The actress, entrepreneur and talk show host speaks about the joys of motherhood, staying healthy and managing a smooth work-life balance
By Sahana Charan
We remember her as the feisty girl in a cold drink advertisement with actor Shah Rukh Khan and effortlessly doing a headstand yoga pose in the film, Khosla Ka Ghosla. Now a successful ‘mompreneur,’ as she prefers to call herself and married to Roopak Saluja, Tara is enjoying her role as mother to two children, entrepreneur, producer and talk show host. She has wowed audiences with her popular talk show, The Tara Sharma Show, which focuses on topical family and parenting issues and has been aired on multiple platforms. An avid blogger, who started writing about her life as a mom after her first child was born, Tara beautifully manages her duties as a mother and a working woman.
Born of mixed parentage – to Indian author, late Partap Sharma and British artist Sue Sharma, Tara says that her father’s advice to reinvent herself and create something that no one else has done, inspired her to conceptualise her talk show. ParentCircle caught up with the vivacious actress-turned-entrepreneur, who believes in the motto – ‘To each her own.’ Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
Q. Tell us about your transition from acting in films to a producer, entrepreneur and talk show host.
A. Before acting happened, I went to study in the London School of Economics and later started working in Accenture, because I had always wanted the security of a corporate job. Even when I was in college, I was fortunate to get several commercials, that’s when I realised I liked performing. When my first son was born, I honestly stopped getting much acting work. I also discovered a lot about myself – I enjoyed being a mom, I always wanted to be with my kid. I kept thinking of how I could get into a space that combined the joy of being with the family and the passion and desire to work, and to be financially secure. About that time my dad, who was a tremendous inspiration to me and tragically passed away some years ago, said ‘don’t sit and wait for someone to give an offer. Create your own thing.’ Then the thought came to me – I have a business background and I had a story to tell. So, why not I create my own show and see how it goes.
Q. So, how did the Tara Sharma Show happen?
A. Because I enjoyed the business side, I could figure out that I could get sponsors, get a channel interested and manage the business deals. I co-produce the show with my husband Roopak's company The 120 Media Collective. I don’t know whether it was luck or hard work or a combination of both, we got a brand that loved it and came on board to sponsor the whole show. It was a huge success. So, before I knew it, I was a ‘mompreneur.’ From the blog – where it all started – now every season of the show had different concepts and it became a platform to discuss parenting, women and children issues and bring about positive change. We have both celebrity and non-celebrity guests; I cannot believe sometimes that big celebrities like Aamir Khan, Farah Khan, Virat Kohli and John Abraham have been guests on the show. My motto has just been persistence, perseverance, hard work and passion. My dadaji used to always say that.
Q. You have spoken about your parents being an important influence in your life. What are some of the life lessons you have imbibed from them?
A. What we are and who we are – so much of it is from our parents. Mine always encouraged me and my sister to not be afraid to take up something that was close to our hearts and to always be good to people. It is true that if we can make a passion into a profession then we don’t feel like we are working – that is what my father said. For that I am grateful, but it also takes a certain personality to create your own thing. I am quite a cautious person and a creature of habit, so it was a big step for me to go from the corporate world to join films, and then become a ‘mompreneur’. And the funny thing is that now, eight years into my show, it has become like my corporate world. It is secure; quite a lot of work comes in, whether it is creating digital content or associating with various agencies. So, it’s a nice combination of the entertainment and the business aspect. I would like to continue to act and do a film, but it is always nice to have my own show.
Q. You are a celebrity and a working mother. Does it get challenging sometimes?
A. The kind of space I occupy, I think I am in the middle. I am not some big celebrity that people stop me on the road; occasionally that might happen. But I think the space I am in right now, is a sort of relatable celebrity. Honestly, that has not been much of an issue.
Moreover, it is lovely that people relate to the show and they understand that I am not an expert and just a regular mom. I always say in the show that all parents have different ways to do things that are right for them. You should not judge anyone and say this is the right way to do parenting. Each one to her own -- there are many celebrities who do not like to show their family but for me the show was a diary of me being a mom. I felt that the only way people would relate to me is if they saw me with my family and my children. I think that worked. I wasn’t like preaching to anyone, but they just related to what they saw. Now, it is more of a platform to discuss various topics – special needs, kids and technology, and so on.
Q. What is yours and Roopak’s parenting style?
A. My kids, Zen and Kai are eight and six years old. Both me and Roopak are quite chilled out. We love being parents and we both complement each other. The things that I am good at I do and the things he is good at he takes care of. Like most couples, the parenting is shared, and he is definitely the better disciplinarian. He is also more relaxed, while I can get hassled sometimes. I think we balance each other out. We make sure we discuss all the big issues and that we are on the same page. By default, because I am the one who is with the the kids more, I am more involved in the day-to-day things. I like being around my family and that for me is a big priority. Personally, as a mother, I realised that this gives me more joy and I am more productive when I am multitasking.
Q. So, are you a hands-on mom?
A. I am a very-hands on mom, sometimes much to the exasperation of everyone, because I insist on doing everything. Like last week, I taught my kids to ride the bicycles without the stabilisers and every evening was spent literally running behind their cycles! The good thing is, thanks to technology, I can be around my family and also get work done. I know I am a better businesswoman and more productive if I am not missing out on the things that are important to me as a mother. There are times when I am in the middle of a football match and doing a conference call with a big brand and its okay, as long as I am delivering. But again, to each her own -- I am constantly working and constantly with my kids, so for me there is no real separation. That works for me but may not work for other mothers. Equality it is about having a choice. If you chose to be a full-time stay-at-mom, you are equally empowered as someone who chooses to work 12 hours a day. Having the choice is important, no matter what you chose.
Q. What are the important values you want your kids to grow up with?
A. Firstly, I want all of us to be healthy; I say that is a value because I believe in today’s day and age, health and fitness must be part of our lives. I wake up and run every day and children see these things and hopefully it becomes a part of their lives. I want them to be good to people, to be down to earth. I think children should be exposed to all kinds of experiences and people. My parents always said that everyone is a star. It is not about being famous or not famous. It is important to relate to, understand and appreciate everyone. As parents, we should encourage our children to be inclusive, to see that we all are special and that everyone a star.
Q. What about parenting in the time of the Internet? It is a challenge that every parent faces today.
A. All these things you are asking me about – children and technology, children with special needs, kids and values, we have dealt with these topics on our show (laughs). And that is because I interact a lot with people on social media and ask them what they want me to talk about. And I get a lot of responses.
Personally, I am a person who believes in balance. I feel like if you forbid something you will create a situation where children will want it more. If you allow too much, then that is not very good either. If you inculcate the right values, they will choose the right thing. It really depends on how they have been brought up, what has been given priority. Honestly my children would prefer the cricket field to the mobile. Having said that, in an age where technology is a part of life, you do not want them to lag behind later. So, there should be a good balance.
Q. You have been a runner, and fitness is important to you. So, do you follow the same regime after becoming a mom?
A. I have been running every day since I was in school. Actually, it’s like a life motto. I believe in consistency -- I run a little bit every day and I do yoga three times a week. That is something I have been doing throughout, before the kids, right after delivery and continuing even now. I believe that when it comes to shape, size and fitness, you should do what works for you.
Q. How important is social media in a mom’s life, especially in yours?
A. It is very important. Because so much of my work is done remotely and my business model is based on relatability. So, if people want to know what I am doing, they can do so with whatever I am sharing. In real life, I am quite a private person but when it comes to the show if there is something that could be of help or useful to anyone, then I definitely show. So, social media has definitely been a big part of what I do and I am grateful for the encouragement and support I get from people on social media because that keeps me going. When sponsorships are not coming through or taking a long time or anything like that I do something called 'Saturday Noon Live with Tara' on Facebook and I get such tremendous response that sometimes I feel like crying and I keep doing the show. I get responses like, "You are the reason I wake up", "I love your show and what you say" or "my child has autism and your show about it has everyone looking at her like she was a star." These things keep me going.
Q. Tell us a little bit about the upcoming season of The Tara Sharma Show.
A. We are just closing on our sponsors for Season 5. We will keep the same format as last season because we got a tremendous response. The focus will be on discussing family, parenting and children issues with the idea of bringing a positive change. We will also be encouraging people to pursue their dreams. There will quite a lot of emphasis on inspirational stories and encouraging women to be financially independent, to follow their dreams and to not be caged in by stereotypes.
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