New Delhi: Smriti Zubin Irani, the name knows no introduction. Once the highest paid TV actress of her times, the 36-year-old is perhaps the youngest woman to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian parliament). The National President of the BJP Women's Wing, she has successfully pursued a permanent commission for women in the Indian Army by facilitating legal aid to women officers. She has also launched 'Saksham', the first ever Vision Document released by any political organisation in India which underlines policies, programmes and implementation tools for the uplift of the differently abled in India.
She has also established an NGO called People For Change, which has provided sports scholarships in Nasik, undertaken drinking water projects in rural India by providing bore well facilities to over 35 villages in Maharashtra, collected and distributed relief material for those affected by Mumbai floods in 2007, and also provides scholarships for higher education to children from economically weak background.
In a candid conversation with Sharat Bhardwaj, the charming, elegant and witty MP talks on a wide range of issues.
From a common person to an actress and then into politics. Which phase have you enjoyed the most?
I am perhaps one of those rare fortunate people who have had the privilege of working in the fields of media and politics with a fair degree of success in both.
I have enjoyed every twist and turn in the journey for I am what I am because of the experiences
I have had along the way. I've always been a commoner and shall remain so. Actor and politician are just adjectives that have been added to my name.
You are among the youngest people from the entertainment industry to have taken the plunge in the challenging world of politics, and that too at the time when your TV career was at peak. Why this shift and timing?
I believe that your commitment to your nation cannot be conveniently timed. Hence, when I received an opportunity to serve my country through the BJP, I did not consider whether it was a convenient time in my career as an actor to take the plunge. I'm glad I took the plunge at the peak of my career.
A lot is being said about the nature of punishment in the cases of sexual assault of women. As a legislator, what do you think should be the punishment for such offences?
I am of the belief that a crime as heinous as rape needs to be punished severely. As members of the BJP we had suggested the same to the Justice Verma Committee.
BJP is known for its firebrand women politicians like Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhra Raje, Uma Bharti etc. People see you next in the league. Shall we see a bigger role for you after 2014?
I have never craved for any kind of role for myself in the party. I'm fortunate that I got the opportunity to serve my party in various positions in the last decade. My work was appreciated by my seniors and responsibilities were accordingly given to me. From the Vice President of Youth Wing in Maharashtra BJP to the National President of the BJP Women's Wing, it has been an incredible journey.
People often compare you with Sushma Swaraj, (the way you talk and dress). How do
It is a huge compliment and I'm grateful for the same. As female political activist, I have always admired the fact that Sushmaji has reached great heights in Indian politics without the help of reservation; and after going through struggle, ensured support for reservation for women in the party and in Parliament.
You are doing a Bengali film with Victor Banerjee. Tell us about your role and the film's background.
Amrita was the second film I did after working in a Telugu film called Jai Bolo Telangana. The main reason for doing the film was an opportunity to work with Victor Banerjee. My role was that of an understanding, accommodating housewife who one day stands up for herself after being continuously demeaned by her husband.
How was the experience of working with one of the finest actors in the country?
It was absolutely brilliant working with such a seasoned actor. In fact, it was a good learning experience for me.
You did films in regional languages but not in Bollywood. Is it due to the differences that you and Ekta Kapoor have had in the past, or is there some other reason?
My so called tiff with Ekta is highly exaggerated and false. In fact, I'm scheduled to shoot a project with her this month. I have never done a Hindi film as I've never dedicated any efforts towards it.
Who do you think is the finest TV actress today?
I hardly watch soaps today. Most of my time is taken up by news. So you can ask me who my favourite anchor is? Though picking a favourite in that category is bound to land me in trouble.