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Sunday, July 25, 2021

First of Many: Delnaaz Irani revisits Commander

This week's First of Many features Delnaz Irani. In the 86th edition of our series, the actor talks about her first acting project, Sri Adhikari Brothers' TV show Commander (1992).

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
June 16, 2021 1:28:56 pm
delnaz irani tv debut show commanderDelnaz Irani's latest project is WOW originals series Pari Hun Mein. (Photos:Instagram/officialdelnaazirani and Screenshot/YouTube)

Delnaz Irani never had an ambition to become an actor, and started acting only to earn some extra pocket money. Ironically though, the actor found her calling in the profession and is still here after three decades with a slate of work in both Bollywood and TV. She has appeared in films such as Pyaar Mein Twist, Bhootnath, Humko Deewana Kar Gaye, Ra.One and Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum apart from TV shows such as Yes Boss, Son Pari, Shararat, Baa Bahoo Aur Baby, Jamai Raja, Ek Deewaana Tha, Choti Sarrdaarni and more. She even participated in reality shows Bigg Boss 6, Comedy Circus, Nach Baliye and Zara Nachke Dikha.

Many may remember her as Sweetu in her Bollywood debut Kal Ho Na Ho (2003), but she had been in the industry for more than a decade when she did the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer.

Elaborating more on how she got into acting, Delnaz Irani spoke about her debut project, Commander.

Which was your first acting project? How did the project come to you?

My first project was this television show called Commander in 1992. It was a Sri Adhikari Brothers show, made by Gautam Adhikari and Markand Adhikari. They did so many shows and Commander was one of their first production, directed by Gautam bhai.

I started working in theatre after I completed my class 10, which was 1989. I was only doing plays from 1989-1991. I think Gautam bhai needed a young Kitty sort of a character, because he was making a Karamchand kind of a series. I hadn’t even finished my college then. I got a call to play Ramesh Bhatkar’s secretary, who played the Commander. Ramesh Bhatkar was a very popular Marathi actor. They first made Commander in Marathi and then Hindi. Zee TV had just arrived in India and Commander was on Zee. Both Gautam bhai and Ramesh Bhatkar are no more now.

I come from a very middle-class Parsi background, and my dad said my mother had to be with me on the set. My mother thought this is just a one-off thing for me as I was still a college student. I’ll make some extra pocket money with this.

What do you remember of your first day on set?

I don’t remember much from the first day. We had Nagi Villa, Utpal Villa and other such bungalows in Juhu, in Madh Island. We shot in bungalows with no AC. All I knew was I was in safe hands and was working with the best director-producer of that time. And the secretary of Commander was the thing.

I was a typical ‘firang’ looking girl with blonde hair and wore western clothes. People thought Gautam bhai had brought a foreigner. Though I don’t even remember what the name of my character was, but that was my first appearance on screen.

Commander even had a very popular title track. They had an amazing style of making thrillers. I actually learned on job. As I was still studying, I wasn’t sure that this was my career. Unlike others who know that acting is their calling, I was just going with the flow.

Were you nervous? 

I was nervous everyday because Gautam bhai would be screaming. If I wanted to become an actress, it would’ve been a different ball game. But I was never concerned if my lines were less, or I didn’t get to do this in a scene. I was very raw and didn’t have much to do in the show. I only needed to look pretty, and make some funny comments, which would annoy Commander. This was my character. The money was peanuts. After I did Parivartan, I started dating Rajeev (Paul) in 1994 and then my mother’s responsibility became his responsibility, which he happily took. We got married also in 1996.

Gautam bhai was a Gujarati and he would only talk to me in Gujarati. I was a Parsi so he would call me “Parsan”. He had the shot so clear in his head, and I had no clue what was a round trolley, a crane. He would say “take your lighting” and I didn’t know what he meant. He taught me little things.

commander zee tv show delnaz irani stills Delnaz Irani and Ramesh Bhatkar is a still from Commander which aired on Zee TV. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube)

How was the rapport with your co-stars and crew when you got to meet or work with them again later?

All my scenes were with Ramesh Bhatkar in Commander. Every episode would introduce a new person. I just had a rapport with Ramesh ji. He used to call me on my birthdays till he was alive. I was in my second year of BA, doing a lot of college activities. For me, this was like my work which I need to do and leave. Today, I love to make friends. But In Commander, I was too busy with my life away from set.

Gautam bhai and Markand bhai were two people I kept working with again and again. They were the producers of my longest running TV show called Yes Boss. That’s where we built a rapport. Markand bhai’s wife Kanchan bhabhi cast me in Yes Boss. Then SAB TV happened and I was there in every second show. They treated me like a child and took pride in the fact that they introduced me.

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If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what would you like to change or do better?

I was just like a poster girl, somebody pretty to look at in the frame. Today, I would make sure I’m not like that, and also people would give me a lot more to play. I would try and go beyond the script. At that time, the director was the captain of the ship, and not the channel creative or anybody else.

One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?

I’ve been an ardent fan of Rishi Kapoor and the world knows it. He’s the reason why I’m probably here. I used to live on his films – Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, Rafoo Chakkar, Khel Khel Mein and Bobby. For the longest time, I had the CD of Karz in my car. I also liked Sridevi.

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