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Tulsi is as real as need be

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Friday, August 04, 2006

New Delhi (UNI): Her portrayal of Tulsi in the serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi has come under fire from media and critics circles for presenting a regressive image of the Indian women. Television actor, and now politician, Smriti Irani, whose portrayal of Tulsi has made her an icon of every housewife in India, however, believes that the persona of Tulsi in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi bahu Thi is very much in tune with reality rather than being overtly melodramatic. ''Tulsi has many qualities that make her in many ways a modern woman. For example, as one sees Tulsi today, she is a woman totally in charge of her life and things around her. For example, mine is one of the few aged characters on television to appear on the small screen with grey hair after the recent 20-year leap in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, something which I cannot say about many other 50 plus characters on television today'' Smriti told UNI in an interview.

''Infact, after the latest generation leap, Ekta wanted me to appear with black hair arguing that nowadays all aged people dye their hair. However, I stood my ground and demanded to have my hair greyed even though other characters like Meera in the serial are said to sport black hair and wear designer sarees. This is because I believe in being realistic within the parameters of the script,''Smriti said. Infact, she reveals that the "asserting woman" persona of Tulsi that one comes across on the small screen today has a lot to do with the constant improvisations in the portrayal of the character she made while on the sets, thus resulting in the character turning out quite different from what it was originally envisaged by the producer Ekta Kapoor.

''Tulsi was originally visualised as this typically melodramatic character who is always weeping at her misfortunes. However, while the traditional way of living and the basic Indianness inherent in the character of Tulsi is Ekta Kapoor's idea, the assertive and the 'woman in control' persona of the character that comes across on screen is largely due to the constant improvisations made by me in terms of making her mouth dialogues different from what the producer had originally chosen for her, something which often bugged Ekta,''Smriti said.

Carrying her penchant for reality a little further, Smriti will now appear as a yoing middle class girl in her new serial 'Thodi Si Zamin Thoda Aasman' which has her, for the first time, don hat as a producer along with Ekta Kapoor. Scheduled to be telecast on Star Plus from August 19, 'Thodi Si Zamin Thoda Sa Aasman' has Smriti Irani play a young girl Uma, a 27-year-old obedient daughter of a mill worker who undertakes several jobs to run the family after his mill shuts down. The character of Uma is in the centrestage, as she is looked up as a source of constant inspiration and driving force for the chawl people who draw their strength and reason to live from her indomitable spirit.

''Thodi Si Zameen Thoda Sa Aasman signifies two important things. While 'Zameen' is the root of a person without which all else seems meaningless, 'Aasman' is a sign of hopes and freedom to live one's dreams. So, while the protagonist Uma has close connection to her roots and wants a place which she can call her home, at the same time she also craves for some space of her own; to pursue her dreams,''Smriti said. According to Smriti, even though Ekta Kapoor was co-producing the show, it would be quite different from Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.

''It is a show very much in tune with reality though it will definitely have the Ekta Kapoor touch. Set in a middle class 'chawl', the serial deals with the trials and tribulations of a common man's everyday life. Also, the protagonist Uma is not your "typically melodramatic character with well-put together make up". As a person, Uma is well aware of the practicalities of life but will not allow them to stop her from dreaming,''Smriti said.

To be telecast on Saturdays and Sundays at 2230 hrs, 'Thodi Si Zameen' features some of the popular and seasoned actors of the samll screen like Harsh Chaya, Vidya SInha, Pawan Shankar, Jaya Bhattacharya and Sanjit Bedi, to name a few. The story and screenplay of the serial is done by Kamlesh Pandey, the acclaimed writer behind 'Rang De Basanti' and 'Tezaab' while it has been directed by Santram Verma.

Asked whether, as a producer, she would not have wanted to go for "something different", Smriti said,''though I was in talks with Star for producing another show, when Ekta Kapoor suggested that I produce my first big venture with them, I could not refuse her as she is the one who gave me the big break with the role of Tulsi. Having come up the hard way in life, I cannot, as a producer, gamble with someone else's money. Hence, I refrain from doing something drastically different. In any case, these many so called "different serials" begin with a bang but viewers lose interest in them after a point of time. In contrast, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi is as popular today as it was earlier. Infact, it is the only serial which has withstood the test of popularity despite two generation leaps, something no serial has been able to do in recent times.'' But what about social responsibility and giving a social message through a TV serial, one wonders.

''All said and done, every serial is about TRPs. In any case, one cannot expect values and ideals in society to be changed by a TV serial. If that were the case, killings in society would have come to a stop after telecast of serials like 'Ramayana' and 'Mahabharata'. Changes in society can only be brought about on the ground level by giving one's children the right kind of upbringing'' she said.

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