In the Capital to promote her entry into Ekta Kapoor’s most recent outing on Star Plus, “Yeh Hai Mohabbatein”, Anita Hassanandani talks about taking on shades of grey, experimenting with regional cinema and more.
What made you take up “Yeh Hai Mohabbatein”?
It’s a very intriguing role, as a performer extremely challenging for me and very exciting that way. Shagun is the complete opposite of the kind of characters I’ve done so far on television, which is what made me want to do the role. She is not at all like me. Ekta had wanted me to do this role ever since she came up with the idea of making the show based on Manju Kapoor’s “Custody”, and I was very apprehensive. I remember asking her if she’s sure I can pull it off and she said I most certainly can, so I was game. . So, here I am today.
The character you play on the show has grey shades. In an arena where there is usually a very clear line drawn between the good girl and the ‘vamp’, do you think your role alters the stereotype or reinforces it?
I think this role is trying to change such a stereotyped vision, actually. Shagun is not out and out negative. From her perspective her reasoning is very simple and logical: she thinks she deserves better in life. She comes from an ordinary middle class background, wants to become an actress but her family convinces her to get married first. After marriage, however, she feels that she can get more out of life. That isn’t something a lot of us are completely unfamiliar with. After being Anjali (in the serial “Kkavyanjali”) in the minds of so many people for so long I thought, ‘why not experiment with a space completely away from where they are accustomed to seeing me?’
What kind of a response are you looking for, from the audience?
You know, there’s always such a thin line between people understanding why a character does something and people thinking ‘oh my God, what a horrible person!’ I’m trying to keep the audience on the side of the line that doesn’t completely reject Shagun. I hope that they can at least try to understand her point of view instead of judging her too harshly. Sure, she’s selfish and has done some not so nice things, but there has been a reason and a thought process behind her actions. I also want people to appreciate me as an actor and appreciate the that I’m trying out different things. If they don’t like Shagun that will also be a compliment for me as an actor, and will mean that I’m doing a good job of portraying her. I’m prepared for hate mails too!
How is the experience of working with Balaji Telefilms again?
It’s like…home. When I came on my first day of shoot, it was like I knew everyone. Positions have changed, people have grown but most of them are just the same. It was a good feeling, working with them all again within an extremely positive atmosphere. This particular role is a better experience for me also because she is a parallel lead and I won’t be required to shoot thirty days a month with practically no time for anything else. And it is always a pleasure to work with Ekta, who is a dear friend. Initially when I started my career she was a lot more involved with the shows she produced and wanted to be in control of everything, but now she’s sobered down and understands that there are responsible people working for her on every show. She is always there for guidance, though.
You’ve worked in various regional films, having done Punjabi, Tamil and several Telugu films recently. Do you ever feel like you would want another shot at making it big in mainstream Hindi cinema?
I would love to do better in mainstream Hindi films but one thing I must say is that my best experience so far has been in the Punjabi film industry where I’ve been around for more than 11 years. People from Chandigarh are so warm and kind. And thinking about my career graph so far, I’m actually a very content person. Hits, flops and everything in between, I got to do a lot of different things as an actor, had a lot of good learning experiences. So I think I’ve done reasonably okay for myself, and God has given me more than what I’ve asked for.