Game for negative shades


Seasoned actor Reema Lagoo whose ease and flair makes her performances seem effortless promises to enthral audience on a daily basis as she comes back to television after a long gap. She will now be seen in the soap opera Naamkaran on Star Plus which is inspired by the 1990 film Zakhm based on Mahesh Bhatt’s life. Having done shows like Tu Tu Main Main and Shrimaan Shrimati, the actor took a deliberate break from TV. Stating that the change in the TV software from weekly to daily format as the main reason for her long hiatus, she explains, “It became difficult to balance the gruelling schedule with my commitment to Marathi theatre, my first love.”

“Even though a daily show, I accepted Naamkaran because of Mahesh Bhatt. Having worked with him earlier I was sure that there will be substance in the show and the role offered to me.” But that is not all, as she was equally taken in by the huge canvas the character, Dayavanti, offered in terms of enactment. “I play the grandmother’s role. A stern, strong, affectionate and humble person who has faced many adverse circumstances in life it has several shades making it vastly different from the usual ones I have played. Dayavanti is not buttery and flowery but instead reflects toughness so I am expecting many in the audience to perceive a slant of negativity in it.” Does this assumed change worry her? “No not at all. Like my favourite actor Lalita Pawar who while essaying charming roles in ‘Shree 420’ and ‘Anari’ could play the fearsome mother or mother-in-law too, I am also game. After all that is what makes you a complete actor.”

Looking at the current trend of women-centric films being made, Lagoo is hoping this change will lead to a scenario where meaty roles are offered to actors in their 40s and 50s too. “Like several other performers of my generation and above I am eagerly hoping that the filmmakers will shift their attention to making movies around middle aged and older people that will include elements of romance, pathos, joy and fun. In Hollywood you have films where seasoned actors like Judi Dench and Meryl Streep play their age and yet are the pivot of the plot. I admire Streep’s The Devil Wears Prada,” says the actor. One such film has come out recently. It is Vijay Patkar’s Marathi movie in which she along with Mohan Joshi play a couple in their 40s.

Lagoo’s refuses to buy the argument that audience will not take such films. “To contend that viewers will not like it is fallacious. They will, if the content and treatment is right. Have people forgotten Nargisji in Mother India or Nirupa Roy in Deewar or Dina Pathak in Kitaab or Jennifer Kendal in 36 Chowringhee Lane? No, because they had substance and were content driven.”

A regular on Marathi stage and films, Lagoo despite her calibre was made to play a mother’s role very early on in her career in films like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Maine Pyar Kiya, Saajan, Gumrah and Jai Kishen. Ascribing it to stereotyping by the industry, she says, “Success in a particular genre or role automatically gets same roles over and over again.” Fine, but how does she react to do be mother for someone who is either her age group or elder to her? “When heroes have heroines less than half their age then who is bothered about this?” she quips. “Once I agree it does not bother me a bit who is opposite me as I simply play my part.”

A great admirer of Nargis, Nirupa Roy and Kamini Kaushal , Lagoo sees a change in terms of portrayal. “While the basic emotions of love and tenderness continue, the modern day mothers are different in the sense that they come across more as a friend to the children. In Hum Aapke Ke Hain Kaun or Maine Pyar Kiya I was seen as someone with whom children could share their problems. While in Aashique playing a single working mother I advise the heroine to pursue her dreams of becoming successful rather than succumb to the demand of marriage. All these mirror the changes in women in the present society. In Naamkarann, I operate the laptop and surf the net.” At the same time Lagoo also observes shrinking space for mothers in movies. “It is not just mother or father but depiction of family itself is missing in many of today’s narrative. I miss films that Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee used to make — woven around family and middle class showing their problems, joys and sorrows. Now either we see of characters who live in slums or are super rich.” Pausing for a second, she says in zest: “There seems to be nothing in between.”

Even with her television and film commitments, Lagoo wants to continue to be on stage. “Theatre is what keeps an actor on toes. Tough and hectic when compared to movies and TV shows, theatre allows no retakes while providing audience feedback then and there. What I adore about stage is the element of ‘natya prayog’ which allows you to improvise and improve your performances every time,” explains Lagoo.