Always up for a forthright chat and with her finger in multiple pies, there’s never a dull moment when Masaba Gupta is around. A fashion designer-turned-actor-turned-beauty-entrepreneur, Masaba just treated fans to Season 2 of her part- real, part-fiction show, Masaba Masaba, once again delighting viewers with her wit, warmth and hysterical banter with mother Neena Gupta.
This time around, the show tackled sensitive subjects such as depression, premarital pregnancies as well as unhappy relationships, leaving fans of this curly-haired, caramel-skinned young lady even happier. “It’s been incredible!” she says, excitedly. “We are all in a bit of shock. It’s hard to live up to a season that did so well. I was apprehensive about the response because this show is too close to me. I’m narrating it, shooting for it, designing costumes, putting together a team... So it was hard to say how it’d all culminate towards the end.”
“When you are shooting, it’s difficult to understand what the thread could look like. You never know how a scene could resonate with someone. All the issues pertaining to women that we tackled resonated with everyone! There were so many people stopping me wherever I travelled to give me positive feedback.”
Beyond the series, the new season also enabled the actor to fight her own battles.“I remember not finding closure when Wendell [Rodricks] sir passed away. I was busy. The world got enveloped in a pandemic. We had business problems. I had my health to deal with... I never got a chance to mourn him. So in the scene where I actually break down, I found closure. My director asked me whether I wanted glycerin or time, but it was all inside me. When the cameras began to roll, so did the tears.”
“Another significant scene was when I was speaking with Gia Rytasha’s character about her ongoing struggle with her mental health. I understood then there’s no rule book to tackle depression. Through those conversations, I discovered how important it is to take care of your mental health,” she confesses. Those familiar with Masaba’s journey will know she always longed to be an actor. But this dream came to fruition only years after she found success in fashion. And now, she’s on a roll! Earlier this year, Masaba drew praise for her earnest performance in the Amazon Prime Video anthology, Modern Love: Mumbai. Turns out, it happened rather serendipitously.
“As I was wrapping up my shoot for Season 2 in 2021, I was hoping something good would come my way. And that’s when Dhruv Sehgal approached me to play the role of Saiba. I don’t know how he saw me as this simple girl from a simple city, but Dhruv said he felt I was right for this role after he saw a few of my interviews. I auditioned and took part in a couple of workshops before we shot the series. Initially, I could not relate to this character as I’m neither on a dating app, nor am I putting myself out there to find love. But it all just came together in a flash,” she recollects. Speaking of love, unlike her on-screen persona in Masaba Masaba, off screen, she’s rather old-fashioned and has charming views on romance.
“Romance, to me, is a great deal of comfort, as cliché as it sounds. I’ve seen couples married for 15 to 20 years with discomfort between them that stemmed from an imbalance of power. For a truly great relationship to stand the test of time, you need to have companionship, balance of power and friendship that goes beyond chemistry and passion,” says the 32-year-old old soul in a young body.
Finding love is a cakewalk for no one and is perhaps harder when you’re a celebrity. But Masaba claims to be a good judge of character. “I’m very good at judging myself,” she laughs. “I have a weird sixth sense when it comes to people, not just men. There are times when people walk into the room and exchange pleasantries, and my reaction’s been ‘Wow, I don’t like their energy.’ For the longest time, I shut that voice down believing that I was being sensitive, judgmental, or emotional. But my gut is very on-point.”
A flourishing eponymous label, a budding acting career and now a beauty brand, Lovechild, ironically inspired by her infamous sobriquet. To top it all off, Masaba sold 51 percent stake in House of Masaba to the Aditya Birla Group, freeing her to focus entirely on the creative side of the business. “I’d recommend such a partnership to anyone! There are people who are able to manage both the business and creative aspects of their work — I’m not one of them! I like working with people who are good at their job, and I do mine. Hopefully that marriage will work. This gives me time to focus on the future of my brand and the kind of product extensions I want.” Lovechild, her latest baby — pun intended — stays true to this very philosophy. “I named my beauty and wellness brand Lovechild because it’s been a part of my narrative for so long. Owning a beauty, skincare and wellness brand has been a part of a larger dream. We worked on this for over a year, though I’ve had this concept on my mind for seven years. Unlike the House of Masaba, which is a luxury brand, Lovechild is an inexpensive, clean beauty label.”
When asked about how driven she is, her response is near instantaneous: “I do so much because I feel my time is running out. I’m already 32 and will soon turn 33, 34, 35... So I want to do everything today!” And while stress is an inevitable part of her life, given her voracious appetite for staying busy, Masaba knows the tricks to catch her breath. “I adopted a peaceful lifestyle — no parties or mingling with people I don’t know. I built a cocoon around me; once I’m done with work, I’m back in that cocoon. I lead a disciplined life on weekdays: I’m up by 5-5.30 am for some yoga and in bed by 9.30-10 pm,” she shares, jocularly wondering out loud, “I wonder what people do when they stay up post 10 pm. I get stressed when I’m invited for dinner at 8 pm because I eat at 6 pm! And if I’m too stressed at work, I take a break by browsing Net-A-Porter.”
A true believer in the freeing effects of travel, Masaba uses it as a stress buster, to open up the mind. “I was in Bologna in Italy for a work trip recently. I had three days off, and I went to Milan on my own. I find travelling alone supremely therapeutic. I walked around the city, ate by myself... It can be so liberating to spend time on your own and get to know yourself better.” Given how well she’s been received in the OTT space, we wonder whether she has more projects in the offing. “I won’t do a big commercial film and play second fiddle to someone in Bollywood,” comes her blunt response. “I’m not interested because I believe I’m talented and deserve better. OTT is huge and a better space for me. It allows me to flourish. If there’s a role I want to play, I will produce it, too!”
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s September 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!