Medical drama Sanjivani recently made a comeback on Star Plus. While fans are excited to see the new leads Surbhi Chandna and Namit Khanna, the makers also played smart by retaining the original actors – Mohnish Bahl and Gurdeep Kohli. Seeing them reprise their roles of Dr Shashank Gupta and Dr Juhi, respectively, has stirred up nostalgia among the audience.
A popular face in Bollywood, Bahl made his small screen debut with Sanjivani in 2002. He then went on to star in its sequel Dill Mill Gayye and also played the lead in Kuch Toh Log Kahenge. Bahl has also turned host for shows like Star Vivaah, Savdhaan India and Hoshiyar… Sahi Waqt and Sahi Kadam.
The 51-year-old recently spoke exclusively to indianexpress.com about Sanjivani, what keeps him away from doing more work and more.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
What was your first reaction when you got to know that Sanjivani is making a comeback?
I was pleasantly surprised. It is for the first time on world television that a show is making a comeback after 17 years. It was my first television outing and was hugely successful. It certainly took me back in time, to where it all started.
Was it also nostalgic since you got to shoot with Gurdeep Kohli?
Not just her but the whole show, even the creative team, was the same. But yes, when Gurdeep and I shot this time around and as the title track played, we wondered where did the years go by. It was also a reminder to me that I am getting old (laughs).
Just like the previous time, Sanjivani has a bunch of young actors. Any similarities you found among the lot?
I wouldn’t like to compare the now and then cast. But I want to say that they are so much better than what we were at that stage of our career. They are confident, prepped up and know their way around, be it with the script or camera. I am really impressed with this young lot. During our times, it took many projects before we reached that kind of enlightenment. And they are already there.
Today, the medical world has become commercialised. What message does Sanjivani have to offer?
The baseline of the Sanjivani hospital has always been to promote the patients first policy and not to make it a business. But even charity needs to be commercialised and it’s important to balance the two out. The show will also delve into the personal lives of the doctors, away from just their interaction with the patients. It’s interesting that while we do open up to our doctors, there is a kind of curtain between that relationship. We visit them when we are ill and don’t like to be kept waiting. They give us the right medication but we hold them responsible if that doesn’t work in our favour. But we tend to forget that they are humans and have their own set of problems. So it would be interesting on a humane level.
Any kind of changes are you seeing in the working style in the television industry?
There has always been a constant change not just in TV but the whole entertainment industry. Today, the millennial films are different as compared to our times. And then there was a different kind of genre during my mother’s time when more socially impactful films were made. The entertainment industry keeps changing and churning out different kinds of content with time. Also, with access to worldwide entertainment, internet and streaming platforms, the audience has been exposed to a lot of data. As for television, every time something works, people tend to repeat that. And when something new comes in, it seems fresh and goes on to work well. Technologically also, a lot has changed and with newer means, the makers are now exploring a lot with supernatural or VFX rich shows.
While all your roles on television have been loved and appreciated, what kept you away from the small screen for so long?
My answer lies in your question (smiles). My work has always been appreciated and so I am a little bit particular about what I do. I am not someone who would come, shoot and take home the money. I want to do roles that I believe in and something that can help me get results as an actor. I am choosy and want to identify with the project. Sadly, that doesn’t happen so often, and so I don’t do a lot of television. Strangely, every time I do a show, people say that Mohnish Bahl is making a comeback, but that’s my rhythm.
And what about films?
I am working on Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat. That’s the only film I have in my kitty at the moment. Honestly, cinema has also changed a lot from the time I started. Earlier, there was more projects. We used to do 15-20 films at a time. But with the kind of budget now, that doesn’t happen. Also, back then, one producer used to bankroll three films. Now multiple producers come together to make one film. But the good part is that content and quality has dramatically improved. Now we make world-class cinema and the range is phenomenal. The offers that come to me are limited. And being at the sunset of my career, I want to do great roles, knowing that this is what I will be remembered for.
As a father, will you ever recommend TV to your daughter Pranutan, or would want her to stick to films?
Personally, I don’t see any difference between THE mediums. For me, it’s all different methods of taking your craft to the audience. This is why I never compare the various platforms. While cinema has been my foundation, I enjoy being part of television simultaneously. And now, with digital being so dominant, I might just do a web series sometime soon. Coming back to your question, cinema is what excites Pranutan and I think she would want to do more films in the coming days.
Sanjivani airs Monday-Friday at 7:30 pm on Star Plus.