Every time I heard promos on radio with her voiceover, I conjured up an image of a woman who loves to listen, one who enjoys stories of different lives, one who always has something to offer, no matter what. For some reason, I hadn’t ever met her and when I finally did, the image didn’t fail me. Aarti Patel listens, thinks from varied perspectives, offers her view and tends to befriend. As effortlessly as she narrates those stories on her radio show, Zindagi Express, on My FM.
While her thoughts travel several miles all at once, she is careful not to get tied down by physical possessions. Minimalism is key – be it in clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. She hungers for books, not so much for diamonds as we’d believe women do. “I have one watch…Sandeep gifted it to me 21 years ago,” says the actor-producer-radio presenter about her director husband’s gift. “There’s one footwear, one hairclip…if either would break, I’d buy one. It’s true I believe in minimalism but when it comes to food and books, there is no limit,” says 50-year-old Aarti, who principally never invests in pirated movies or book reprints.
Considering she writes and reads out stories, one a day, for over four years now on Zindagi Express, you imagine there’s a lot she reads. She does, but there’s a lot more she experiences as well. “I like listening to people, observing them. I like seeing things from another’s perspective. I love spending meaningful time instead of empty socializing,” says Aarti, who armed herself not with Literature but an MSc in Statistics. “Yes,” she laughs, “I love Maths.” However, she agrees to inherit writing skills from her father who was a professor and would write plays. “My father would rewrite, edit, write scenes for my maternal uncle, actor Dinesh Shukla, (Kaka Chaale Waankan). He would also write scripts for my serials. He also wrote humour columns in newspapers. My mother, on the other hand, has been a teacher. It’s true I took to writing only recently but acting and producing kept me involved all these years,” she shares.
Aarti’s journey into acting was easy, considering her elder brother and sister were both actors. “I began with amateur plays in Hutheesing Visual Arts Centre. Sandeep and I were friends and did plays together; he did more of commercial plays, though. Doordarshan started in 1985 and I joined as announcer...slowly, I got into serials. Gorus was my first serial in ’89; I was producer and Sandeep was the director. In 1991, I got married to Sandeep and for almost 15 years we were involved in the production of television serials and feature films. In ’99 we did a film, Moti Na Chawk Re Sapna Ma Deetha, and another one in 2005, Galo Kedada No Painu Painu Karto To,” says Aarti, mother to two lovely girls, Aarohi and Sanjanaa.
Her love for watching theatre and films ensures she is busy besides, of course, taking time out for family gatherings or one-to-one meets with those she can have great conversations with. I love spending meaningful time with people, I love family functions but not empty socializing; there is no effort to impress or get impressed. I also like reading multiple books at a time,” says Aarti, who unlike many, isn’t even a travel freak. “Diu, Abu, Udaipur, there are only a few places I like to go to. I am not into travel or making plans,” she says matter-of-factly. Perhaps her travels, too, help add to her story list.
Writing a story five days a week, through four years, has given her a collection of around 800 stories. I can see the files carefully lying one next to another in a row and that makes me want to have a look at the ‘links’, as a radio jockey terms it. Aarti reads out a link in her Zindagi Express mode and for a minute it’s tough to tell if I am listening to it face-to-face or on radio! Her first book of the best 45 stories has been published titled Zindagi Express and is “still a bestseller”. Aarti is currently working on the second book of the same title. How exactly do these stories happen…are they fiction or based on true stories? “I fictionalise stories and tell them; however, there is always a background and understanding of the story/subject. I am a keen observer. I remember I would read Krishna Avatar series as a young girl. Emotional stories, thrillers, suspense, I love these. I don’t prefer horror, not even philosophy, those dos and don’ts kind of books. We all have our individual journey to experience and there’s no point deliberating on the must-dos,” says Aarti, whose program Zindagi Express won the India Radio Forum 2016 award for the best Gujarati radio program.
Recently she also co-authored a book, Aa To Just Vaat Chhe, with Abhishek Jain. Another exciting project Aarti is working on is Hu Ane Tu with Nisarg Trivedi, vachikum where the two read extracts from literature. What about films? “I have recently finished shooting for Ashish Kakkad’s next film where I play the lead role; also, Sandeep and me are working on a Gujarati film,” she says, ready for take-off to a new role on her very own Zindagi express.
Photographs : Ravi Panchal
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