The wheel has come full circle for actress Bhagyashree, where it all began for her. In television. In between, one big screen blockbuster hit, Maine Pyar Kiya, turned her into an overnight sensation. Before she could quite savour the fruits of her stardom, marriage came her way and she faded out. Rarely mentioned in the media after her performance in the box office bomb Kaid Mai Hai Bul Bul in the early '90s, she is presently to be seen in the tele-serial Sambandh about a women caught between her career, marriage and another women in her husband's life.
Her rendezvous with acting happened by chance when next door neighbour Amol Palekar, a renowned actor director, requested her to step in and act in his serial Kacchi Dhup as the actress who had been signed on had abandoned the serial abruptly. The serial did well and later on she had roles in Honi Anhoni and Kisse Miya Biwi Ke.
She got into movies also quite by chance. "I was contemplating heading offshore to secure a degree in maybe management or so when the offer for acting in a movie came by and I decided to give it a shot. The decision was made very casually," recalls Bhagyashree. The superstardom she got after her debut in Sooraj Barjatya's low budget film Maine Pyar Kiya which went on to become a mega-hit towards the end of the '80s was phenomenal. Then a fresh face on the silver screen, her popularity rose among people who were charmed by her innocent looks.
One expected her to surge ahead, but that was not to be. After her first movie she tied the knot. After marriage she acted in three movies: Peepat's Qaid Main Hai Bulbul, K.C. Bokadia's Tyagi and Mahendra Shah's Payal all opposite her husband Himalaya. However all these movies sank without a trace.
But eventually after a gap of a few years, she did made a comeback of sorts, and this time round it was back to television with 'Aandhi Jasbaton Ki' where she plays a politician. By now a mother of two growing children, one 11 and the other 6, she was seen in Didi Ka Dulha, a comedy serial on national broadcaster Doordarshan and a tele-film where she plays a blind person.
Indiantelevision's correspondent Harsha Khot caught up with Bhagyashree while she was shooting for a pilot at Juhu.
Excepts from the interview:
It has been quite a while since we last read about you, what is the reason for that?
I had three or four bad experiences with the media. That's when I decided to keep clear of it.
What sort of bad experiences?
Well, I have been misinterpreted and at other times it has just been a bad experience with the media. Soon after completing Maine Pyar Kiya I got married and had a child. This particular incident took place in hospital soon after my child was born. A lady who identified herself as a representative of a magazine insisted on meeting me and was waiting for hours together, so my husband let her in. But immediately after congratulating me the next thing she asked was whether I was having an affair with my co-star! As it is after the delivery I was very weak and the last thing I wanted to confront was something as ridiculous as this! Of course, my husband threw her out of the room, but yet the magazine she represented went on to write untrue articles. Firstly they misinterpreted me and secondly they wrote things that I didn't even say.
How did you get your first break into television?
It was soon after my exams got over and I was all set to go abroad for further studies. It was during that time that Amol Palekar uncle, who was my neighbour, was making Kacchi Dhup, a serial based on Emily Bronte's Three Little Women. But the shoot was put on hold as the girl they had signed up eloped with her boyfriend leaving the unit in the lurch. Sheela aunty (Palekar's former wife) came home that night and requested that I act in the serial since it was difficult to find a replacement at such short notice. My younger sister was already acting in it. However, despite giving all possible reasons to wriggle out, she coaxed and cajoled me into agreeing to do the serial. Since it was to be shot during the vacations it would not hinder my work and I agreed and after that everything changed for me. The serial went on to become popular.
Since you were new to acting what was it like facing the camera for the first time?
Surprisingly I was more curious about how things were being done than nervous. I was more involved in knowing how the shots were taken and trying to understand different angles and such. Beside, since it was Amol uncle I was comfortable.
How did you get your break in movies?
You drifted into acting, so when did you start taking it seriously?
I always take my assignments seriously. The problem is in my being convinced to do something. Once you agree to go ahead it is essential that you take it seriously. After all, other people's time, money and effort is at stake.
How do you emote while enacting the character?
Considering the sort of person I am, I would rather do things knowing the details of it. I need to discuss the character with the director. While the shot is being taken I don't think much about the dialogues that I have to say, but instead think from the technical aspect like what kind of a shot is going to be taken. Would it start with a long shot, followed by a close up? Is the other person going to say his/her dialogue, then what kind of shot would be taken of me reacting to the costar? The technical aspects make me understand where the shot will be edited. If you know the technical aspects of it then it helps you grow as a performer. It also gives you an idea about where the shot would be edited which in turn helps you in deciding where and when to give reactions and when not.
Were you academically inclined since you were planning to go abroad for studies before acting happened? If not become an actress what else would you have done?
Now if I think about it, probably this is the thing I wanted to do all my life. It is very strange. Initially I always felt that acting would never be my forte, but neither would I have been comfortable in a 9 to 5 desk job.
I would have loved to be a lawyer, but considering the way law functions in India it probably would have been frustrating. Also my father wasn't really for it.
Bhagyashree with Ayub khan in tele serial
These movies are in different languages. How did you adjust to it?
I think it's only the initial one week when you face a problem. Actually most of our languages eventually come down to Sanskrit. So if you have the basic idea of Sanskrit then you can understand the words.
Are you well versed with Sanskrit?
Well I have fair idea about basic Sanskrit. My father knows a lot of slokas and we've been brought up with that kind of culture. So I essentially know what certain words mean.
What is your background?
I come from a royal family as in my father is a maharaja of Sangli. He has done everything except become a doctor. He has done his MBA and law. I was brought up with a conservative outlook toward life. For instance I had to get back home before sundown. But otherwise a basic inherent culture and tradition was inculcated in our family.
What does acting mean to you?
What are the other factors that you consider while signing up a project?
The director. He is the captain of the ship. If the director is extremely fixed about his ideas and does not give freedom of movement then it can get very constrained. It becomes very difficult for me personally. As an actress you put in a lot of things from within other than dialogues and movements. It should not be mechanical. Because if that was the case, then you can get work done out of a donkey.
I listen very closely when the director narrates the script. How the character is going to be projected, what potential does the role have for me? The way the director narrates the story means a lot to me, because if the flow and style of the story's narration is good it sparks a hope that the project is going to be good. Otherwise if you are not happy with the way the story and the character is narrated to you then you are not going to be happy with the way you are going to be projected.
Apart from that I have other constraints like I don't take long schedules. Five days max if there is any outdoor schedule. Anything longer I will have to give the go bye no matter how meaty the role is.
Any challenging roles that you have especially enjoyed?
The character of the politician played in Aandhi Jasbato Ki, nearly four years ago. The role is about a strong woman with a touch of the real life politicians who enters into politics at the age of 25. The age of the character develops gradually from 25 to 50. To bring out the touch of an older women, I accordingly changed the behavior pattern. It was quite interesting. It was challenging because everybody was uncertain whether I would be able to handle the role well considering the range the character portrayed. They considered me as too young to justify the role.
How do you prepare before a shoot?
I don't prepare at all. However somewhere along the line subconsciously one tends to pick up a lot of things that contribute. For Aandhi Jasbato Ki watching politicians on screen helped. Otherwise I would ponder over how an older women would react to things, keeping in mind the social image that the character would have, rather than essay a particular person.
How do you perceive yourself as an actress?
I am an actress who is limited by my situation. I am first a daughter-in-law, a mother, a wife and only then an actress.
So within these limited roles which are the ones that you would not take up?
That of a prostitute or that which requires one to be loud or crass. Also the ones where you have to show extreme hatred or require physical proximity, be it in the form of love or hatred.
I cannot relate to it. Besides I would not be comfortable doing those roles.
Any role that you feel close to?
The one in Laqeer, mainly because it was break off from what people expect from me as an actress? Directed by Arun Frank, the character has lot of grey shades initially but later they mellow down. It is close to me because a lot of times you want to be a little nasty to a person but then on second thoughts you don't. Human conduct makes a person speak a little softer. This character said what she felt like no matter what. And of course Maine Pyar Kiya will always remain close. While shooting for this movie a lot of things were running parallel in my personal life. Like the scene in the movie where they Reemaji (Lagoo) and (costar) Salman (Khan) get together and pull the character's leg by discussing the proposal of a prospective bridegroom that has come for Salman. During that time I was seeing Himalayaji, he and his mother would pull my leg in a similar manner. Then the marriage sequence in the movie was held three days prior to my marriage in real life.