The most private member of the illustrious Bachchan family is finally coming into her own. Softspoken, articulate , ultra-photogenic and according to her father the wisest of the Bachchans, Shweta is happy with what she sees of herself as the anchor of the NDTV show Next Gen.
"I saw myself in the first episode on Tuesday. ..I guess I was okay. There're hundreds of things that I could've done better. I'd say I barely passed muster on the first episode. I need to be critical of myself if I'm going to grow. Lots of room for improvement."
Shweta is a mercurial mademoiselle. "Like everything else in my life tv is not something I planned . It just happened. I got an offer from NDTV . I put it across to my father and mother. They were very encouraging, as long as I was comfortable with it. I think I'll enjoy this tv stint. My kids are older, and I've lots of free time to give to other activities. I've been a stay-at-home mom for ten years. I've given them all my time. So when this offer came to me I thought, why not?"
Naturally mom Jaya was deeply concerned when Shweta decided to take the plunge into television. "I'm her child, and this is a first for me. Her reactions were all emotional. But as I grow habituated to the medium I'm sure she'll be less tense about my new vocation. But she did advise me to just be my natural self on camera, no matter what others say."
Lately she has also been seen on the ramp. One would think coming into the limelight has been a conscious decision for Shweta.
"No!" she refutes the belief. "Most of my decisions in life have been emotional. I've always been devoted to family and friends. There has never been a career plan. Nor did I plan the ramp walk or the tv stint as a stepping stone. Everything has happened spontaneously in my life. I've never planned anything, and I won't plan it either." Everyone is now staring at Shweta with microscopic concentration , being a Bachchan and all. "I know it's a huge responsibility. Even if I don't do well on the show I am okay , as long as I don't do anything to upset or embarrass my family ,or take away from anything they've achieved. My family has built up such a reputation for itself, and I wouldn't want to besmirch that in any way. In that sense tv anchoring is a very safe spot to be in. It may be uninteresting or uninspiring. But it can't get any worse than that."
Since the entire show revolves around Shweta's personality she's doing her best to balance her home with her new career. "The entire format revolves around me. While my schedules so far revolved around my kids I'm now doing a balancing act. At the moment it does seem a little bit of a rush because I never had to take out so much time for anything but my home . It's just 12 episodes right now. Let's see how it goes. I certainly don't feel pushed to a corner. I'm quite easy and convenient."
It comes as a surprise to know she's even scripting the episodes of Next Gen. Strangely Shweta never thought of being an actor. "I don't have what it takes. I've neither the face nor the voice. And besides I didn't have the temperament for it. I wouldn't be able to devote such a large chunk of my time to one thing. You know being an actress is a calling. And it wasn't my calling. My main calling in life is to be a mother. And if the tv show doesn't work out, I'd be very happy to go back to where I came back."
##Ad## About more work, "I'll have to see. As I said I never made planned moves. I'll take further decisions on a tv career , of course taking my family into confidence. Right now I'm nervous about Next Gen . Would you believe, I've been so busy with the show I haven't even had time to see Nishabd. But it's a difficult role for my dad. And he has been praised to the sky. The fact that he had the courage to take up such a role is truly commendable. A lot of people wouldn't have done it at his age. My favourite films of my dad? Most of my favourites are his comic light-hearted films from the 1970s like Naseeb and Amar Akbar Anthony."
We talk about Shweta's mom Jaya giving up her career to look after her home. Says Shweta. "It isn't for me to comment on what she did. Everyone makes her own decisions. I'm sure she was a hundred percent convinced in what she was doing then, as she is in what she's doing now."
When we talk about her brother Abhishek, Shweta's pride spills over. "I was a proud sister even when he was struggling. He had to wait for his career to come together, and it wasn't easy.He handled himself with dignity. And now when I saw him in Guru I was left speechless. I can't do justice in words to my feelings about his performance . What I can say is that after the movie was done I had to be reminded I was watching my brother. He completely surrendered himself to the character."
The last time we saw all the Bachchans together was for the Filmfare awards last month.
Shweta gets emotional. "Mom made that evening special. She pulls at my heart-strings. I was so embarassed to be visibly moved. I've never been able to watch her movies. I always cry when I watch her emotional scenes. I just hope I don't disappoint my parents in anything that I do in life."