There are many layers to Upasna, the person. There is the young woman who looks up to her illustrious family members. There is the diligent professional. There is the wife who is totally in love with her husband. She is also a humanitarian who believes in social work and charity. And then there is the naughty older sister who likes to fool around with her younger siblings. Above all, she is an intuitive individual, who believes in the theory of karma, loves animals and trusts them.
While getting her make-up and hair done for the RITZ cover shoot, Upasna reveals that her grandfather, Dr Pratap C Reddy, Founder-Chairman of the Apollo Group of Hospitals was and continues to be a great positive influence on her. “Thatha (grandfather) taught us to make every day count for something. He believed that you have to do something positive, achieve something otherwise, it is a day wasted. He would tell us, ‘Even if you are feeding fish, do it wholeheartedly, and do something good.’ Even today before we go to bed, he calls and asks us, ‘What good deed did you for the day?’ And he always gave us confidence – we had huge shoes to fill, but he made us believe that we could all do it.”
No wonder then that his daughters – Upasna’s mother and aunts – have been a lifelong inspiration. She says, “My mum (Shobana Kamineni) always taught me to be out there and be successful. She also taught me to think out of the box and be a game changer. From my aunt Suneeta, I learnt the importance of staying fit and healthy; my aunt Sangita is kind and a complete people’s person – from her I learnt to relate to people at all levels. And I get my artistic side from my aunt Preetha – she is very dear to me.”
She adds that she is very close to her dad. “My dad is my most favourite person and I am closer to him than to my mom. If there is anything important that I want to discuss, I talk it over with him.” Her father in fact had asked her several times if she was sure about her decision to marry Charan. “He asked me a thousand times as he was worried since Charan is from a different field.” She also reveals that her husband is “a mirror image of my dad, they are so similar.”
Work and new vistas
Upasna is a happy mix of all the traits she has imbibed from her family. Her father has instilled a sense of discipline in her, which is one of the foundations of her outlook to everything in life. She believes in being punctual at work, as Editor of B Positive magazine. Upasna also heads the charity division of the Apollo group – Apollo Life. But philanthropy came early in life to Upasna. She recalls, “As a student, I had started a movement called U Exchange, where I would collect old text books and notebooks with leftover pages and distribute them to young children in the Naxal areas.”
Work as Editor of B Positive is challenging. What is the magazine all about, I ask her? “No matter what I do, I always ensure it has something to do with my own likes and interests. So when I started this magazine, the focus was on what I would like to read about in the field of wellness and medicine; what I want to know. Also, people around me are not all doctors so I ensured that all the articles, even those penned by doctors are in layman terms. What is most important is that the content should benefit people struggling with health issues,” she says.
Upasna has also conceived of a chain of health and wellness centres – the first of which she has started in Hyderabad. “The wellness centre provides holistic treatment and not just target-based weight loss. The focus is more on being healthy rather than just bringing down body fat. It has to do with muscle mass, hydration levels in the body and a fitness routine that is not boring. We also provide pre- and post-surgery physiotherapy. I plan to open such centres all across the country.”
Her degree in global business marketing management no doubt helped her envision this venture. And given her belief in hard work, Upasna is bound to make it a success. Her husband Ram Charan in fact, revealed in a recent interview that she has a keen sense of business.
A fairy tale romance
Mention her husband and the smile on Upasna’s face is an indication of how deep her feelings run for him. The couple got married in 2012 in what was easily the marriage of the decade in South India. She says, “We were friends for a very long time – since college actually. There were no special feelings between us before I went overseas to study. Love just happened and it was a nice change. What drew us together was that we both knew we had to live up to the expectations our families had of us. We shared similar thoughts, we had the same problems and we both shared the same outlook and belief of working hard to achieve success.”
What also helped this relationship along, was as Upasna puts it, “We were both in a position to marry for love.” She even adds a footnote to her love story: “I wouldn’t have married a doctor, that’s for sure.”
Their wedding had all the trappings of a fairy tale. In fact Charan as she calls him, personally designed the engagement ring he presented her with. She says, “He knows me very well. I loved it the moment he gave it to me and the best part is he knew I would like it. Charan personally looked into every detail of the wedding preparations to make sure I was happy.” And from the many beautiful memories of that special day, one sweet gesture on her husband’s part that she recalls, revolves around her nose ring. She says, “My nose ring came off during the ceremony and oblivious to the cameras, Charan got busy fixing it back on my nose.”
Living with her in-laws is easy because Charan’s parents are attentive and caring. Upasna reveals, “My father-in-law (Megastar Chiranjeevi) takes time out of his busy schedule to call me and ask if I will be coming home for lunch. My mother-in-law and I can sit and chat for hours and she looks after me very well. I don’t think I have had to make any adjustments after marriage.”
Upasna who believes in karma and past lives also believes that she and Charan are connected from a past birth. She says, “Both of us do wacky things together and we had once done regression therapy. There were signs that God sent that made me realise that we were connected. I was lucky I married my best friend.” And that is the advice she gives for young girls too – “Marry a person only if you feel he is right for you. Learn to adjust and pay attention to the signs God sends you. I personally believe in good and bad karma and destiny.”
Upasna and Charan share other interests in common too. They both love fast cars, horses and enjoy sports like deep sea diving. Speaking of horses, I quiz her about the rare Falabella that Charan gifted her. “One month after we got married, Charan gifted me Daisy – a Falabella – which is a miniature breed of horse. In fact, ever since she has come, I don’t feel homesick any more.”
True enough, when Daisy is brought to the area where we are shooting, Upasna lights up instantly, checks on her and even takes a hairpin to pin back the long tuft of hair between Daisy’s ears, which was falling all the way to her nose. But she does reveal that her family has loved horses ever since she can remember. “My grandmother used to ride and we all love horses. I love all animals actually.”
She also reveals that since she is interested in tapping into her sixth sense, she likes spending a lot of time with horses. “They are extremely intuitive and can sense fear and danger. I am hoping it will help me learn about how the sixth sense operates,” she says.
Up close and personal
Life after marriage hasn’t been much of a change. But marrying a film star surely comes with its own challenges? Upasna shrugs it off with a smile saying, “I come from a star family too. We may not be movie stars but I believe I am a star. See, it is no different from marrying someone from any other profession. I don’t get to be with him as much because Charan works long hours, but that’s part of who he is.”
And as for the upcoming Hindi remake of Zanjeer, which could catapult Charan into a even busier phase in life, she remarks that she is prepared for it. “Besides, shooting for a Bollywood film is not that different from a Telugu movie. It is like shooting with a different set of friends, that’s all.” Given Upasna’s friendly nature, it is not surprising to hear her comments on the cast and crew of Zanjeer. “Priyanka Chopra is a gem. And the units Charan shoots with are like one big family. I was sad when the shooting of Naayak (Charan’s latest Telugu release) ended as I had spent a lot of time with the crew on an outdoor location. Kajal (Aggarwal, the heroine of the film) and her mum are such wonderful people and I made friends with everyone in the unit.”
Our conversation leads us to my next question about Charan joining politics in the future. Upasna quips, “It is his choice really, he can do what he wants. For now though, I think he is enjoying being an actor too much to think of other career options.”
Speaking of career options, Upasna reveals a naughty side when she says, “If I had not been in healthcare, I would have loved to be a waitress and live on an island by the beach.” She also likes interior designing and has expressed her creative side by designing the interiors of the wellness centre she has set up. She adds, “I am a very sensitive person by nature. I get hurt easily but I am also very forgetful so if someone hurts me, I forget about it soon and am back to my usual self. I only remember incidents where someone may have hurt me very badly. Injustice of any kind bothers me and I get very sad when any member of my staff leaves me because I do a lot for them.”
As for people she is close to and what makes her happy, she says, “My siblings make me happy, I love fooling around with my sister Anushpala and my brother Puansh. I like doing things that make me happy, like spending time with my horses.”
With the mind of an entrepreneur, and her heart in the right place, Upasna Kamineni Konidala is representative of the new age woman. Confident and clear about her life’s purpose and goals, and in touch with her inner self, she has all that she needs to create a legacy of her own. With an illustrious family backing her, a husband and in-laws who adore her, life is all sunshine and rainbows for Upasna.