The actor and columnist has now turned wellness entrepreneur. Founder of Happy Soul, she believes that we must celebrate our individuality and not be compelled to conform.
Pooja Bedi is glowing with positivity and a boundless energy that she brings to an all-new health and wellness café in Anjuna, Goa. As she rattles off the sheer variety on the menu and all her plans for Happy Soul, her excitement is palpable.
Her move to a sprawling vintage-themed home in Bardez in North Goa a decade ago was spurred by her need for more outdoor time and more meaningful interactions with friends. Getting engaged to Maneck Contractor, restaurateur-turned-boat builder with his company Multitech Marine, only sealed the deal for her Goa plans.
She speaks of finding joy in the little things, watching trees grow, feeding and playing with the street dogs near their home, sampling Mankurad mangoes which are already plopping down in the garden. Connecting with nature and loved ones is what makes her happy today.
When we ask her about her transition from being a sex symbol in films to this more seemingly wholesome avatar, she says there are ages and stages in life, and you don’t have to be stuck doing the same thing forever. “You grow, you do different things,” she smiles.
“At the same time,” she observes, “I chose those roles because I enjoyed doing them and I was good at it. People had inhibitions about being sexy and hot back then. Today, everyone’s happy wearing a bikini and flaunting their legs. Back then it was not okay. But for me, I wore a bikini to loll by the poolside and I wore it in front of the camera. It was the same thing.”
It was completely natural for her, having grown up in a very bold and bohemian family (daughter of the late Protima Bedi and Kabir Bedi) with quite a different mindset from the ‘tone it down and don’t stand out’ one that most Indian families instill in their children. “I revel in being a woman, being a woman is my strength,” she declares, adding, “I enjoy being sexy. I think it’s a compliment to be called sexy.”
She narrates how her mother handled being catcalled with poise and panache, while an invasion of her space in the form of a bottom pincher was dealt with deftly. These lessons early in life taught Bedi that perspective is everything. This gives her the expanse of vision and the depth of understanding to be philosophical about people’s perception of her.
“If I’m going to flaunt my bosom and expect somebody not to look, that’s weird,” she says, owning her sex symbol status. If some women want to be demure, that’s their prerogative. If a woman wants to flaunt and be sexy, that’s hers. Each to their own is something few people understand,” she says.
Thinking back to her Kamasutra condom campaign with model Marc Robinson from 1991 (incidentally also shot in Goa!), which was heralded as the start of India’s sexual revolution by the British tabloids and won many creative advertising awards, Bedi laughs, “It’s been a very successful journey being the sex symbol of the country.” Her contentment clearly stems from being comfortable in her skin at every step.
Happiness comes in many forms and right now, for her it’s all about the spiritual journey that she’s undertaken with Happy Soul, learning many different types of alternative therapies, guiding others towards a happier life, and creating spaces where likeminded seekers can gather for nourishment of the body, mind, and soul.