The graceful actor talks about coming to television to do fiction for the first time, the real reason she agreed to do Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh and who convinced her, chemistry with her co-actors Harsha Chhaya and Apurva Agnihotri. Sonali Bendre is sweet and soft spoken, but there’s this bout of nervousness around her that you just cannot miss.
When you ask her why she is nervous, she claims that this is her first show and she is worried whether people will accept her or not. Sonali Bendre has given several hits, has no qualms in accepting that during her time she has seen both success and failure; and moved on. And is this show doesn’t work as expected then she will get over this too. Read excerpts from the interview.
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What brought you to television?
Three things – the character I am playing, the team that is involved with it and the fact that it is seasonal. I am giving it six months of my life then I am going to see how it feels. I will then decide whether I want to do this again, or take a break or not do it at all. I have left that thought open.
What’s your take on financial independence for women?
I believe it is important, be it in any relationship. I stand by it very strongly ‘coz it shapes your relationship.
Do you think working in television is tougher than movies as TV demands 15-16 hours every day?
No, I don’t ever devote that much time. Bollywood is also very difficult; when you are facing the camera there is no replacement. Whether you are ill or you have a family emergency, you have to be there, come what may. Even on film sets there is always pressure.
In fact, the bigger the budget the more pressure you face. Any job where you cannot send a replacement or stay at home and do it has its own pressures. Here, because it is a seasonal show, I have given them certain number of hours in a day and they have to get my work done within that. I am not being difficult. I leave my son and come, after those hours are over it’s my son’s time. So my priorities are clear and nothing else matters after that.
You may not have had any dearth of offers before, why did you then pick fiction on TV now?
There was no dearth of offers with respect to movies. I had never ever thought of television. It was in no realm of my thought to do fiction on TV. I said ‘No’ to movies, ‘coz I did not have the time to be committed to do a film then. But guess everything falls into place when the time is right.
What was your reaction when this role was first offered to you?
First when this role came to me, I said ‘No, never’. I was not even ready to listen to it. Ajit Thakur (EVP and General Manager, Life OK) then asked me why I am saying no. I explained my disinterest in doing soaps. I did reality shows and I was happy with that.
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He then called up Goldie (Behl) and told him, ‘I have been trying to convince your wife and she is not ready to listen to us. Could you at least get her to listen to us?’ Goldie, who normally never interferes in what and how I do things, told me about the role and how it is seasonal.
He said, ‘As an actor I see you in this character. Why are you not even listening to it?’ I told him I didn’t have the time. So he’s like Ranveer is turning nine-years-old and he is in school the whole day. He then asked me to think over it without simply rejecting the idea. So the thinking started and I planned how to make it work. But I was sold when I heard the story. The character was amazing; the thing that really nailed it was that I was playing my age. That was extremely important.
You have worked with Ekta Kapoor before in a cameo role for her film, Once Upon a Time Again; so did she have a role in convincing you?
It was Shobha aunty who called up my mother-in-law asking why I was not agreeing to do this role. My mom-in-law said that I should do it, as she couldn’t imagine better for the role. So I agreed to do it.
How have Goldie and your son Ranveer reacted to the promos that have gone on air so far?
My mom-in-law and Goldie loved the promos. Ranveer asked me, ‘Is this how it is going to be, with you saying one thing and he saying one thing’? Or will something else happen? I said, ‘a lots of things will happen, but you can’t watch it.’
Are you familiar with Harsh Chhaya and Apurva Agnihotri’s work?
I have seen Harsh’s work and I think he is a fabulous actor. I have just seen glimpses of Apurva when he used to do Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi. When I did a few look tests with Apurva, he did not sport this avatar. I think this is his coming of age look and I have never seen him look better. I think some people age beautifully and this is his best look till date.
Who do you enjoy your chemistry more with?
When you work with a very fine actor obviously your work becomes easier and that’s what happens with Harsh. He is so easy to work with. So is Apurva, but it is different in that sense. Apurva has done television; I’ve never met anyone so professional.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh?
There are a lot of close-ups on television. In a film, I can always tell them to do a close-up later or early, but here there is no such option. In TV, everything is shot in close-up. So there’s no option to say I am looking a little tired, let’s to this later. Luckily, I am playing my age so it helps.
Who has styled you in the show?
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There is this new girl, Anamika and she is the one who is styling me. I think she is being trained by Manish Malhotra.
You’ve been married for over ten years now; how do you keep the romance alive?
This year I will be married for 12 years. I think this series is going to help the romance in my marriage. We’ll see so less of each other that every time we meet, it will be a romantic moment.
God forbid, will you consider doing television again if this show does not work?
In our line of work there are a lot of failures. Every failure is very public, but I’ve dealt with it earlier and moved on and I am sure if it comes to that I can do it again. Having said that, I hope I never have to go through it.
Have you seen any of Ekta Kapoor’s previous shows?
No, not really. I am not much of a television buff.