Genelia and Riteish Deshmukh talk about their viral Insta reels, life off camera and their successful marriage
Genelia D’Souza and Riteish Deshmukh walk us through how they keep their romance fresh, parenthood, their vegetarian journey and their shared love for Instagram reels
Bollywood’s most adored couple, Genelia D’Souza and Riteish Deshmukh, first met on the sets of their debut movie Tujhe Meri Kasam in 2003. After the success of their first film, both stars worked in many other popular movies. Genelia went on to become one of the top actresses in the South Indian film industries with her hit movies like Boys, Satyam, Happy and Bommarillu. She got back to Bollywood with the popular rom-com Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Meanwhile, Riteish consolidated his position in the Hindi film industry with movies such as Dhamaal, Apna Sapna Money Money, the Housefull franchise and Ek Villain. In 2012, the duo surprised their fans when they made their relationship official and got married. Since then, Genelia and Riteish Deshmukh have been among the most popular couples of Bollywood. From being active on social media, making entertaining reels to even being paparazzi favourites along with their children, the duo is giving major couple goals. They are really big on Instagram and post some quirky and fun reels that have a huge following. We get candid with the star couple as we speak to them about reels, real-life and what the future holds for them. Excerpts:
Q: We love your reels. Which one of you is hooked to the format?
Riteish Deshmukh: I think that would be me. I really enjoy the format. It started with Tik Tok and then we moved on to the reels. I have realised that this is the kind of communication that I enjoy with my fans. I would prefer posting a reel over a picture, they are fun. I forced Genelia to do a few with me and now she makes her own reels and I participate in them sometimes.
Q: You both began your career about two decades ago with Tujhe Meri Kasam and have been together since then. What according to you is the key to a successful relationship?
RD: When we were friends or dating for 10 years, it felt like marriage and now that we are married for 10 years, the freshness of dating still exists in our relationship, and that is something that we truly enjoy. It is always an ever-evolving process of trying to find new things. It is like a house. You have to clean it regularly for it to look spick and span. If you don’t clean, the dust will settle and it will look dirty. So, in relationships that span decades, you have to keep evolving and finding new things that excite you.
Q: What have you learnt from each other over the years?
Genelia D’Souza: I wasn’t really into art but Riteish loves art. And, over the years, our holidays have become about visiting museums and spending time there, looking at art. It wasn’t something on my to-do list ever but I think with him, I have started enjoying a lot of art. I also see my kids very involved in art. At times, they express their emotions through art, which I think is a beautiful medium. Besides art, he also made me start working out. I was blessed all along and never felt the need to work out but once pregnancy sets in, you start getting comfortable and become negligent towards your body, because kids and the house matter more… But Riteish insisted that I go out there and work out to feel better and I think that really helped me, because that one hour is my hour and I think that’s a healthy lifestyle.
Q: How has having kids shaped your relationship?
GD: Our children’s childhood is very different from ours, we didn’t have iPads or phones, it was all about going out and play. Unfortunately, our kids don’t have the same and therefore we go out on a lot of treks because we want to show them how amazing nature is, that it is an important part of our being, and it also made us change our lifestyle.
RD: One thing that I have learnt from my boys is to live in the moment. We are so busy planning for the future that we forget today but they are only interested in the present moment. They are like ‘Baba, what are we doing now?’ They make us live for now. During the lockdown, whenever we had two to three days to ourselves, we would pack our bags and go somewhere nearby, spend that time in nature and come back.
Q: Riteish, take us through your daddy duties and how good are you at them?
RD: We are talking on a day where I have already goofed up all my daddy duties so… (laughs). But yes, I am attempting to fulfil my daddy duties but these online schools are very tough, especially for the age group that my kids belong to — Riaan is six and a half and Rahyl is five. But, Genelia has really aced it. However, when it comes to art and crafts, I shift in because it is something that I contribute to, otherwise, it is mostly her...
GD: Actually Riteish is mostly never around to do these things but he never says no, which is a good thing. Thankfully, he and I have been partners in parenting, and I can’t imagine it otherwise because the person you trust the most with your kids after yourself is your partner and if that person says I can’t do it then your whole world crashes. He has done everything, from changing diapers to cleaning them up, and as much as I do the majority of it, he never backs down.
Q: What made you guys turn vegetarian and how has the journey been?
RD: It was a mannat of sorts to give up on something that we really cherish. Besides, there was this perpetual guilt for what we were doing to our environment and animals.
GD: My reasons were the same as Riteish. I have always had a dog, and all my life, I felt a sense of guilt because, on one hand, I love one animal and on another hand, I am eating another animal. So, I was a guilty nonvegetarian but it was very tough then to give up on the food, as back then I used to consider vegetarian food to be just about potatoes and paneer. But, in the process, I ended up becoming a happy vegetarian and then a happier vegan. In fact, a large part of our new venture came from our kids because after we returned from America, Riaan came to me and said, “We have a dog, how can we eat meat?” He said it so innocently, but it got us really thinking.
Q: So tell us about this pandemic project? Who came up with the name Imagine Meats?
RD: After a year or so, I had started missing meat. We were in America for a while in between and there we happened to discover good plant-based meat options but they were limited to burger patties and for someone like me who has an Indian palate, it couldn’t satiate my cravings. But, we got some of those patties home and Genelia decided to mince them and make kheema out of it and when I had it, I was like ‘wow, I am having mutton kheema’. I could sense a happy feeling, which I had really missed. And, it was then that we thought why can’t we do it back in India and replace our kebabs, tikkas and kheemas with plant-based options. And while we were working on it, we were thinking on the lines of ‘imagine that it is chicken’, ‘imagine that it is mutton’, so I thought why not call it Imagine Meats.
Q: How long did it take to get the texture and taste right? What was your biggest revelation during this journey?
GD: There are a lot of combinations and it wasn’t as easy as taking a pea protein and soy and mixing it together. One of the revelations was that there are so many products in this space and every day we learnt and we are still learning how different products feel and taste closer to meat. And, the biggest was understanding how our meat is grown and not born.
RD: It took us good two years to get where we are today. But, let me be very candid and admit that there have been many times that we have gone wrong with it. At times, we would send the stuff back to Berlin, saying this is not how we want it to be and send them kebabs from here (to help them understand better)... Kudos to Genelia because she is the one who decided to pursue a course in nutrition when we started this company to understand plant-based nutrition better and then she started working with a few chefs to get the recipes that we have.
Q: Genelia, you took a break of sorts after marriage and came back under the spotlight just two years ago at Lakme Fashion Week Autumn-Winter 2019 when you walked the ramp for Saroj Jalan. Was taking a break a conscious decision?
GD: I look at my life in phases. Before marriage, I was working for about 360 days a year, we were literally in a long-distance relationship and it worked. But, when we got married, I wanted to have that kind of time with Riteish. And, when we had kids, I wanted to give that part of me to the kids, as well. And I am glad that I took that call because I saw so many little things, which aren’t a part of any pregnancy book, which are just your observations and they are miraculous. But once they were able to communicate, I decided to do some work here and there because I love my work and this industry. I have done good work and I want to do some more.
Q: Does it mean we are likely to see you soon on the big screen? What is it that would interest you?
GD: It doesn’t matter if I do something this year or next or the year after, but I am ready. I have been a part of so many industries but not Marathi. I would love to do a Marathi film, hopefully sometime soon.
Q: Riteish, you have been working on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj trilogy. Take us through that and your other projects.
RD: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a very important film for us, which got a bit pushed because of COVID-19 but we are happy that we could spend that time developing it. Nagraj Manjule (director of Sairat) and his team are working really hard to get it right. Since it is a trilogy, we have to write the story arc for three parts and start developing the first. We are hoping to make some announcements early next year. We are developing some exciting stuff in Marathi. If everything materialises then we will see Genelia doing a Marathi film very soon. Currently, I have Netflix’s Plan A Plan B with Tamannaah Bhatia, I have finished Kakuda for RSVP, which stars Sonakshi Sinha and there are a few projects that I have agreed to do, they will be announced closer to filming