"The revamp trend will stop the day people stop watching these old shows" : Saaksshi Tanwar

It has been three years since she became a household name. Interestingly, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii's Parvati AKA Saaksshi Tanwar didn't really think about the arc lights as a career option till she actually landed with an acting assignment. This former computer software consultant, from Delhi was preparing for administrative service entrance tests when on a close friend's suggestion she audition for a Doordarshan's film songs-based programme Albela Sur Mela. She got selected and that marked her foray into Indian television.

But she her histrionics weren't talked about till she landed with Parvati's role in Kahaani.... Looking at her, one assumes that it wouldn't have been difficult for her to portray an 'ideal' bahu role, but you couldn't have been further from the truth. "In fact, I have started identifying with the character now. Earlier, I used to have a difference in opinion on the way Parvati would handle some situations, but as the character has evolved, it has become exceptionally strong. I am enjoying the role now," says Tanwar.

Yet the Parvati tag is so strong that despite playing and equally important and diverse role in Sony's Devi, people often call her Parvati not Gayatri (Devi) and not Saaksshi. She defends, "When they start identifying with a character, it is difficult for them to look at that person as anyone else. Actually, it is a back-hand compliment for the actors.

That's Saaksshi Tanwar, who shifted from Delhi to Mumbai for work- relishing her television assignment, for you.

indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani caught up with this earthen beauty for an interview. Excerpts:


So, television really did happened by chance....

Yes, I had not planned my foray into television. It just happened. I was in Delhi at that time. One of my friends was anchoring a show on DD- Albela Sur Mela. Her co-anchor did not turn up for the shoot, one day. I was called in as a replacement anchor.

Later, I shot for Imtiaz's Ek Jeevan Hai. One day, Asha Chandra took me to Balaji Telefilms, where Nim Sood offered me a serial Kuch Aise Rishtey. Unfortunately, that show did not see the light of day. Then, I got an offer for Karm from Sab TV. While I was shooting for Karm, Ekta Kapoor called me for Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii. Prior to that I also did tele-plays on Doordarshan and two serials Bhanwar and Rajdhani.


Both the shows 'Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii' and 'Devi' have been long running shows. Haven't you out grown the roles by now?

Fortunately, both these serials have been revamped. Television thy other name is continuity, provided the show is doing well. Neither the production house nor the channel wants to give it away. At times, it's a business considerations other times it is a prestige issue.

Surprisingly, many critiques, who complain about the overdose formula, are regular audience themselves. How can the makers stop making the show till the demand exists? People need to kick their habit and literally stop watching it. The revamp trend will stop the day people stop watching these old shows.


How is it working with the Gen next of Kahaani...? What was your first reaction when you heard that the story was undergoing a major transformation and new characters were being added?

It's been a great experience working with the youngsters, who are barely in their 20s. I am amazed by their energy levels. It simply shows how much the television has grown as an industry.

There weren't many youngsters looking at television as a career option. Though they were inclined towards the entertainment industry, the tilt was in favour of films.

Believe it or not, my first reaction to the news about the new, young entrants was a sigh of relief. It meant that the work pressure would be lesser. Since three years, I have invariably been the first person to reach the set and the last one to leave.

It was much later that I developed some apprehensions about it. What if the Generation X track did not work? Being associated with the serial from day one, it has been like my baby. The apprehension was natural. But I did not have any insecurities and apprehensions about the length of my role. I was sure that I would remain the protagonist. I trust Balaji Telefilms.


Weren't you skeptical about your look when 'Kahaani...' took the 18-year leap?

Thankfully, Ekta Kapoor never told me that I'll have to go grey. I don't know why, but I had a gut feeling that my look would remain nearly the same even after the fast forward. So in came the 'jooda' look where I just had to tie my hair in a bun, don less flashy saris and avoid coloured bangles and bindis. The message, in short, was to keep it as simple as possible.


As a mother in the serial, you support the fact that your daughter Shruti (Tina Parakh) should get married to the boy of her choice. Would you do the same in real life?

Interesting question, but I can't answer it. I find hypothetical questions impossible to answer. But if you are asking me as how I look at it as a viewer, I think Parvati is doing just what the doctor ordered. People have called me up and said that I have taken the right stand because parents must support their children in major decisions of life, or at least see their child's perspective before jumping to conclusions.

As for me, I am a switch-on-switch-off actress. I slip out of the skin of the character as easily as I get into it.

"There is a tendency to sweep a track under the carpet, if it can't reach its logical conclusion"

And was this switch-on-switch-off actor mode an adaptive one? If yes, then why?

Yes and it was the need of time. I was doing both Kahaani... and Devi. For every character that I essay, I have get into their mind frame. It takes time to tune out and get into skin of another. So I usually keep a log of what each character is most likely to do in the coming days. It enhances the confidence levels and the body language and at the same time. So everytime that I have to either be Paravti or Gayatri or Devi... I just remember the pointers. Rest of the time, I am just me.


So what is the thought process before you do any scene?

Like I mentioned, before the scene I revise why the character is thinking or emoting in a particular manner. I recollect the chain of events that have led to a particular scene. At times, I take inputs from the director and co-actors.

I give a lot of weightage to the director's inputs though, because he is the one who is thinking from the technical point of view, referring to the script often, looks at other actors' point of view, viewers' point of view... essentially the whole package.


How do you assimilate so much on the sets?

For important scenes, I take a little time out and sit alone. If I am not convinced about a particular reaction, I go up to the director and ask him about it. Often, I speak to the creative head and sometimes I even call up the writer involved. But usually, I avoid the writer. I believe that a writer just puts words to the concept that has been fed to him.

I have had major fights with directors though (laughs). If I were to become a 'parrot' actor, one who just memorises his lines by rote and them vomits out, it wouldn't have help my rating as an actor, would it?

As for the time factor, there is enough time for those who are genuinely interested. I have even questioned quite a few disappearing tracks. There is a tendency to sweep a track under the carpet, if it can't reach its logical conclusion. All one needs is honesty towards oneself.


Could you recall one incident where you had a strong difference of opinion with the director?

In October 2003 for Devi. They wanted me to wear a big, round bindi, which I thought didn't quite suit me. They wanted to make me look like a Devi (goddess). I told them that they were giving me a bhaiyan look (laughs). And soon enough, after I sported that big round bindi, I started getting calls that people were freaked with the look. It was quite amusing, actually.


Have you ever had problems with lines?

(Interrupts) Of course, I have had problems with lines. And it is not just with the lines that were harsh, there have been instances where I feel that the lines are too mild.

"TV industry is quite flexible and accomodating"

Is it easy to convince others about your viewpoint?

Television industry is quite flexible and accommodating. The directors do consider actors' point of view. We actors grow close to the characters we essay. We will certainly will not go to extremes and advocate something absurd.

All you need is to develop a good rapport with the director so that he lends you an ear and you lend yours to him.


What is it that you have to keep in mind while emoting?

Neither of my shows is a stand-alone. Plus they are long running shows. In such a scenario, it is very likely that I start looking repetitive. So I make a conscious effort to change my output in terms of expression and style. Like, there are five different ways of crying and laughing. I think every actor should adopted a guarded approach to prevent monotony.


More often then not lines come just a few hours before the actual scene. At times, they are even written on the sets. As a senior actor, don't you think it's time something is done about this?

At least for daily serials, it's impossible. You are constantly tracking the TRPs. Scenes are shuffled, tracks are shifted and introduced depending upon the day-to-day performance of the show. It's not possible to plan a story for 100 episodes. Frankly, we shouldn't blame them. It's business. And why should we complain? Despite all this, Indian television is evolving and the television industry is growing. We actors need to adjust to the system, rather than think of changing the system.


Isn't it true that even you follow TRPs quite keenly?

Right. If I get to know that either of my serials has recorded a high TRP, I get motivated. And if I learn that low TRPs have been recorded for the same, I start analysing the reasons why we fared badly. I take criticism constructively.


In both 'Kahaani...' and 'Devi', you play 'holier than thou' roles, doesn't this narrow your chances of experimenting in future?

I don't think so. Production houses and channels know an actor's potential. If you have been following my serials closely, you would realise that my roles in Kahaani... and Devi are different from each other. Devi may not be negative, but she sure doesn't take it all lying down. She gives it back to her husband as good as she gets it. I'll let you on to a secret. I love to see the fear on Vikram's (Gayatri's husband) face when I give it back to him (laughs).

And do you know I am very keen on comedy? I know that I can pull it off. When I have time on the sets, I crack a lot of jokes and even mimic the people around me. Some producer and director should come forward and tap this talent!


Agreed that 'Devi' is different than 'Kahaani...', but yet both are righteous and virtuous portrayals. Do ever get any hate mail?

(Laughs) I don't get it these days, but I had my fair share of it when I turned negative in Kahaani.... I remember meeting an elderly gentleman in a plane. He told me that he was disillusioned with me, because he had ordered his daughters to follow my reel principles. And I do get some letters even now, which don't quite qualify as hate mail. Many young girls write to say that I am putting a lot of pressure on them because their parents keep comparing them to Parvati in Kahaani....


Tulsi of 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' and Parvati of 'Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii' have become role-models. What is the difference between these two role models?

(laughs) Let's keep that question for some other day.



Are you planning to do any films?

Well I did a digital film Kahin Door, directed by Sandeep Varma, in 2002. After that, there were a few other offers, but nothing has worked out. Hopefully, this year, something will. I am open to doing good, sensible roles in films.



How do you avoid the burn out?

It is indeed easy to burn out, considering the amount of work we TV actors do. But I prefer taking a break at intervals. Of course, I consult the production houses before hand. Like, recently, I went to Sydney for a holiday.



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