‘Earlier, there were much more realistic serials on television’

Actress Renuka Shahane, who returned in style with an unconventional thriller 3 Storeys last month, says she will be seen in more films now. Shahane — whose last Hindi film was 2004’s Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa while 2015’s Highway her last Marathi film — tells Manmohan Singh Naula in an interview that she did not take up any project for a long time as she was playing the role of a mother of young children in the real life.
edited Excerpts from an interview •

After a long hiatus, you appeared in tinsel town. What changes do you observe since then?

Well, the long break was due to marriage and 2 kids thereafter in 2002 and 2004. Prior to this, I was engrossed in telly shows and daily soaps. Later, I’d taken a conscious decision to get married and have kids — I would be at home with them and give my family a priority and so that’s exactly what I was doing. Also bich bich mai (in between) I kept doing things like Marathi film or television shows. I kept in touch with my Marathi audience, at least. But yes, it took 14 long years for the Hindi audience to see me once again on the screen. Last year my elder son appeared for the 10th exam and only after they settle down and become independent, I could be able to focus more on cinematic works.

Q&A manmohanI was lucky enough to have a storyteller like Sooraj Barjatya who produced Hum Aapke Hai Koun, providing us with a bound script where everything was decided earlier. Ironically the film industry did not usually function then. Now, I see a lot of professionalism because there is a gradual corporatization of the industry. Now, lots of producers are moonlighting as actors or writers or people who want change — so that’s great because now you have bound script and everything is planned in advance. Some sets even look like Hollywood — fully equipped the walkie-talkies and a sense of professionalism that’s the hallmark of the latter. Also, I feel that in terms of content and experimentation, that is going on with the kind of content in Hindi film industry — has been not seen for a very long time. So there is lot of scope for newcomers now to come-up with great roles like in 3 Storey that was offered to me — which is very rare for the one to be offered to a character actor and I think more and more of that have been seen these days and more stories than wider range of stories have been told in Hindi cinema so I think that is a great change that has happened.

Tell us about your sudden comeback with 3 Storey.

I must say it was a leap of faith for the director Arjun Mukherjee and producer Priya Shree Dharan, and of course Ritesh Siddhwani and Farhan Akhtar who are also its co-producers, to repose confidence in me for the unique role I was supposed to essay. They liked my audition. Unless an actor gets an opportunity he or she can’t prove their mettle. So it’s very important to get that kind of role — till then I’ve been essaying stereotype roles in the films (I won’t say this for telly-serials as I’ve done a wide varieties of roles there). Before this, people in the entertainment industry used to look at me as the sweet bhabhi of Hum Aap Ke Hain Koun or sister of Dil Ne Jise Aapna Kaha. Such image has become synonymous with me and, ironically, sweet nice people don’t have much to do in terms of acting. They are required more for their mere presence rather than for any acting ability — so this was something which was really exciting as I come from theatre. Since my baptisation into the acting world, I did a wide variety of roles even in theatre or TV, so something like this being offered to me was really awesome.

A lot has changed in the world of TV since Nineties. What’s your take?

Yes, television has changed a lot. One of the main things that has changed is the lack of time that people have in television. When we used to do television, we’d a lot of time because they were weekly soaps.

Everything was very well thought of. They did not run forever unless there were like certain shows like I did — Surabhi, which ran for 10 years. But it was an anchoring show that was telecast once a week. Thus, there was a finite quality to TV serials. We as actors knew the beginning, middle and end of our characters, storyline, etc. It was much more organized. I feel sorry for the people who are working in television, although there is lot of glamour to it now, which was not the case earlier. There were much more realistic serials. I think there is nothing memorable in that sense apart from first dailies such as Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kaabhi Bahu Thi, Kahani Ghaar Ghaar Ki, Kasauti Zindagi Ki. They were trend setters. All others seem to be poor copy of these serials.

I admire the actors today because to imagine to trying to get conviction to a role where there is no guarantee of what your character will be asked to do the next day, there is no guarantee of same director, there is very little guarantee about anything except that you have to work long hours.

Actors are known for throwing tantrums like coming late on the set or events or getting stubborn on certain dress code. What’s your view on this?

Luckily for me the huge stars I’ve worked with — Shah Rukh Khan in Circus and Salman Khan in Hum Aap Ke Hai Koun, Madhuri, Anupam Ji, Alok Nath Ji — and even in television people I have worked with, I’ve never seen any of them throwing tantrums. But yes I did a daily soap and there were some people who did throw their weight around in the serial that I did on Sony in 2007. I believe that kind of behaviour is not done. If you have issues with producer you should vent it out on producer. But these guys turn on their heat on other members from the set such as spot boys, light man or assistants. I don’t think it is right as these guys are helpless and the ones who follow orders from directors and all.

Would you like to work with Salman Khan once again?

Of course he is a delight to work with and we have a very nice working relationship. So yes, I would love to be part of any project with him. I’m sharing screen space with Madhuri after 23 years in a Marathi film called Buket List. It is her first Marathi film. It was such a great reunion. It was wonderful to work with her. We have a very special place in each other’s heart since Hum Aap Ke Hai Koun, which went on to make history. In later years, Salman and gave many hits. But I’m still known only for Hum Aapke Hai Koun and Surabhi. So it’s like iconic for me.