“I am absolutely elated,” shared Vandana Pathak talking about the return of Hum Paanch on Zee TV. The actor played the fiery Meenakshi, the eldest among the five sisters, in the sitcom. Hum Paanch also starred Ashok Saraf, Shobha Anand, Rakhi Vijan and Bhairavi Raichura among others.
Apart from Hum Paanch, Pathak’s Khichdi has also made a comeback on Star Bharat. In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, the actor opened up about the cult status of the shows and her experience of working on the projects.
Excerpts from the conversation.
Do you feel the re-airing of shows during lockdown can actually help people?
Absolutely, since most of them are in the early slots, people can start their day on a positive note. On the first day Hum Paanch re-aired, we had a good hour-long discussion after the episode at home. I even shared some off the camera stories with my kids. People who have grown up watching these shows will have so many tales to tell their kids. It will only bring the family closer.
How did your kids react to watching your old shows?
They were really excited. Here, hear it from my daughter Radhika herself (passes the phone).
Radhika: Honestly, they are so good, that it has now become a habit for us. I have seen Khichdi but I watched Hum Paanch for the first time, and I must say it was really funny. We were all laughing constantly. Although our generation is not used to TV, we do sometimes like to go back to classics. Khichdi is one show that I watch every time it airs. And now I have found Hum Paanch, which is also very entertaining.
Most of these past shows still enjoy a huge fanbase. What do you think today’s shows lack?
I think today people don’t have that connect with TV shows and characters. Also, being a weekly, we had ample time to work on our content. Ekta Kapoor (producer of Hum Paanch) would come on set and ask us if we have read or seen any play that can help us create new stories. Who does that today? We used to work as a family, and sometimes the director would even ask for suggestions when it came to casting. I won’t blame the writers of today, because the culture of daily shows puts them in pressure. It was a different time altogether back then. Content was the ultimate king.
Also, actors can now gauge their fan following through social media. How did you all realise that you have become popular back then?
Hum Paanch was a hit from the first episode. And we were all raw. It was Zee TV’s first serial and even Ekta’s. I was doing theatre then and post the show, when people started dropping in and talking about my TV show, I realised that it has become big. Then people would rush for autographs and chant ‘Meenakshi’ wherever I would go. I remember that when I had gone back home once, the maid told my mother that Meenakshi was here. When she told her that I am her daughter, she asked her where were the other four? (laughs) I was a superstar in Ahmedabad thanks to theatre, but coming to Mumbai, and seeing so much popularity with my first show was a big achievement.
How are you coping with the lockdown?
We are not used to this lifestyle, so it does get difficult. But it’s for the betterment of all of us, so one can’t really complain. Also, most of us always wished that we get some free time, so that we can relax. Now that we have it, we should make the most of it. Yes, staying at home gets on your nerves. However, at the moment, saving lives is more important, as it’s a highly contagious disease.
Do you feel the industry will see a change post the lockdown?
I think it will take a couple of months before everything turns normal. And even then, I think one should take full precaution and wear masks while in public. As for shoots, with so many people involved, social distancing will be a task. However, I feel the habits that we are cultivating during this time will help us in the long run. People are now concerned about basic hygiene and that will change things for the good.
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