Television actors who play ‘sanskari’ characters for the family audiences, are baring it all for the web.
Indian television soaps are known to propagate the ‘ideal bahu/beta’ image. The formula has been a tried and tested one, creating much ripple every time the narrative deviates to incorporate a ‘bolder’ idea — on or off screen. Remember how Sonarika Bhadoria, who played Parvati in Devon ka Dev Mahadev, was trolled when her bikini pictures made it to the Internet? More and more actors however, are breaking away from the mould anyway. While they do maintain a ‘clean’ image on the telly, they aren’t particularly shy of changing their persona for the web. Shravan Reddy, popular as Aryan in the television show Krishnadasi, recently went full Monty for a web series called Karma.
Says the actor, “My director explained to me the character’s state of mind and the decisions he would make. Also, the film is targeted for the international audience, which is what made me agree to do such a risque scene. As far as the relevance of me going full Monty is concerned, the narrative demanded it. The director made me portray the mindset of my character, which led me to certain actions in the story and going nude was one of it.”
The reason that the telly and the web offer such varied content is, quite naturally, due to the different kinds of audiences that they cater to. Nakuul Mehta, primetime’s blue-eyed boy, whose show I Don’t watch TV for Arre, is far cry from his television shows, says, “As actors on television, we are mostly catering to mothers and grandparents. Your acting and dialogue delivery is expected to be a certain way — larger than life, exaggerated. But web allows you to be real.”
Another actor who stepped out of her comfort zone and into a bolder image, is Shama Sikander. Otherwise seen as a strong female lead on telly, the actor was part of a sexually bold web series Maaya, which explored the topic of BDSM.
But it will be a long way before TV warms up to the idea, says Kritika Kamra, who believes that the industry is a bit of a stickler for ‘safe content’. Kritika recently shot for a short film on the web called White Shirt. “I like that my fans have been encouraging my roles and want to see me doing something different. While I haven’t faced any criticism, I have seen my peers face backlash because of their roles on the web. Unfortunately TV is all about TRPs. Because of this, content takes a beating. I want to experiment with the web before the whole burden of ratings come into the picture,” says the actor who is currently seen in Prem Ya Paheli — Chandrakanta.
Barun Sobti concurs. The actor who became a household name with Iss Pyaar ko Main Kya Naam Doon, isn’t waiting for TV to change its filter. Instead, he’s going ahead with his experiments on the web. Breaking away from his image on the telly, he plays a Casanova in the web show Tanhaiyaan. “I had absolutely no apprehensions about playing such a role, mostly because the script was an interesting one. I am not bothered about the onscreen image. If I were to take fans into consideration, I would never be able to experiment. As of now, I have got positive feedback. TV ratings make it difficult for artists or production houses to attempt something new. Even when there have been attempts to make a change, the experiment has failed.”
As for those who haven’t taken the plunge yet, there’s always a chance. Karan Wahi for instance, is up for breaking away from a goody-two-shoes image too. “It depends on the actors, why they decide to do what they do. We as Indians scrutinise bold content more when Indians do it and not so much when people in the West do it. I also feel that calling it ‘sexually explicit’ too is wrong. I would surely be up for it if it’s needed. If I think it’s not, I’ll talk about it with the director.”
— inputs from Sameena Razzaq and Julie Sam