Television

"I don't know why Sony is NOT the top most channel today. It may be because crap sells" - Sandhya Mridul

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Proud folks, hefty pay packets, and a huge fan following all over the country-the pretty side of fame. The ugly side-back stabbing, false tales, snubbing, double dealings. Sandhya Mridul, who played twin sisters in the serial Hubahu, was a rage among television audiences. She also got her claim to fame with Extraaa Innings on MAX during the World Cup last year. But her detractors say she is rude and arrogant.

Indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani caught up with this babe who has been added as a hot thing in Sony's dearest serial on date Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin to find out whether she is indeed arrogant... and lots more. Read on to understand that frankness and honesty are often misconstrued as arrogance.

Excerpts from a tete-a-tete:

After 'Hubahu', we didn't see you on television. Why?

Yes, my last serial was Hubahu on Sony, almost two years ago. After Hubahu, I received a number of offers, but I was bored. A trend had started which I didn't approve of. Television was getting monotonous and boring. At the same time, I started receiving offers in films, theatre, events... I really wanted to explore other media, which is why I took a break from television. Plus I think that Hubahu had allowed me to portray a gamut of emotions and there wasn't anything beyond that happening on television that time.

How has your tryst with films been? And what else is happening in your career?

It's been a good experience in films so far. I am a newcomer in the filmi world and am still finding my feet. I did Saathiya purely to see whether I fit into the fray, whether I have the same presence on the silver screen which I do on television. I enjoyed the experience but after the subsequent offers I received, I realised that I am more suited to offbeat, crossover films rather than hardcore, commercial cinema. I did Waisa Bhi Hota Hai - Part 2, which received quite a bit of appreciation. Then, I did Strings, another crossover film, which is being shot start to finish at the Kumbh Mela. Madhur Bhandarkar's Page 3 just got over.

I am experimenting with different scripts and will soon start shooting for international VJ Luke Kenny's directorial venture titled 13th Floor and an English play Zen Katha with Lilette Dubey which would open in July/August. There is a lot of martial arts involved, hence I am undergoing formal training in this aspect.

After 'Saathiya' I wasn't interested in playing the same old role all the time. I don't want to get slotted"

Saathiya, even though a major hit, didn't help you to get noticed and bag commercial films?

I did get noticed, in fact, I guess I was liked so much that everyone thought that I am the eternal sister (laughs). All my subsequent offers wanted to cash in on the role I did in Saathiya and I wasn't interested in playing the same old role all the time. I don't want to get slotted. That is why I rejected those offers and have consciously given my assent to offbeat scripts. I am open to good roles in commercial films though, may I add.

Do you find the two mediums- films and television- vastly different? Also, has television changed in its style of functioning from the time you left?

Yes. There are so many factors, time for one. While shooting for a film, we do a scene a day, on an average. For a television serial, on the other hand, it is more than seven-eight scenes daily as the episode has to be completed in time.

Things have changed in the last few years. Everything is very frantic, there is a lot of pressure. Due to the deadline, quality suffers as well, everything is so rushed. The cassette has to go at the end of the day, dialogues are jotted down hastily on the spot. Quality and creativity take a backseat. Films are much more relaxed and you have plenty of scope to experiment and innovate. I find TV to be a very stressful medium.

Also, television is a repetitive medium. Apart from the lack of scope of variety of roles, once you start playing a character, that particular character becomes a part of you for years. I get really peeved when serials go on and on. Conversely, in films, once you finish playing a certain character, you detach from it and concentrate on playing a totally different role.

How did 'Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin' happen?

It happened out of the blue. Tony Singh gave me a call and I was delighted when he mentioned his offer. I know him since the days of Banegi Apni Baat when I made my debut on TV. Tony and Deeya Singh had given me my first break with Banegi Apni Baat (she appeared as Sakshi, assistant to Girish Mullick, in the last 100-odd episodes before the serial winded up) and I have known them to be efficient and creative. I gave an instant nod of approval to Tony without even listening what he wanted me to do. You can say that my second coming to television was an emotional decision.

By the same yardstick, would you accept an Ekta Kapoor offer - considering you were a part of 'Koshish... Ek Asha'?

No. I am not emotional about Ekta at all. I have no reason to be.

Are you hinting that 'Koshish Ek Asha' was not a good experience?

Koshish... Ek Aasha was an experience. Period.

Please elaborate...

No experience is good or bad because you come out learning something. Koshish Ek Asha gave me a lot of what I am today. Balaji Telefilms is not the easiest production house to work with. I know that's what you want to hear, but I never said that they are. But they know how to make stars. However, I must say that my director and the cast were a gem. Hmmm... think of it, I wouldn't term it as a bad experience.

You raved about the Singhs. What is so special about them?

When they talk to you, they know what they want. Plus their involvement is very high, they'll take interest in your costumes, jewellery, et al, they have an eye for detailing; but at the same time, they respect your character. Top of all, they don't have scripts which beat around the bush, saying 'Tune Meri Zindagi Tabah Kar Di' and those kid of things, but rather real kind of situations and colloquial language which appears so very natural.

I remember asking Shefali in my early days in Banegi Apni Baat that how could she cry so easily, but I soon felt undergoing the same feeling, which means their scenes are written extremely well. Importantly, they know how to make a good project in a simple manner.

 
"Tony & Deeya Singh are one of the few people in the industry who care for their actors"

Considering that you are an add-on to Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin, have you seen the earlier episodes to facilitate your understanding of the characters you will interact with?

My entire family are ardent fans of the show. My mom has regularly followed the show and she is there to give me the required inputs. I do not have the time and inclination to dedicatedly follow television, but I have watched individual episodes. From whatever little I have seen, I have found the show to be extremely endearing, without any pretensions. There are no caricaturish characters and everyone are projected as normal human beings.

Tell us about your character.

I play Yana, a high-flying business tycoon, who has put the fashion world in a tizzy with her deals. She is blunt, no-nonsense and at the same time a trifle bizarre. Armaan falls for Yana and she and Jassi both compete for his affections. For the moment, this is the sketch of my character. This is a special appearance, small yet impactful and I had the dates to offer, so I thought 'Why not?'. At this stage, due to other commitments, I cannot devote myself to a lead role in a serial.

What do you mean by 'special appearance'? Hope you know where it is headed for...

(Interrupts) I haven't sat down and discussed the future path the character takes. As I said, I trust Tony and Deeya completely. They are one of the few people in the industry who care for their actors. So far, I have shot for four episodes. The shoot took place in Singapore. It's good fun, shooting with a new bunch of people. I'm meeting most of them for the first time, except Parmeet Sethi, whom I know since quite some time. Frankly speaking, I don't know how much stress I really want to take on.

If you are game to take on stress, I feel you can acquire a lot of fame in television where many actors have become more famous than films stars have.

Fame does not matter to me. If it had, I wouldn't have quit television. And maybe by now, I would have joined politics and made so much money that I had a personal bungalow by now. But... I want to go home with a calm mind. I don't want to keep asking on the sets 'Pack up kab hai yaar?' If fame was my trip, I would have also been chasing commercial cinema in any avtaar - be it even sister or bhabhi - and not cross-over, small budget films like I am doing now.

Going back to Yana. Any specific homework you have done for Yana's role?

Absolutely nothing. I don't believe in doing any specific homework for a rich entrepreneur's role. I just read the script and subconsciously allowed the character's personality to merge with my own. So far, my role isn't very difficult. It is a grey character - either you'll like her or hate her. She is hot, attractive, cocksure and in her own way, bizarre, she's got a magnetic personality. At times, she is arrogant. At times, she is friendly. But at the end of the day, she is indifferent. Either you are hooked are you are repelled (Smiles).

If you say hot, your outfits must be special?

Very special. The outfits are ultra-modern and hi-fashion.

"I had been offered Mandira's studio job during the World Cup last year but I had refused it"
 

As ultra as this (she is wearing a shoulder revealing top)?

Oh, this is understated. Yana can be far more more bizarre this.

Is your character there in the original 'Ya Soy Betty La Fea'?

I have no clue. I have not seen the original and I just trusted my instincts when I signed the role.

Tell us about 'Extraaa Innings' you did for Sony.

Well, I have always loved sport. But, cricket has never been my forte, I am more of a tennis freak. But then they explained to me the kind of concept they had in mind with me. I pondered over it and decided to give it a try. After all, it was a great chance to soak in the carnival atmosphere of a World Cup!

Surely, you must have envied Mandira Bedi because the spotlight was on her...

I did not envy but felt sorry for Mandira Bedi. The studio job she did was not a piece of cake to be eaten. If she had the spotlight on her, she deserved it. Actually, I had been offered the studio job, but had refused it, informing them that I wouldn't be comfy talking to the legends about the game which I didn't know in detail.

You've done TV, films, plays. Any plans of direction?

None whatsoever. Technically, I am zero.

'Choti Si Asha', 'Hubahu', then the 'Extraaa Innings', now 'Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin'. You have acquired the reputation of being a Sony girl. Comment.

It isn't about partiality, but I have got the best offers from Sony TV. At the time of endorsing, I see the project and not the channel. Their's is a channel which believes in true variety and my last three shows have been for Sony. The last one, Hubahu, in my opinion, has been my best serial, to date and it took guts for the channel to bring out such a serial which was so different from the mundane stuff on tube.

Yet, Sony is not the topmost channel today. Your take on this?

(Shrugs) Well, I cannot comment on this (pauses). I really don't know. Maybe because crap sells. For me, Sony remains a far more interesting channel because it tries to genuinely experiment.

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