27-year old heiress of Jet Airways, Namrata Goyal speaks to Vanaja Banagiri on her beliefs, aspirations and what it means to inherit a legacy.
When you’re young, wealthy and blessed with good looks, it’s very easy to lose your balance and get carried away when your wish becomes the world’s command. But there are few rare personalities who get chosen by the universe to have it all and yet, go out there to climb up the ranks like anybody else and look at the larger good that extends beyond oneself, one’s family and friends. Life becomes more about enriching oneself by empowering others. But that doesn’t mean you let go of your passions even if that entails traversing the untrodden path, never mind the risk involved. That pretty much summarises Namrata Goyal’s life so far.
“This is my second visit to Hyderabad and I love the city. It’s easily one of the best in the country today,” says Namrata Goyal, as we settle down by the poolside in the scenic locale of Ramoji Film City, the venue for the 2nd season of Indywood, a prestigious film carnival in which she is one of the high profile panelists. “I was here in 2012 when we staged one of my plays `Black Comedy.’ And now I am back as one of the panelists for Women in Cinema. One gets invited to several film festivals but then this one stands head above many because of its hybrid mix of participants that include technicians, eclectic guests, topics like leadership, film distribution, strategies and techniques which is quite unheard of because in Bollywood everything is so star centric and people who put in equal amounts of effort behind the scenes get a bit lost.”
Even with the NGO I support, I never ask my dad (Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal) for funds or sponsorships.
Considering the fact that she’s the only daughter of one of the best-known industrialists in the country, how did she take the detour to theatrics and films? “Since I was very young, I was encouraged by my mom to participate in debates, elocutions and plays because she felt one should always look beyond academics. She got me enrolled into Kathak classes and at four, I gave my first performance in front of 600 people. I pursued it for 14 to 15 years. I had also started piano classes quite early in life. So I sort of got more inclined towards creative arts. Another huge influence on my life has been by my godmother Shabana Azmi. Need I say more? My personality has been shaped by various influences in my life. Besides my parents, who demonstrated solid value-based lifestyles, Shabana maasi opened my eyes to a world that I would never have known but for her. Whether it is cinema or my social conscience or standing up for women’s issues, a lot of it comes from her influence,” she elucidates.
It must be a breeze though for someone from her background to do as she pleases.
“I maybe a person who is born with a silver spoon but I am trying hard to make a space for myself in society with my own achievements. In fact, the privileged background sometimes becomes a hindrance because there are so many expectations from you. You’re so cocooned with protection all the time that when you want to just go out and feel the world around you freely, it’s not all that simple. Yes, I am blessed to be born to my parents who are huge achievers and I am grateful for the abundance in my life but I wanted to carve my own destiny.”
So how daunting was it to emerge out of the shadows of the overpowering personalities of her parents? Did she ever feel stifled or overshadowed? “Not at all. And the entire credit for that goes to my parents,” says Namrata, “They encouraged me to follow my bliss. I remember vividly, once when I was a little kid I went home and bawled my heart out because I had come second in an elocution competition. And my mom told me that day she appreciated my spirit of pursuing excellence and that even if I wanted to be a carpenter; I had to be the best. In a way, she made it very clear to me right during my childhood that I was not expected to fit in.”
So was there absolutely no pressure to join the family business? “None from my parents,” she says, “when I had finished my 12th and I wanted to study abroad, I had to make a choice whether to study economics or business management. I asked my parents if I could choose film studies and they said I could do whatever I wanted to. The only thing they said to me was that since it was my choice, I had to be ready to accept responsibilities and repercussions of my decision. They offered their full support but expressed their inability to guide me simply because they had no knowledge of the subject. But their constant advice to me was to be sincere and committed to whatever I did.”
“I am a huge control freak and that’s the reason I can never be an actor. Moreover, I find production more interesting and fulfilling”
Nevertheless, Namrata joined Jet Airways when she returned to India after completing her course and worked for five years. “My first salary was Rs. 50,000 which I spent on buying gifts for my parents and dear ones. But even in those five years, I produced `Black Comedy’ and was more involved in the creative and CSR aspects of our businesses. One fine day, I walked up to my dad and told him I wanted to start a production house. He was cool and asked if I needed investment but I refused. He was quite concerned but I told him that I didn’t want to take the easy route; I wanted to pitch my project to investors like any other entrepreneur and raise funds on its merit, which is what I did. I did take his help to set up the office initially but from then on I have handled it all on my own. I just produced a film with the help of an investor. I did not go to my dad for it. Even with the NGO I support, I never ask my dad for funds or sponsorships. In fact, dad keeps asking me why I don’t approach him for anything. But I have an issue with being perceived as a rich man’s daughter who has it all chalked out for her. For me, the sense of accomplishment is in the fact that I did it on my own as any aspiring youngster would.”
For Namrata, it’s never been about taking the easy route. “I started working at 14 with production houses like Yashraj. I worked with Ravichandran, cinematographer for 50 days. I made a film on female infanticide at the age of 18 which was screened at BAFTA. I acted in a film which dealt with the subject of marital rape. I also made a film on my dad which is used as a part of the training manual for new recruits. I have gone through the ranks. I have a strong inherent need to prove myself. I like to be challenged.”
After having faced the camera, how did she escape being bitten by the acting bug, which is the easiest to succumb to? “I am a huge control freak and that’s the reason I can never be an actor. Moreover, I find production more interesting and fulfilling,” she states candidly.
Namrata’s mom, Anita Goyal has inculcated the values of financial independence and taking responsibility for one’s actions while her dad discouraged her from indulging in wasteful expenditure and pursuits. “I remember once I wanted a doll but my dad said I could spend the same money on books if I wanted but not on stuff that is momentary. I was so upset and disappointed then. But in retrospect, I realise what an amazing lesson that was. Over the years, I developed an interest in reading and I strongly believe that books are our windows to the world.”
“I walked up to my dad and told him I wanted to start a production house. He was cool and asked if I needed investment, but I refused”
And amongst several things she has done on the path to self-discovery, social work has been a key aspect. “Shabana Maasi has been instrumental in making me realise that all of us have a duty in our society. I am involved with Mijwan, a welfare society set up by the late Kaifi Azmi. I witnessed an underprivileged woman delivering a baby. And that made me wake up to the harsh realities of life. I was also shaken up big time when I was part of Chennai flood relief work last year. All of us must do our bit to alleviate others’ hardships and suffering as much as we can. Otherwise, there is no point in this human existence,” says the 27-year old with great conviction.
So is life all about work and no play? “I travel with my friends whenever we have the time. My all-time favourite holiday destination is London but my most favourite place in the world is Mumbai,” she says.
What about romance, love, relationships and such? “I would love to be in a relationship. I am quite open to it. At the same time, I believe one shouldn’t get into a relationship for the heck of it. We need to make enough time for it. We must pay attention to nurture and nourish. Unless we have the mind space and the time for it, it doesn’t make sense. And right now, I am too caught up with my work,” says Namrata who is going through scripts for her next production, “I want to focus on woman-oriented subjects that will work commercially as well.”