HIMANI SHIVPURI – TELEVISION MADE ME!
Posted by Vivek on August 16, 2009 | 2 Comment
Films, Theater, Television, you have done them all, which one is creatively most satisfying for you?
Theater definitely, it is my first love. The kind of theater that I have done at the National School of Drama (NSD) was close to the world theater, we had directors from all over the world. Even the subject matter, British literature and plays, works of Indian authors…also you have the audience in the palm of your hand. As part of the NSD repertory, also got a chance to do theater in different parts of the world.
So you were from Doon School, probably the only girl in that all boys school, were those school years the time that you decided you wanted to pursue acting as a career?
Certainly the headmaster we had, Mr Simian, encouraged the love of theater in me, since they themselves had a love of theater. We also had our alum, Vikram Seth come down and do a play for us, so all that definitely helped me develop my love for theater. I was a pretty good actor and won all the acting awards in the school, and you’re right we were like 2 girls in a class full of boys, around 12 overall in comparison to 500 boys. The headmaster would joke that since I was winning the best acting award year after year, he would rename the cup as the Himani Cup…so the love was there. Having said that, coming from a relatively small town like Dehra Dun, one could not possibly think of taking up theater for a career and I also happened to be good in studies, in one of the best schools in India, so I had seriously thought of becoming a neurosurgeon, then I was interested in Chemistry and wanted to pursue Microbiology, it was only when I was doing my graduation in Organic Chemistry that it occurred to me that I found these so dry. During this time I used to spend like 2 hours in the evening doing theater and then it struck me that this is what I want to do full time, from thereon theater became my only calling.
What has the journey been like since?
Overall very satisfying. Which other line of work lets you become so many persons in one lifetime. I love being an actor and also the process of acting, so I consider myself very fortunate to be in this line of work. Theater and NSD was what I wanted to do, however, I had defied my folks back home and joined theater, so I could not go back and had to make a living, and I was also married during this time, hence when the television offer came from Doordarshan, the only channel at that time, I jumped at it and the character I enacted became very popular with the audience. Till that time, as I would travel in the buses and trains, people would ask me what I did for a living, and I replied, “theater,” but they would persist, “that’s fine and a hobby, but what do you really do?” and those questions stopped when they recognized my work in television. Also my hometown and relatives who had felt that I had wasted my talents and intelligence by turning down a scholarship to study abroad and pursuing a more traditional carrier, suddenly started taking a lot of pride in my work in television.
Then some fine films happened to me, Rajshri film Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Yash Raj’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hain by Dharma productions, and I felt very fortunate since not many NSD and theater folks had transitioned to the world of commercial cinema and I was successful in doing that, perhaps a result of being at the right time at the right place. I am at a stage in life where I have done all kinds of roles since I refuse to be typecast, positive, negative, comedy, the works, but as an actor there is always that restlessness. The West is fortunate that way, where despite their age, very interesting roles are written for actors like a Meryl Strep or a Jessica Tandy, I aspire to do those kinds of roles. My Television work keeps me very busy nowadays and pays well too, but the heart always yearns for theater and now I am doing a play again. So with all that, yes, a fulfilling journey.
As an actor, talk to us about the change in Television from one Doordarshan to the multiple channels of today?
Television has made me and when films happened, people would often ask why do you continue with Television, the perception back then was that Television is lower in the scale than films, now of course it is considered on par or even, at time, higher, than films. My response was always, Television has given me the stature where I am today and there is no way that I’m going to throw that ladder away as I have climbed up in my creative journey. Back when Doordarshan was the sole channel, since it was funded by the government, the producers and the content providers took risks, now with the multichannels and the high dependence on TRP’s and the resultant advertising revenue, it has become more of following the trend as opposed to challenging the norm, and quite frankly I can see where the channels are coming from. Also Television gives me the opportunity to play multi dimensional and multi layered characters, all within one programme. However, I do see a similarity in content that is bordering on the excessive, like first it was the Saas and the Bahu, then the Bahu got replaced by the Beti, also with episodes airing daily for 25 minutes as opposed to weekly, it almost feels like a factory worker existence at times. But that is the trend now, I look forward to what the future trends in Television will be.
Do other creative endeavors await you in the future, perhaps directing or producing?
Definitely, writing is one. I have been a closet writer for a while now, all through my school and college days have written poems and short stories, so do aspire to come out with a full fledged script someday, but we shall see, but the desire is definitely there.
And your upcoming projects are…?
In films there is one with David Dhawan, one with Rumi Jaffery, one which has John Abraham in the lead and a children’s film. Am also on the verge of coming out with my play and in television I am currently doing Ghar Ek Sapna and in talks with another show.
Would doing theater, films or television in the West be something that you might be inclined to do?
I would love to do that. In fact there was a time when I had got an offer from a television show in the US, but the requirement was that I shift there for six months and at that time I was reluctant to do so, since my son was young. Now he is grown up and as such my responsibilities are minimal so I would absolutely love to work with an agent in London or the US, similar to what Om Puri and Shabana Azmi do, with the intention of doing films or theater or television, in that Geography.