"My experiences with television have left me more fulfilled than the big screen" : Gurdeep Kohli

She has modelled for brands such as Ponds, ICICI, Baazee.com, Cadbury's, Ariel and Nestle, before she was offered Pankaj Udhas's music video Kya Mujhse Dosti Karoge. Her lovely big eyes, girl-next-door looks and a disarming smile got noticed almost immediately and it wasn't long before she was offered to play the role of Dr Juhi Singh in Sanjivani- A Medical Boon. From then on there's been no looking back for this Punjabi kudi, Gurdeep Kohli.

Recently, we saw her in a cameo in Bhabhi, shortly she will appear in another cameo in Son Pari.

indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani caught up with this model-turned-TV actor at Cinevistaas' studio in Kanjurmarg on a chilly evening. Excerpts:


How did this model develop aspirations to become an actress?

Frankly, it just happened. Cinevistaas saw the ad I had done for Ariel and they called me. It was a Sunday afternoon and by evening, my measurements were being taken for clothes.


And you jumped in?

Almost. I don't believe in formal training in acting. I have always been a big 'nautanki' at home, imitating actors at the first opportunity. Besides, I strongly believe that it doesn't take much time in the telly world to learn acting if you have even a little bit of interest. Every day, we do nearly ten scenes. So, there is a regular and continuous scope for improvement. If I get time, I see my serials and know where I need to improve.

Plus, there is so much of feedback we get from the viewers; whether it is in person on the roads or on the phone and mail. I am lucky that I have got to work with stalwarts like Rajiv Varma, Smita Jaykar and Vikram Gokhale; all these people gave me lots of useful guidance in my early days; their presence is so heartwarming that you can give nothing but your best.


Working with senior actors can be tough...

(Interrupts) I know there is a general feeling that senior actors are aloof and intimidating, but at least, I haven't come across any. It all depends on how newcomers presents themselves. Some newcomers think no end of themselves. They think they know everything even before they have the lines in hand, how do you expect the seniors to feel comfortable working with such newcomers? No senior likes to dilute the scene.


What have you learnt from seniors like Mohnish Behl, Rajeev Varma, and above all, Vikram Gokhale?

Lot of things. Vikram Gokhale in particular has this knack of getting into any character and enacting the scene. He is so involved with the script. Like, he would literally show me how Juhi should react in certain difficult scenes. He has taught me a lot on how to use my hands in the serial. Television is a medium where the camera is mostly on your face so you often end up doing very little with hands. In such cases, an actor never grows but finds it difficult to perform in plays and films where your entire body has to be in sync with your dialogue delivery. I will never forget at least one of his most important lessons- never stand with your hands folded because it portrays a very uncommunicative feeling.

From Mohnish Behl, I have learnt how to underplay the character which is very important. Even if it's the role of a vamp, there is no need to go over the top and start screaming and wailing. Else, an actor ends up looking like a caricature. Also, Mohnish has taught me a lot on how to modulate my voice, keeping with demands of the situation.

Unfortunately, I have had very few scenes with Rajeev Verma.


Are you allowed to improvise?

We 'have to' improvise. There are many scenes which when read, do not go with the character. There are so many words which I have been told not to stress on, but sometimes I feel that I should. Having been Dr Juhi for so long now, I know exactly how she would react, so I try to convince the director accordingly.

"Modifications and caution is the key to ensure that one does not end up looking repetitive in every frame"

There are two theories about the acting craft. One is that you should always be truthful while acting and never lie. The other theory is the opposite which is that acting is the art of lying. Which theory do you believe in?

There is yet another theory and that is to get into the skin of the character you are profiling (so you're not yourself) and then portraying that character honestly. That way you are not lying and not telling the truth either.

I sit with the director and the assistant director and make the changes amicably. Having been Dr Juhi for some time now, I can visualise how her specific outputs in different scenes would appear on screen. Improvisation is a must. Recently, Shashank (Mohnish Behl) improvised on a scene and it took the scene to heights greater than the writer had conceived.


Is it so easy to sense and visualise?

I don't know about everyone, but I am a very sensitive actor. And I think that every sensitive actor after a certain period of time, does sense what he should do and what he should not; whether his/her scene would look convincing or not. If you don't, it shows on television.

It's not easy in this medium if you don't sense and visualise. Like there are occasions where my face shot is taken while I am saying the dialogues, but the person to whom I am saying is not present. So I should know what he is likely to say and how he is likely to react if I want to keep the tempo of the scene going. Sensitivity is a basic requirement in a TV actor.

Like I know that Juhi is a girl who has her emotions in check, she is a very controlled and subtle character. Her laughter is just a chuckle, her anger rarely leads to an outburst. Even her other emotions like disappointment and surprise are not required by words. For disappointment, she just needs to drop her shoulders. For surprise, she just needs to widen her eyes.


Was sensitivity the only thing that helped you to get into the skin of your character?

Good question. Actually, there are two basic requirements of an actor. First is sensitivity and second is adjusting to different characters in the plot. Like, I need to speak with Shashank in a manner which is different from the manner I speak to Simran which in turn is different from the manner I speak to Rahul.

With Shashank, I am softer. With Simran and her father, I have to be upfront because both play negative. Again here, Simran and her father are two different people. Considering her dad's age, I cannot go beyond a certain level, I'd rather introduce a tone of sarcasm in my dialogues. But with Simran who is about my age and is 'actually' responsible for the mess I find myself in, I can meet her head-on sort of tit-for-tat. But of course, I can't be as nasty and vocal as she is, because it would go against my character in the show. Modifications and caution is the key to ensure that one does not end up looking repetitive in every frame.


Which scenes do you prefer, romantic scenes or conflict scenes?

I prefer romantic scenes. Basically I am a Yash Chopra fan. (Laughs). I also prefer that the romantic scene is immediately followed by a conflict scene between Simran and myself. Since Simran is the thorn in my love for Rahul (Mihir Mishra), thereafter my output for the conflict scene automatically gets enhanced.


How do you alter to the requirement of the mood variations?

Sensitivity again. Unlike many others, I don't believe that I need to remember something sad from my personal life to enact a crying scene or for that matter a joke from my personal life to enact a comedy scene. If you deal sensitively with the script, you will automatically become a switch-on-switch-off actor. There are scenes where there is no time to think about the past. If one of our co-actors has not reported, we are given additional scenes. There is no time gap for us to scratch our heads and trace back.


Do you sometimes feel that a particular shot has not gone well?

Often. In such cases, I request for a re-take. At times, the re-take is better. At times, the first shot is better. Whichever is better, is retained.


Change of directors. How do you cope up?

That does become a problem. First, every director has a different style of functioning. Two, certain directors have rigid policies. Like there were a few directors in between who were adamant that I should cry in scene that I am hurt. I, for one, don't believe in using glycerin and shedding tears. Why should unreality be projected in a melodramatic manner? But I have learnt to take it in my stride.

"The industry is tough and competition is high. I believe it is best to be professional and do your job well"

Do you'll have meetings which tell you how your character is going to shape up in near future?

Yes, we do. That is very important or else an actor would become a robot. It is very helpful to keep the body language in flow of the story.


Have there been scenes where you have disagreed, but you can't do anything?

Ya sometimes because after all, the channel is the boss and rules the show. Like there is this scene which is coming up shortly- you will find me in chains with my face blackened. Simran is wishing ill for me. I was quite amused. Simran is shown as a doctor. Does a doctor think like this?


Playing the same character continuously, make the acting skills go unnoticed. Agree?

Not at all. Believe me, I have been flooded with offers. Here goes the list of people who wanted me in their projects: Vashu Bhagnani for Hrishita Bhatt's role in Out Of Control, Ken Ghosh for Amrita Rao's role in Ishk Vishk Pyar Vyar, Sooraj Barjatya for Rajat Barjatya's film which never materialised, Ekta Kapoor for Aamna Shariff's role in Kahiin To Hoga. And Ashutosh Gowariker screen-tested me for Swades starring Shah Rukh Khan. But first, I want the serial to reach a logical conclusion. I am not in a hurry to reach anywhere. I will tread on the glamour road very stealthily. I am very young, I want to take my own sweet time getting there on top.


After playing such a positive role, do you think you'll be considered for negative characters?

Frankly, many people tell me that I have a very positive looking face. So, that is a bit of a problem. But I have the ability to surprise and shock. Don't jump to conclusions so early in my career.


We have heard that you and Mihir Mishra don't get along?

You have heard it right. Our equation broke even when Shilpa Kadam was still a part of the serial. Her role started turning very negative, she didn't like it and left the serial. Around those days, Mihir stopped talking to me. I have no clue what bugged him when Shilpa opted out. Initially, I was shocked. But now, it has become a part of life. What to do? I think he would be the right person to ask this question.


But how doesn't it reflect on screen?

Maybe we both are very good actors (Laughs).


The last few episodes had been shocking- like Juhi staying with Rahul's wife in the same house. Do you identify with such a situation in real life?

Never. I consider marriage as sacred and sacrosanct. Moreover, marriage in India is not restricted to the boy and girl coming together; even the families count. If I am not accepted by my guy's parents, I would never get married to him. Like Dr Juhi, I would not continue my love affair with my lover if he ties the knot with someone else.


Where does 'Sanjivani- A Medical Boon' go from here?

Some new characters are going to be introduced. Let me not spill any more beans (Smiles).


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