What is your podcast about?
Navya: What The Hell Navya is a podcast featuring me, my mom and my nanny. The three of us are having conversations about many different things. The idea for this came from us, realising that, when we sit down in our living room and talk, we often talk about a lot of things that we feel most people should hear about. Three different generations with three different opinions can voice things to one another, and we just wanted everybody to have a chance to hear that, listening in to what our equation is like. That’s really what this entire podcast is about.
Why did you choose the platform of podcast over more popular video mediums like TikTok, YouTube, Insta reels etc?
Navya: We have a hundred million podcast listeners in India today. I think that podcasts and the audio medium is the most intimate form of storytelling and it really gives you a chance to be very authentic and raw. When you’re speaking into a mic, sometimes you often forget that it’s even there and when the three of us were sitting in the studio together, it really felt like we were recreating our living room. There really wasn’t any room for anything to be inauthentic. That’s why we wanted to choose podcasts because it really kept things very real. It allowed us to speak our truth in a very honest manner.
Shweta, what was your first reaction when Navya broke the news about this podcast to you?
Shweta: I was thrilled. I actually am an avid podcast listener. I get most of my information from podcasts when it comes to history, current affairs, politics, what book to read and where to go and eat. I think it’s a delightful way of processing information and when you have something that’s going in your ear, your head is not down and you’re not looking at a video. You get a chance to look around. So if you’re working out or you’re walking or you’re in your car, driving somewhere, it’s actually very easy to consume podcasts rather than video as a format. I loved the idea of being in a podcast and I’m not very good with the camera, I don’t enjoy being in front of the camera. So this was perfect for me.
Would you say this is almost like reading a book?
Shweta: Yes, absolutely. It’s like reading a book, a newspaper, or a magazine. It can be exactly what you want it to be. I actually follow a lot of history podcasts and I’ve learned so much from them. A lot of their information, that I may not know or have come across in my school days or just, by reading a book. So I actually feel that we read a podcast. A lot of people ask, ‘If you listen to a book is it the same as reading a book?’ It actually is. Because the same part of your brain is stimulated. That’s a bit of nerd info to consume. I love podcasts. I think it’s the future. I think that’s where we were going, with things that are futuristic.
Between the three of you, Jayaji, Shweta and you, who’s the best conversationalist?
Navya: I would say, my mom. She’s actually really well read, like you heard. She also listens to a lot of podcasts and I think she knows a lot about current affairs. She can talk to anybody about absolutely anything. I think she’s probably the best conversationalist in the family.
Who’s the most unfiltered?
Navya: I think that question has a very self-explanatory answer. It’s definitely my nani. But it’s a trait we really respect her for, as well.
Did you revisit any old conversations while collaborating on this podcast? Were there specifics of how you could speak to your nani and your mother?
Navya: I think we have a great relationship between the three of us. More than being family, we are also very good friends. I think the way that we speak to each other keeps the chemistry going.
Shweta: I am not her friend, I am her mother.
Navya: Okay, I’m not her best friend. What I was trying to say was that we have a very easy way of communicating. I wouldn’t ever not speak to my mom or my nani about a particular topic and I’m not sure, but I feel that maybe a lot of people don’t have that kind of equation with their families. Sometimes they hold back from having certain conversations or speaking about certain things and we don’t really have that. We talk about everything, which is great.
Shweta, do you want to put forth your point?
Shweta: I know you’ve made your point but I don’t agree with this thing about being friends. We’re parents and we’re not trying to be our children’s friend. I don’t think my mother or I are trying to be Navya’s friends. I’m taking the liberty of speaking for my mother and I will probably get lots of slaps for this, because no one can speak for her, but I don’t think we’re friends. I think we are open minded enough to allow her to act on or not, to our advice or opinions, and understand if she may or may not agree. A lot of times we don’t agree but at least we have a space in our family dynamic where everyone is given a mic, so to speak, where everyone’s opinion, whether it’s the eldest or the youngest, is heard out. I think that’s important. I think that’s especially important for women in India, in a family dynamic. We should start listening to what our daughters have to say as well, and not just listen to our elders. I hope our podcast is able to start some kind of conversation about this.
One of the subjects listed in the dossier of this podcast was financial independence. So, while you were bringing up Navya, did you make a special effort to explain the importance of being financially independent?
Shweta: Unfortunately, I am not financially independent and I’m not particularly an ambitious person and I make no bones about it. But that is not what I would want for my child. When I send my child to school, I am setting her up on a path where I hope that she will do something to support herself, and that’s my only requirement for both my children, Navya and Agastya. My requirement for both of them is do not even think of starting a family or getting married if you don’t have enough money in the bank to pay rent or have your own place. I would like my daughter especially, to have financial security and I think it will give her tremendous confidence if it’s something she’s done on her own rather than using her father’s money.
I think it’s important that she knows, she can go out there and do things herself. She’s recently made her first purchase with her own money and she felt great about it. She came up and said, ‘I feel great’. I said, ‘Let me get it for you’ and she said, ‘No, I wanted to do it with my own money’. I’m so proud of her for that. I think all girls today, if they start thinking like this, it could change the world. A lot of things come from having that financial independence. She can make a lot of decisions in her life knowing that she can support herself and I want that for my child. I would want that for every girl child in India.
Navya, you want to reveal about that first purchase that Shweta was talking about?
Navya: I can’t reveal what it was, but it was something that I bought for myself and something that I use on a day-to-day basis. Like she said, I was really excited about being able to do that on my own. So it felt great.
Shweta: It was something that she bought for her work.
Navya: Yeah, it was work related, but I’m happy that I was able to buy it.
Is there a sense of achievement once you’ve made that first purchase from your hard earned money?
Navya: Yes, definitely. Like mom said, it gives you a lot of confidence in knowing that you can support your own dreams and whatever you want, you’re able to support that yourself. And I think more than anything also with that independence and that financial security you can also give back to your parents, who have given you so much, for so many years. I also bought my mom and dad a present with my first paycheck. That itself was a great feeling. Once you’re financially independent, you begin taking care of yourself and your family. That financial security is a great feeling.
Have the three of you ever had arguments over politics, boyfriends, going out or other subjects?
Navya: When you hear the podcast you’ll know that we’ve had a conflict and an argument in every single episode on every single topic. But though we have different opinions, I think in the end we always come together and kind of meet in the middle. We are not so far disconnected from each other. We pretty much believe in the same things, but of course there is a lot of conflict and a lot of arguments, over a lot of different things, which you will be able to listen to.
Shweta, as a parent, what does it take to have conversations with your children? Do you have to be understanding or patient?
Shweta: I think you need both emotions. Again, I have to admit, I have no patience. It’s not something I lend to any kind of interaction. I am trying to work on it, but yes, as a parent you also have to understand that they (children) have not had your life experiences and they will not immediately get what you’re trying to say. As I’ve grown in my life, I’ve realised that experience is the best teacher. You can shout from the rooftops, ‘Do this, don’t do this’, but they have to experience it for themselves. As a parent, that can be tough because you don’t want to let your child do something that is not going to work out for them or hurt them or upset them. Yet, they have to have their own experience. And that’s how they learn and never forget that lesson. So it’ll teach them twice as much as something I could be seeing them pursue. That takes a lot of patience, it takes a lot of courage because the first instinct, as a parent, is to protect your child. But actually, you should not protect them and just give them wings and say, ‘Go fly!’. If something happens they should know that we are there.
Was that how your parents Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan approached your upbringing as well?
Shweta: No, not really. My parents are a lot more protective, but it was a very different time. When I reflect on it, my father and mother came from small towns. They made their destinies here in Bombay, in films, and that brings with it a lot of other stuff, a lot of attention, a lot of fame and recognition. For people who came from basically, very nuclear, middle-class families, that was a big change in life. Immediately, they were parents, they got married and almost immediately, they had my brother and me. I think it was almost like an instinct for them that we have to protect these kids because we’re getting so much. There was so much attention on them. And it was a very new way of life and their first reaction was, let’s protect them.
When you’re doing something for the first time, you always go a little overboard. I think my brother knew that too, that we were very protected as children. We actually did not understand much of what was going on out there. We never had magazines at home. TV in the 80s was minimal, too. We lived a very insular life and family has always been our mainstay. You don’t trust many people when you’re in that position and I think that has come down the generations but it’s lessened, at least I think, with my children. They have a lot more freedom.
I’m not that person. They were brought up in Delhi. They were not, you know, their parents are actors. So they didn’t have that kind of attention on them.
Navya, your parents were not actors but yet, you must have seen your nana-nani interacting with your mother. Do you feel that you got the best of both worlds in that respect?
Navya: Yes, definitely. I think more than anything, we don’t look at our family as actors and actresses. They are family to us. So it’s not that when we’re interacting we’re focusing on what their profession is, but more the relationship that we have with them, but I definitely got the best of both sides. And I think more than anything it’s about taking away the values that they have, and that’s how we’ve been raised. That’s how my parents have raised me and my brother Agastya. So I think just grateful for all that learning that we were able to kind of have kids.
And yet both you and Agastya are now attached to the entertainment world…
Navya: Not so much, but yeah.
He’s more directly involved right now. So in terms of your conversations, how many times did you guys talk about movies?
Navya: Not so many times, actually we focus more on topics related to women. We’ve spoken about financial independence. We spoken about friendships, love, healthcare… so more to do with those topics than entertainment and movies.
What was you nana’s (Amitabh Bachchan) reaction when you told him about this podcast and what kind of inputs did he give you?
Navya: He was excited about it. He was really happy for the three of us. He loved the trailer and he’s seen us at home sitting on the couch having these conversations. So I think he knew what the world was going to listen to and he’s been really supportive.
Navya, as Shweta said that being in front of the camera vis-a-vis being behind a mic is a completely different process. So what sort of training did you have to go through and what sort of things you learned and unlearned?
Navya: More than training and anything, we just wanted to be authentic and honest about the conversations we were having and of course, using audio as a medium, there is a certain way that you speak. But I think more than anything, we just kept it very real. It’s generally, you know, this would be the conversation with you if you came into our living room. So we didn’t try to kind of overdo it with the training or any kind of preparations. It’s actually, we went in there completely unprepared and I think what came out is very raw and real, and I think that’s what we were looking to do.