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A Ray of hope and sunshine  amidst the pandemic

Ruslaan Mumtaaz needs no introduction. This actor welcomed a baby boy in the initial days of lockdown last year and became a hands-on father to son Rayaan. We sat down with this proud daddy as he took us through his life’s journeys right up to the addition of Rayaan, his adorably cheerful bundle of joy.

We bet you didn’t know…
Initially, Rusalaan was quite fascinated with the stock market and his ultimate dream was to become a stock broker and deal with equities. He has a degree in finance and pursued that till he was 19. Just like all of his friends, he was very academically inclined. Initially, he never had any aspirations of becoming an actor. He fared rather poorly in his third year at NM College. One day, as the group sat together, they were casually discussing how after attaining an MBA in finance, they would probably make 35,000 in a month. But that same amount could be earned in just a day if one were to become an actor. At that very moment, Ruslaan exclaimed, “Chal, I will become an actor only!” And just like that, his decision was finalized. Of course, nothing much changed suddenly. But, Ruslaan began to devote himself to studying acting just like he had immersed himself into studying finances earlier. So,for two years, Ruslaan studied theatre and danced for Shaimak Davar.

Surely, his parents were expecting this
Quite the contrary! They were shocked because Ruslaan never displayed any inclination to join the film industry before. Besides, he was very non-filmy and they believed if someone wants to be an actor, they must be a little filmi and have that personality from a young age itself. Being academically inclined, the way Ruslaan approaches his work and most things is a tad different from the way a creative person or someone from the film industry would approach these things. Being concerned, his parents tried to dissuade him from joining the industry. But luck favoured Ruslaan. He still believes there is some luck factor when he gets credit for his acting or fitness.


Was there any nepotism at play?
Ruslaan’s father Sajid Mumtaz worked for Air India and retired many years ago. His mother Anjana Mumtaz is an actress. He explains how his mother was really not in a position to call up big production houses like Dharma Productions or Karan Johar to cast him. He believes that the person involved needs to have a certain potential for these big banners to launch them. He tells us if he was perfect or as talented as the people launched by big production houses and his mom had to make a call, then maybe it would have clicked. But he insists only true talent survives in this industry. Only the ones with talent eventually make it even if one has an edge to get that first break because of who their parents are. Otherwise, nothing really takes off in their career because they never had it in them. Ruslaan cites examples like Varun Dhawan, Ranbir Kapoor etc. These are kids from film families; but they have an ‘X’ factor. They have been able to translate that and improve in their work. Likewise, girls like Alia Bhatt and Jhanvi Kapoor surely get an entry because they are groomed from an early age and know how to carry themselves as celebrities which matter to a producer. But only talent will let you survive beyond the initial.
Ruslaan shot for his debut film in 2006 and it was released in 2007. A lot of people who follow him or his work aren’t even aware of his roots because it has never been projected in such a manner. Eventually, they realize he is Anjana Mumtaz’s son but he believes nobody has ever watched his work because of his background.


Handling trolls
Ruslaan just feels bad for the trolls because it’s worrisome if you ponder and think about the kind of people out there in this world and all that goes on in their hearts. It’s just scary to think about what the world has become. He believes the more negativity or evil you spread outside in the world, the more it will affect you on the inside. So, it’s better to just stay out of it. But, that’s about it. Because, trolls haven’t really been bad for him as he knows when to keep his mouth shut. He tells us, if you have an opinion, you should discuss it at home with your family; don’t put it out there. Because other people who are evil will also give their opinion. Sometimes, he is ready to defend and protect somebody out of a good heart; but he just refrains from doing that because he does not want his family to be a target of any kind of negativity. So, he really does not use social media to share any kind of opinions.


On the baby trolling trend
Rayaan is on social media because of the kind of kid he is. He has the personality that spreads happiness; that’s why he is on social media. It’s not only in his pictures. Even at home and in the building, wherever he goes, he waves at anybody and everybody. Ruslaan wants him to spread his positivity in the world where there is so much negativity already. He has been taught that there is no difference between a watchman and the CEO of a company. He has to greet the watchman and say ‘hello’ to him and he has to wish a CEO ‘good evening’ so there is no difference for him. From a very young age he does this, so all this proud daddy needs to do is encourage that.


The love story
For a boy who was averse to the film industry, the manner in which Ruslaan met his wife is rather filmi! Nirali and he were in Shaimak Davar’s class together. At 22, Ruslaan was already famous in class because he used to do a lot of ads. So, all the girls already knew him. Anyway usually, in all these dance classes there are less guys and more girls, so he was very confident about himself. One day he arrived early and had to wait outside class. Nirali was early as well. So, only both of them were there. And as she turned towards him, the wind blew and her hair looked gorgeous flowing with the wind. Ruslaan said to her, “hey, you are looking good today”. And those were the first words he uttered to his wife. Until then, he didn’t even know her and had never really noticed her. She just looked at him and thanked him in return. That was it; it was their first conversation. Then one day, he asked her where she lived so he could drop her home. Ruslaan admits, as he was already earning his own money, he was a tad arrogant and confident of who he was at that time. At that time, Nirali was just 17 and too young. She was still in college and looked at him quite differently. She had never been with a guy who was so sure of himself.

A young Ruslaan did not really think he would marry this college girl back then. He wasn’t even certain about the future of their relationship but he was already connected to her for some reason. But the young couple did not know what that reason was. Much later, he realized that the kind of upbringing Nirali had and the kind of values she has as a person are the kind of values that resonate with Ruslaan. Of course, at that age all this value-system really did not matter. At that time, one looks for very different things in a partner. It’s only when you decide to get married, you start bothering about how they look at the world and their principles in life and all those other things. Nirali and Ruslaan are very non-judgmental; they are not the morcha nikalo types or people who are against the government or have any conspiracy theories in their minds. They are simple people. If someone tells them ‘corona spread ho gaya hain’, they think okay, corona spread ho gaya hain; stay home. They don’t attempt to apply any twisted complicated interpretations by concluding nahin, yeh Bill Gates ne kiya hoga, yeh government ne kiya hoga. They are both simple and straightforward. Whatever they see is what they believe. So, they get along well. Sure, people can fool them. But they are willing to be fooled; they are not over-smart. Ruslaan realized that about himself and Nirali much later in life. He believes this is the reason they ended up together.
Earlier in his life, he did not think of himself as a simpleton. It’s only much later that Ruslaan realized his personality is like this and he stopped being apologetic for it. When he was younger and people fooled him, he would feel very bad about it. Eventually he realized, it’s okay. If somebody wants to lie to him bluntly, it’s okay to believe them. He knows he wouldn’t lie to anybody, so Nirali and he gelled on that level and found each other extremely similar in their view of the world and life in general. That’s the right person to be with and start a family, he asserts.

In the beginning, Nirali and Ruslaan were not so sure about their relationship. Immediately, after they met, he started pursuing his acting career and she was still studying. So, they didn’t really know what and how this new relationship was going to be, whether they were going to end up together or not. They didn’t really have any expectations from each other. It’s only much later when Ruslaan soared through his career, he realized that even though he kept meeting new people and several actors, Nirali was the only person who knew him from before that time. He would always go back to her because she didn’t have any pre-conceived notion about him. For Nirali, he was still the same Ruslaan. For her, he was not a celebrity or an actor from MP3. They shared a different kind of bonding wherein Ruslaan did not feel judged and Nirali wasn’t awestruck. Nirali as a person is very confident of herself and she’s always felt very secure. There was a time when Ruslaan himself asked her, “how come you don’t feel insecure about all these girls?” She just replied saying, “do I need to? If no, then why should I?” It was just a very normal and organic relationship. He felt very normal with her. With other people, either they were with him because he was in a movie or some girls felt the need to constantly remind him that although he must have appeared in some movie, that was not why they were together. Some people took that success away from him while some people gave him too much importance. That is something that he could not handle. Nirali did not have that kind of baggage because she knew Ruslaan before all the fame and glory. It was just a very natural transition and the two did not even realize that they had started dating.

The next step
This adorable couple were together for quite a while. Marriage was not something that they had discussed. One day Nirali told Ruslaan that her parents had arranged for her to meet a boy and that’s when Ruslaan said, “don’t go, tell them I will come and meet them”. So, this is how the marriage topic started. Ruslaan admits of his own accord he would not have gone ahead as he was not completely ready for marriage until then.
In the beginning, Nirali’s parents were uncomfortable with the idea of an inter-religious marriage because they did not know about the kind of family Ruslaan came from. A lot of people have a certain perception about a Muslim household. Ruslaan’s home is not like a Muslim or a Hindu family; they have a very cosmopolitan outlook. His own parents had an inter-faith marriage. Once Nirali’s family met Ruslaan, they realized his family is not religious. For him, it does not matter if somebody considers him to be a Hindu or a Muslim or even Christian, because his personality would blend into any of them. He is not religious; he just believes in God. He can celebrate Christmas, and have Ganesh Chaturthi at home and it would make him equally happy. But he cannot fast or even hate people because of their religion or beliefs. His principles in life have been very different from that of a religious person. Once Nirali’s family saw this, there were no issues. That’s how they accepted their relationship.

The proposal
You’d expect an actor of his caliber to perform a grand gesture, probably organize a group or propose from a plane etc. But this is how it happened. So, Ruslaan and Nirali were in Mahabaleshwar on the terrace of their bungalow and he just abruptly uttered something like, “We’ve been friends for so long and have been dating for a while. So now, I think it’s time for us to be husband and wife; will you marry me?” He did not go down on a knee, which in hindsight he believes was quite a disaster! At that moment, he thought if he had gone down on a knee, it would be too filmy, and that’s just not who he is! Now when he looks back, he realizes it is so unflattering for a girl! Maybe if he had done something better, she would have appreciated it more. Of course, later when they got engaged, he did propose to her in front of the entire family.

On marriage
Ruslaan and Nirali got married on Valentine’s Day in 2014. They’ve been married for 7 long years. Obviously, it’s not like those dating years anymore because dating and marriage are two completely different things which you realize only after you get married. Marriage has its own fun side because as a couple this duo has travelled a lot. They also consciously delayed having a child to ensure they enjoyed their marriage as much as their dating days. They took so many trips abroad and did things that they can’t do with their baby now. Travelling with a child is not the same as travelling as a couple. They were dating for 10 long years, which was quite long and a very good phase in the relationship, and then the married years were also very good, but then there came a point where they realized that they needed to decide if they wanted to have a child or not. In those 7 years of marriage, they had a repetition of sorts every year and never did anything different. So, they took a decision to do something different and enter the next phase of their lives by welcoming a child.

On family planning
As a couple, they dated for 10 years; they could have dated for 1 more year. But it really gets stagnant after a certain time if you don’t go to the next level. So, it was always thoughtfully done. Now after having a child, they have another thing to look forward to and it has become fun again.
Initially, Ruslaan wasn’t really mentally prepared to have a child, but his parents also thought that it was high time as it had already been 6 years of marriage by then. They were of the opinion that they were growing old and later they probably wouldn’t be able to look after their grandchild. So that pressure had also started coming in. Nirali also thought that if they wanted to have a child, then they should at least start trying because it would be difficult to predict how long it could take especially if any medical issues were to crop up. Unaware of any possible complications, considering all these factors, it made sense to start trying for a child. But then, it just happened in the first year itself.

Having a baby during the lockdown!
Everything was so different at that time; it was like a scene out of a movie. So, the lockdown had just begun. One day, Nirali and Ruslaan had just gone down for a walk. And suddenly she shrieked, “I think my water just broke; we need to go to the hospital.” So, they got back home and she started to pack her bags and got ready. His parents started to worry about what would happen if the cops stopped them. But Ruslaan assured them that nobody would want to stop a pregnant lady who is ready to give birth. Nirali’s father is a doctor at Saifee Hospital which is at Marine Lines while Ruslaan live at Juhu. Under normal circumstances, it would take one to one and a half hour to reach that hospital. But they sat in the car at 9:30 in the night and exactly in 20 minutes, they were at Saifee Hospital. Ruslaan tells us, while he was driving on the deserted roads, he did not see a single human being. It was as if they were in a movie where there is just this one man driving with a pregnant woman in the end. He had this constant fear of someone throwing something at his car because nobody was supposed to step out at that time. What if someone had to appear and say ‘gaadi ko roko’ and things like that. Eventually they reached the hospital and everything happened smoothly.
The next day, within 24 hours there was a COVID- 19 patient in Saifee Hospital and one of the doctors got infected. So, Ruslaan and Nirali were advised to leave the hospital and return home as both, mother and baby were doing well. Nirali was supposed to go to her mom’s house but her father had come in contact with that COVID- 19 positive doctor and so he had to be quarantined. So Nirali couldn’t go to her mother’s house after the delivery. All the baby clothes and things were at her mother’s house. So, Ruslaan drove there first, got all the things in the car and then drove back home to Juhu with his wife and baby. These new parents didn’t know how they were going to handle this baby with all these changes happening. The first few days and months were definitely stressful.


Choosing a name, future etc.
Nirali and Ruslaan named their baby Rayaan which means ‘gates to heaven’. It was Nirali’s choice. Since Nirali’s grandmother had passed away just two days before Rayaan’s birth, she wanted something symbolically significant.
When asked about Ruslaan’s plan for Rayaan’s career, he told us he has no expectations from his baby boy apart from this one thing. He just wants Rayaan to be respectful to people. That’s his only concern. His sole expectation is that his son must treat people of all color, caste, creed, and nation respectfully.

Hand-me-downs for a celebrity’s baby!
Even later, as lockdown was in effect, there was nothing stocked up at home and Rayaan did not have clothes. There were so many people like friends and friends of friends that were not even known to Ruslaan and Nirali who contacted them saying ‘our baby is 9 months now and we have all his bachpan ka clothes. If you are okay with using them, then please come and collect them’. That’s how it was with Rayaan for the first 3 months. He used a lot of hand-me-downs which was very nice and cute. Nothing much was really purchased in advance because they didn’t know if it would be a girl or a boy. All of those things were to be done after the birth of their child. And Rayaan was supposed to go to his grandma’s house anyway. So, Rayaan really walked into a house where he was not supposed to be coming into initially.


Keeping the spark of love alive
When asked how he intends to keep the flame burning, he innocently replies, “I don’t know!”. Initially, he never really gave it a thought. So, this is the arrangement they follow: Rayaan does not sleep along with Nirali and Ruslaan. That was decided from before itself. So Rayaan has his own cot; he sleeps in his own room and has a nanny. There are just some occasions like his birthday or once in a while if he refuses to go to sleep or on certain days when there is no work on the following day, Rayaan sleeps in the same room. Since last year, this probably happened just 4-5 times. So as a couple, Ruslaan and Nirali’s life has not changed drastically. They do everything for him as parents but they are also what they used to be before his birth. And since they live along with Ruslaan’s parents and have a nanny, everyone has a designated time and a defined set of responsibilities with Rayaan. Everybody loves spending time with him. As a father when Ruslaan is home, he spends a lot of time with Rayaan. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t see any difference in his relationship with Nirali because earlier he had his work and now due to the lockdown, he is home with Rayaan, while being a banker, Nirali is constantly working. Ruslaan has become a hands-on dad. When he is home, he plays with Rayaan, looks after him and even puts him to sleep.


Maintaining a fixed schedule
Ruslaan explains how Rayaan has maintained a very strict time table from the very beginning. He just works like a clock. Between 10:30am to 11:30am in the morning, he sleeps and again in the afternoon between 4 to 5, he sleeps. His dinner time is set; his night sleep time is set. They’ve always followed a routine for him so it is good for him and for everyone else at home too. That’s why you see a happy baby even on social media. These are not just for pictures; these are him being happy and positive in reality.


A father’s role
Ruslaan has been very hands-on with baby Rayaan. Also, because lockdown was in effect, there wasn’t anything else to do. So, he got very involved with changing Rayaan’s diapers and gave him baths and massages. Ruslaan confidently exclaims that if Rayaan were to be left with him and he is alone with his baby even for a year or two, he can definitely look after him. So that kind of confidence helps in bonding as well. Like, the other day Rayaan was crying and also had a fever. Ruslaan was comfortable handling him in such a situation and doesn’t feel the need to involve his mother every time. The moment Rayaan comes into his arms, he sobers down and stops crying. That’s because of the kind of bond they have. Ruslaan proudly exclaims, “I am not his father only to play with him; I am there for everything.”


A modern outlook
Nowadays, there is YouTube and Nirali is very research driven. She follows so many mommy groups on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. She keeps researching. So, they are always one step ahead with Rayaan. These new parents always know what he will be doing next, like when to start giving him solid foods and stuff like that. Whatever they’ve learned through YouTube has actually worked. The knowledge that they’ve gained from the internet has been very helpful. They follow a rather Western upbringing, not only with Rayaan, but it is similar for Ruslaan and Nirali too. They have a very Western driven outlook. Nirali was still working out till she was 9 months pregnant. Any other household would probably be like, why are you doing this? and why are you so bothered about your figure? It’s not about that; it’s about being fit. The kind of food that Nirali ate while she was pregnant was very normal like any other day. And Rayaan turned out absolutely fine.


Advice for aspiring actors
When asked for advice, Ruslaan leaves us with these notes. “You need to believe that it’s your own talent that can make it happen. No contact, no casting couch, no buttering people is going to get you to where you want to be. The only way you can be successful in this industry is by your talent. If you are truly talented, then nobody on earth can stop you from succeeding. And stop looking at star kids and cribbing. Basically, just look at people and find some good in them. If you are looking at Nawazuddin, don’t discuss his looks. For Salman Khan, don’t discuss his acting. Find out why people work. That is very important. Find the good factor that these actors have and learn from that. I might believe in luck, but I also believe one needs to work hard. The amount of hard work I have put in for my career is the return I have got. If I would have worked harder, then I would have gotten more. The kind of luck that favors you is equally proportionate to the hard work and talent you have.”



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