Posted by Vivek on February 8, 2013 | No Comments

The most exciting thing that happened prior to 1984, in Indian Television was the coming of color Television in the Asian Games. Then in 1984, a serial about a lower middle class family in Delhi, called HUM LOG, changed everything. It became the cult classic of Indian Television, the defining moment when television bold said to its audience “you need me as much as I need you!” The family of HUM LOG became every Indian’s extended family. Badki, or the eldest daughter in the family, enacted by theater actor, Seema Bhargava, became the adopted daughter of every family. Seema recently gave another memorable performance, in FERRARI KI SAFARI. Here we talk to this talented actress and pick those creative brains that have entertained us for 40 years:

How come Acting?
Ironically my mother encouraged me to do Acting and Drama, from as far back as I can remember. My mother was the first lady of television, from 1949. TV was just getting started in India at that time. We are four brother and sisters and in 1968, at the age of 6, my mother got me an audition in Television and so my journey started. Of course at that time, I was not even aware of what the whole experience was about. I guess I had my audition before my high school admission. And in those days we are talking about live telecast, not recorded. So it was a big deal but of course to me it meant nothing, since I was unaware of what I was doing. In fact it almost became like regular life to me.

So when HUM LOG started, did you have any inkling of how your and everyone associated with it, would become, overnight national stars?
The honest truth is that it was something very new in our lives, back then too. I had a full time job at that time, along with doing professional theater, so the biggest concern to me was, should I even do this, since it would mean quitting a very stable job. However, the Director, P. Kumar Vasudeva, knew me from childhood and it was his dream that I should be a part of this. He convinced me that I should do this since it is a very interesting project. But I still waited to get the synopsis of the scenes. In those days we used to develop the synopsis of the scenes. We used to get the first episode to the last one, in our hands. I got the synopsis for 56 episodes to start with. So I did the math of the wages and PF I would be losing and decided to take the plunge. I read the synopsis and felt that this could develop into an interesting character and on a worst case, at least it would be for 56 episodes  plus I am getting a great director, so lets do it. But that it would become a cult classic, none of us knew. In fact when the shooting was going on, not one of us got to see the episode, since we were shooting back to back, so none of us realized how big we had become in the country.  After some days of shooting we finally got some down time, so we decided to step out and walk around the city, etc, and the reaction to all of us was “Oh God, what is going on here, why are people all over us ?” Even we were not mentally prepared for this metamorphosis. Gradually as it started to grow even bigger, it really dawned on us, what we have become.

So you have seen the glory days, what is going on now then in Television?
See in those days, people would write with a lot of patience, with a lot of thought, that is why not only HUM LOG, but even TAMAS, BUNIYAAD, KATHA SAAGAR, MALGUDI DAYS etc. That fact that I got 56 episodes synopsis means the writers knew exactly where they were taking the story, from the very inception. The story and the character have a very clear graph. Nowadays there is a start, but nobody knows where the finish will be. Daily TRP’s influence the marketing folks who in turn pressure the writers. It is not as if the writers are any less talented now, just that the speedier one’s as opposed to the talented one’s, get recognized more, because the decisions are all driven by non writers. In this world, there is no respect for performances, for stories, it is now driven by business and that determines everything else. Now it is completion between one another and stories are not created because of competition. These stories don’t touch the human heart and once that is lost, it is tough to have any recall factor. Manohar Shyam Joshi, wanted to say something strongly to society, and that created a soul for HUM LOG.

Very fine performance in FERRAI KI SAFARI, how did that role come your way?
Ironically that role was first written for a male character. The director, Rajesh, had come to see a play of mine, I do theater with Naseer’s group. That is when Rajesh thought that he wanted to change the male character into a woman. Rajesh telephoned me that, although it is a male character, if I do it, it could become interesting. So I was called for an audition to see how this will play out as a female character. Boman, Sharman, Raju all sat in the audition and they were unanimous that this character cannot be a male, it has to be a female. So that is how it came my way. Then it was Raju’s touch that really gave the final touches to the character sketch. The net result was that as I was enacting the character it seemed a lot of fun, even while enacting it.

Perfect world, Theater, Film or Television?
No question about it, Theater! That is truly an actor’s medium, you have a direct communication with your audience and you are the master of your universe there. Television becomes dependent on various factors, films go to the hands of the director and camera person, but in theater, it is you, the artist and that feeling is overwhelming.

What are the future projects?
I have done a film with Rajat Kapoor called Ankhon Dekhi, which should release in October. I play the lead opposite Rajat. It is about a 55 year old couple. Then there is a comedy and also a theater experiment that I have done, there is a famous story by Bheesham Sahani, called SAAG MEAT. I will tell the audience a story while preparing SAAG MEAT and at the end the audience will join me for the real cooked SAAG MEAT  so the story has to be told while I am cooking and the food should be edible enough to be eaten.

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