dive further into the subject of self-love and she says, “Some might call it a borderline narcissist or overrated. But if we give ourselves a little bit of self-love, it really helps us go through the day. Human beings are very complex, we really don’t need a critic to tell us what we can do and what not. We are so critical about our own selves that it just stops your creativity and yourself from expressing in the best possible way you could have.” But was she always like this? No. She confesses how she didn’t indulge in self-love for the longest time and used to look down upon herself. “For me, that was being a narcissist, but there’s a huge difference between self-love and narcissism. Self-love is truly constructive, while narcissism is very destructive.”
A busy and challenging year ahead
She’s a woman wearing many hats and doesn’t let her passions sleep. She’s the author of four books, with The 7 Sins Of Being A Mother and The 12 Commandments Of Being A Woman earning plaudits for her unfiltered approach to many facets of her life. At 40, she is the kind of filmmaker who is supremely talented with compelling projects ahead of her. Not only is her first feature Sharmaji Ki Beti, a female-centric comedy-drama, slated for release this year, but she’s also paired up again with Oscar-winning producer Guneet Monga for an upcoming dramedy feature.
2023 for her is all about facing new challenges and overcoming them with a smile. “That could be any way in the kind of storytelling I do, the kind of genres I have written so far. I would like to push my limits and tread into the kind of stories I have always wanted to do but was doubtful. So, 2023 is all about doing stuff that I always wanted to do, somewhere in the remotest corner of my heart but perhaps never expressed. I promised myself that I won’t be scared of judgements,” she signs off.
Editor: Sumita Bagchi
Photographer: Kunal Gupta
Creative Consultant: Mitrajit Bhattacharya
BTS video: Gaurav Talekar
Video Edit: Media Edge
Stylist: Neelangana Vasudeva
Assistant stylist: Foram Kubadia
Hair stylist: Poonam Solanki
Makeup: Hinal Dattani
Makeup Assistant: Ali Hussain
Location: Silk Route, Juhu
Artist PR: Keerat Publicity
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