There once was a time when the vamp ruled supreme on TV — femme fatales like Urvashi Dholakia and Sudha Chandran commanded their own legions of fans, as much for their distinctive styling as for their
There once was a time when the vamp ruled supreme on TV — femme fatales like Urvashi Dholakia and Sudha Chandran commanded their own legions of fans, as much for their distinctive styling as for their onscreen traits and quirks. The heroine was — but of course — as contrary to the vamp as she could be. But in recent times, there’s been a change. Now, lead actors — the hitherto purer-than-pure protagonists — are themselves being made to take on grey tones.
A number of popular shows like Yeh Hai Mohabbatein, Meri Aashiqui Tumse Hi and Pyaar Ko Ho Jaane Do are having their heroes/heroines take a grey turn — and introducing all kinds of strange twists in the tale to do so. For instance, in YHM, the lead actress Divyanka Tripathi’s character Ishita is shown being possessed by the vamp Shagun’s (played by Anita Hassanandani, who has since been cut from the show) ghost! Or in MATS, there’s the introduction of an “evil twin” etc. Fans have had mixed reactions to these tracks — and to their beloved actors portraying negative roles. For the actors themselves, however, it has meant longer hours in the studio. Producer Siddharth Malhotra of Cinevistaas is not a supporter of the trend at all. He has no qualms admitting that his show Dilliwali Thakur Gurls had attempted something similar but failed miserably. The show had to be taken off air. Siddharth says, “These are nothing but desperate measures to get TRPs through shock value. It’s not a natural storytelling process. When we tried it in our show, it proved disastrous, simply because it wasn’t the DNA of the show.” Predicting audience response is however hard. “For instance, in Sasural Simar Ka anything can happen, right from people turning into snakes and aatmas,” Siddharth points out. “It’s unfair to actors too as switching so many roles is extremely stressful,” he adds.
While Siddharth’s concerns appear valid, when we spoke to actors Divyanka Tripathi and Shakti Arora who are juggling multiple roles at the moment, they didn’t seem to complain much. Divyanka of YHM says she sees it as a challenge. “I loved playing Ishita, Shagun and the evil spirit simultaneously. This being a daily soap, there is obviously very little time to prepare. I used some reference CDs to prepare for Shagun. For the evil spirit, I had to shed all my inhibitions because if I cannot convince myself that I am a ghost, I cannot convince my audience. I enjoyed this track thoroughly, it was very fulfilling as an actor.”
Shakti Arora of MATH feels that actors are always hungry for variations and such twists help feed that. “I feel lucky to be able to play a positive and a negative character in the same show, as it satisfies me as an actor completely. A good guy has a straight line of action; it’s the bad guy that gives you the adrenaline rush. How bad can I get, how fearful can I become — these are the challenges that makes me work on the character. When I get the script for either character, the first thing I do is create the scenario in my mind and start thinking as either RV or Milan. That makes things clear to me. Since the characterisation is an extension of my own personality, I have defined each one’s mannerisms systematically. Yes, it does take more time on the sets, switching roles, changing appearances etc, but it’s all worth it because I love my job.”
Producer Yash Patnaik points out that the lines between villains and heroes have blurred and therefore onscreen characters have become more realistic. He says, “When you introduce a negative character on screen, you need to justify it with a back story. Doing that adds depth to the character thereby making it more believable and acceptable. So it’s no more vamps or villains by birth. The makers of these shows chose to add a negative dimension to their lead cast to make the process seem more organic. Otherwise, when you declare someone a vamp or villain right at the start of the show, you limit the growth of that character and the story.”