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How did you end up anchoring a show like Samvidhaan?
I got the part when Atul Tiwari, who is one of the writers of the show, called me up to say that he was working on this project with Shyam Benegal, and that if I would be interested being a part of it. I was so excited just by Shyam Benegal’s name that I landed up at his house at midnight. When the first time he told me about the show, I was very surprised because I remember the constituent assembly as the most boring chapter of our civics lessons in school. Then he read out the first episode, and I was stunned because what I always thought as so boring turned out to be so dramatic. Then of course, I had to convince Shyam sir that I could speak Hindi and Urdu well. I practiced my diction. We still had to convince and take the permission of the Vice-President of India, Hamid Ansari, who’s also the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha TV and the CEO of Rajya Sabha TV, Gurdeep Singh Sappal. I worked quite hard to land the project because I really wanted to be a part of the project. Also the fact that, to work with Shyam Benegal so early in my career, is a dream for any actor.
So, you didn’t really think of this as a televisions show?
This is something very credible to be a part of even though this isn’t a film. And I never thought of it any differently than a film. I don’t know how one would prepare for television because I don’t think any actor works differently, be it a film or a television show. For me, it was exactly the same thing. The only thing was that this was non-fiction. When one signs a film, there are usually a lot of calculations, as to whether or not this would work for me, the banner and all of that. But when I decided to be a part of Samvidhaan, it was with the purest intentions since it’s a part of our cultural heritage.
You had to speak fluent Hindi, and even some Urdu for the show. How did you manage that?
I never realised that hosting a show would be so tough because when you’re acting, you have a scene, with co-actors. But when hosting, you are looking at the camera, and yet you have to be natural and not stiff. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve done, and it was most rewarding too. Shyam sir is so thorough as a director. He stresses on the fact that we come prepared on the sets. Writers Shama Zaidi and Atul Tiwari helped me a lot with the gestures and how not to be stiff in front of the camera, so I was lucky to be in good hands. It’s the first time that any show was shot in the premises of the Parliament, thus making it a memorable event for us. I had some 2000 lines and I started to shoot at 9. 30 in the morning, and was talking non-stop till 5.30 in the evening without a teleprompter, because I found it very distracting. Now when I see the show, I am amazed that I could learn all those lines and say them so well. My portions were shot in Delhi for two weeks, everyday from morning to night, and prior to that, I had 2-3 weeks of preparations wherein I had to keep reading the script. And my Hindi vocabulary has improved so much after this experience.
Would you be willing to ever play a historic character?
Of course. I think the most challenging thing for an actor is to play a historical character. You have such a defined framework within which you have to prepare your character and you already have something to be true to, but you also have to bring something of your own to that. Its so scary, especially when I see that there have been so many actors who have created magic with the historic characters that they have played. All the actors in Samvidhaan are so amazing.
What else would interest you on television?
I like to do something that also gives me something back. I also need to learn something from it. It needs to challenge me as an actor. I don’t know if I can give anything or get back anything from saas-bahu type serials. People enjoy it, and learn from it, but I don’t think I can pull that off. But if I get something else that I like, and I think I can pull it off, then I’ll definitely be a part of it.