As Pooja Bedi turns a year older on 11 May, The Quint caught up with her to talk about life beyond her much-remembered Marilyn Monroe-esque pose in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, the eye-grabbing ‘KamaSutra’ campaign and her image as the bohemian 90s rebel girl.Q: Back in the 90s, you had this image of being a strong willed, liberated, free thinking woman while today there is considerable social media and moral support for a girl who stands up for what she believes in, how different were things back then?Pooja Bedi: When I was young and my mother being very bohemian, and you know the whole flower power generation. And all the parents would tell their daughters, be friends with Pooja, but they would encourage them to be better friends with the more traditional, conservative girls. Because I was the one who was very openly drinking, having late nights, had boyfriends, I wore short skirts etc and openly. Not like their daughters didn’t, but they did it discreetly behind closed doors. I just happened to do it openly. So,they would tell them to be better friends with other more traditional girls. Q: From a sex symbol to being recognised as a columnist today, how does that make you feel?Pooja Bedi: It’s a journey of personal empowerment all the way and people’s perception will change, and I will not be limited by their limitation. They are always judging you on their limited perceptions of you. Some people see the fact that I was a sex symbol and I was fit and sexy then and I am still fit and sexy and that’s aspiration for a lot of women. That having two children and being in my late 40’s. I maintain myself a certain way. For a lot of people, it’s the fact that I write a relationship column and I am empowering people to think differently and change their lives. Some people see the fact that I have been a single successful working individual and I have earned my own wages since the age of 18. So, everybody sees it with what they resonate with and what works for them. Q: You’ve dabbled in theatre, films, written books and been an interior decorator among other things. Now, you’re advising people on life and other issues. So, tell me which role has been the closest to your heart?Pooja Bedi: Every role that I have chosen has been close to my heart, which is why I chose it in the first place. So, whether it was playing sex symbol to the hilt back then in the late 80s early 90s. I got married, I love being a wife. I love the role of being a wife and taking care of the home and husband and kids and being that person. You when you’re a divorcee, you want to be the best divorcee, so you end up being the perfect divorcee, being good friends with your ex-husband and then being a single parent and then that takes precedence in your life. You know there is also the journey of working and trying new things professionally.Q: How did you deal with your divorce with Farhan Furniturewala?Pooja Bedi: I was at a point in my life where I was at my early 30s with two children and no alimony money, because he refused to give me anything and that time the court systems were very different. They didn’t empower women the way the laws and court systems do today. Because, we are talking about something that was 15 years ago and it was very very daunting to start life, completely, practically from zero. I was very lucky I had a little bit of my mom’s inheritance, because she had passed away just a couple of years prior. So, I had some of that money to keep me going initially.“My whole life, I had either been a movie star, which I certainly didn’t want to be again, because now you are in your 30s, you have two kids, you couldn’t be the sexy girl jumping around on the bonnets of cars with your dress flying up anymore.”I was approached by Mid-day who asked me if I wanted to write a column for them because I was out all the time, ‘The Diary of a Single Woman’ and then I had the Times of India contact that said that they were launching a channel called Zoom and they wanted me to start a talk show on it because they liked the way I thought and wrote and communicated. So, then that led to the talk show, which led to brand endorsements, that led to reality shows and it led to so much more. Within one year I was back on my feet I was earning superbly well. I was driving the same Mercedes car as my ex-husband you know. In fact, loaned him money for his business.Q: This was also the time when your brother was going through a lot of issues and he passed away as well...Pooja Bedi: I had lost everybody close to me in that short four-year period of my life. I lost my grandmother to cancer. I lost my dog, the man, Anthony who I used to called ‘yonk’, he raised me since the time I was six-months-old. He passed away. My mother died, my brother died, my marriage broke up and I had two kids and all that in four years.I went to the Lawrence school, which is a very strict, disciplinary boarding school. I was the class topper, I signed the book of honour, I was in the basketball team, the hockey team, the debating team, the swimming team, the all-rounder. So, I mean, whatever I did, I had an attitude of whatever I do, I want it with my 100% and it’s always been that way. That’s been my journey through life.Q: Did working on your mother Protima Bedi’s memoirs help you get to know her better in any way?Pooja Bedi: Her life was an open book and she shared it openly with us and we learnt also to live our life like open books. She had different perspectives on life and relationships. I remember when I came back from Los Angeles, I was 18 years old and I just signed my first film and she took off to Bangalore to start Nityagram, which was in the middle of nowhere, and she said, ‘I am off to Bangalore, that’s my dream.’ And I said, ‘Mum, I am 18 years old, I need you and I need your help’ and she just looked at me and she said, ‘you have your dreams and I have mine. You know, you’re a young adult and I have empowered you to be who you are today, so use that. So, I learnt very early in life that people have their dreams and are entitled to it.Q: Speaking of your debut film, Vishkanya in 1991, how sure were you about what you were getting into back then?Pooja Bedi: Before Bollywood, I thought I was going to be on Wall Street and going to be one of the movers and shakers and power brokers of the world, you know. That is what my ambition was. Then I went to America and I just didn’t like the ethos. I felt like a misfit in their culture because I felt that I didn’t relate to the teenage mentality. I just couldn’t relate to talking about nail polishes and boys and cars. It was great for the first three months but after one year I thought I was going to go brain dead. I went and got a film offer, so I actually used this as a excuse to come back to India. When I came back, my mom took off to Bangalore, so suddenly, I had all these bills to pay because I was 18 and I had a home to run and a cook and the dog. I was just left to fend for myself and then I got Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. I took on the Kamasutra condom campaign and Tips & Toes and Frooty. All of this just to earn the revenue to keep my home fires burning and I just got swept into this magical world of entertainment and films and never looked back and never regretted it.Q: Coming back to your launch in Bollywood with Vishkanya, today, when any star kid is launched, they have so much care and attention, they are groomed and they are media savvy. In fact, they are famous much before their first film because of social media. How do you compare it with your own generation?Pooja Bedi: We grew up to the generation of say, the other old timers. In their generation things were very very different. There was a lot of casting couch back then, I never to encountered any of that. We didn’t have social media back then, today we have the privileges of that, which is a boon and a bane in their lives. Each generation comes into their own skill sets and their own tools that works for them.“Back then once you were married, you were gone, today you are married, and you are still working, like Kareena Kapoor and Kajol and all of them. Then, you were a victim of whatever was written about you in a magazine, today, you have social media to state how it actually happened and to put the fact straight.”Q: And your daughter Aalia (Furniturewala) is a rage on Instagram. How does that make you feel?Pooja Bedi: Aalia is a massive social media star and full credit to her because, I have probably 1 lac something followers on Instagram and she has 3.5 or may be 4 lacs by now. She is headstrong and she is focused, and she is disciplined and she is dedicated.“I am more than my breasts,” which she had written on social media, took the whole country by storm. She is free to empower herself and people around her, to flaunt her thoughts, to flaunt her being, to flaunt whatever she chooses to flaunt and she is completely safe and secure being the person she is. I admire that. Q: A lot was spoken, when your father, Kabir Bedi, married Parveen Dusanj. You then mentioned your relationship would mend organically? Has it gotten any better?Pooja Bedi: Well, no it hasn’t yet. I feel incredible love and respect and every time I look at or think of my father. Every time I meet him publicly, I will walk up to him and give him a hug no matter what. He is my daddy and I love him unconditionally. I am waiting for things to get better with him and me and I know that they will in time. It will surely resolve.Q: But your love life seems to have resolved. Pooja Bedi: (Laughs) It’s been resolved numerous times and it dissolves. I grew up with these Mills & Boons and fantasies. Life like in a fairy tale, where a prince charming comes in and then you kiss a frog and he turns into a prince. In my case, I find a prince, I kiss him, and he turns into a frog. I find a frog, I kiss a frog he still stays a frog you know... (Laughs). Finally, I met somebody I kissed him, and you know he is a prince.Maneck (Contractor) is so lovely. I have known him since my school days. I have known him since I was 12. There is a very strong bond that the Sana alumni creates, and we have so much in common with each other and he has go the loveliest heart. He is Parsi and he comes with all the wonderful traits the Parsi community represents.Well, here’s wishing birthday girl Pooja Bedi her fairy tale ending and the very best in life! We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.