We are often asked how we live in each other's pockets all the time. But, if you look at a typical day, we hardly get any quality time together.
He's exuberant and enthusiastic. She's reserved and reticent. Together, they make sweet music. No wonder then that their alter egos – Karan and Nandini Virani of the daily prime time soap, Kyunki...Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi – were voted the most popular tele-couple at the Star Parivaar Awards this year. Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena spends time with real life husband-wife, Hiten Tejwani and Gauri Pradhan, who celebrate their togetherness, even as they cherish the spaces in their relationship.They met in Hyderabad for the first time at the shoot of a soap
commercial; though Hiten recalls that he noticed her sitting in a
chair reading a book, just before boarding a plane in Mumbai. "At
that point we did not know each other," remembers Gauri,
laughing. "I could see him pacing up and down restlessly waiting for
his flight to be announced." While standing in the queue to get on
the plane, the belle demoiselle was jostled by the attractive young
man. "Hiten almost fell on me and when I turned angrily to see who'd
pushed me, he shrugged and indicated that it was not his fault.
Someone behind him had tumbled against him and he'd lost his
balance," she states.
Destination point reached, friendship at first sight did not
blossom, particularly when Hiten had the audacity to tell his co-
star, somewhat condescendingly, at rehearsals that she was "doing
fine and should keep it up. I didn't take his thumbs up gesture
well. The guy hardly knew me, who was he to give me advice?" Back in
Mumbai, they lost touch till almost six moths later, they faced the
camera for Kutumb – and the antagonism of the characters was
mirrored in the coolness between the lead players on the sets.Not really Katherine to his Petruchio, the two colleagues were
thrown compulsorily into each other's constant company. Gauri
continued to keep her more exuberant co-star at the end of a
bargepole. "It wasn't anything to do with him personally," she
flashbacks. "I am an introvert and was happy with my own company…
while Hiten was, as still is his habit, all over the sets – chatting
with the director and his co-stars, backslapping the spot boys over
glasses of chai."In a classic case of opposites attract, the two were slowly drawn to
each other.... "One day, while Hiten was with a different unit, we
heard that he was unwell. He had to shoot with us later during the
day, so I offered him my car and driver to reach our sets. Stubborn
as he is, he refused, insisting he'd make it on his own steam," says
Gauri. Soon, Hiten found himself sharing the Ice Princess' lunch…and
inviting her out for dinner. Thus, it happened that a secret romance
developed between the two, differences in their background
"I had got into modelling purely by chance," recalls Gauri, who's
been a participant at a Miss India contest earlier. "I couldn't
stand doing only that for long. It was too fake and too plastic."
Hiten, with the ease of a fish taking to water plunged into the
dramatic worlds of professional theatre (He was a part of the group,
Ankur) and tear-jerking serials after many appearances on stage in
Jai-Hind College, Mumbai. Unlike Gauri, whose army background had
given her a more cosmopolitan outlook, Hiten's sensibilities changed
only after joining college and modelling for advertisements. "I am a
simple home spun boy," he says, "born and brought up in Borivili, a
boy who learned swimming when my grandfather pushed me into the
neighbourhood well. The only thing I was really sure of was that I
did not want to be a part of our family's cloth business."
Destiny – personally and professionally – beckoned our lead players.
Hitting it off immensely on screen, the pair became extremely
popular with the producers and the audiences. So much so, that
people began to quiz Hiten if they were seeing each other. "No one
dared ask me if I was going steady with him" remembers Gauri. After
umpteen assertions that they were only 'good friends' their real
life romance blossomed, sometimes over candlelit dinners at quiet
restaurants. When news broke that the two were a couple, people were
pleasantly surprised and a bit wary. "Producers stopped calling us
separately for serials because they thought that we would not work
without each other."
Initial days yet, they are both learning new things about each
other. Who makes the most 'sacrifices' I quiz and automatically
Gauri's eyes turn promptly to her husband. "She has given you her
answer without saying a word," Hiten jokes. In a more serious vein,
his wife indicates the first changes that have happened. "He used to
shoot around the clock and come home around one at night, almost
every day. Now, it is normally pack up much earlier. I know that
acting – particularly in dailies – is not a ten to six job. But
somewhere, somehow, I honestly feel that you have to set your
priorities right."Adds Hiten, "If she was in a different profession, she would have
killed me by now! Since we share the same work environment, we
understand each other better. She knows that I have to finish my
shots no matter how long it takes. Earlier, she had strict rules but
has now become more flexible." Once home, work is put on a back-
burner. "We have so much to discuss," both confirm, "that we hardly
talk shop in the house, unless we have some doubts and would like to
use the other person as a sounding board."
The differences between the two are obvious… She is more of a
studies speaker than Hiten to whom talking is second nature. "If I'm
not working, I cannot sit quietly at all," he readily admits. "I
enjoy talking to and listening to everyone. That is why I know all
the gossip that is being exchanged in Ekta Kapoor's kingdom!" The
more reserved Gauri- 'She has opened up a little under my
influence,' says her husband – is quite content to be in her make-up
room with only herself or a book for company. "That is one thing
about him that has not changed," says the bookworm. "He is not a
reader while I can live on a diet of books. Hiten does dip into a
Sidney Sheldon now and again….but he will leaf through the first and
the last few pages and then put it away."
Sharing the same personal and professional space leads to an all-
obvious query: how is it working and living with the same person,
all the time? On the sets they do try not to interfere with each
other's roles although Gauri does admit to taking 'valuable inputs'
from the more experienced Hiten. He points out that "it is easier to
do a scene with Gauri in it. No matter what the emotion required,
our comfort level with each other is very high. With others, it
takes time to discover how you can give off your best."
The couple thus seems to spend almost every moment together and are
frequently spotted enjoying a quiet meal in suburban nightspots. How
boring the monotony must be! Both Hiten and Gauri laugh out
loud: "We are often asked how we live in each other's pockets all
the time. But, if you look at a typical day, we hardly get any
quality time together. Hiten is busy with three serials while I am
doing my own thing. So, we not rally together all the time. At the
end of the day, we normally like to spend time at home. Believe it
or not, we hardly turn on the television."
Being together also entails looked forward to holidays whenever they
can. They've just returned from a four day rejuvenating break in
Mauritius. Gauri points out, "In Mumbai, we hardly ever get quality
time together. So we try to take off for a break whenever we can
even. We have also been to the States for dandiya night. We were
surprised to see how popular TV actors are there- we needed
20bouncers to protect us from the crowds! I am not sure if we'll be
going this year though; it is very tiring as there is hardly any
time to relax." Interestingly, 'paid for' appearances are common
with TV stars. But Gauri states categorically, "We haven't gone for
a party or wedding where you are paid to attend. I do not think I
would be comfortable doing that and I won't like if he does it as
With a far-reaching foresight, Gauri is already looking ahead to the
time she will not be in the limelight and is pursuing a diploma in
counselling from an institute in London. "I am a very insecure
person and must have something to fall back on," she says. "I want
to do many things- I want to learn to play the guitar, do a course
in cosmetics, do the salsa…" Hiten, on the other hand, has put his
eggs in one basket – the soaps- even though he made a brief foray
into films (Jogger's Park, Krishna Cottage). He's not worried
though, as he stated "Acting is my life, I cannot do anything else.
I have full confidence in Ekta and myself…. And Gauri and I are busy
planning our future carefully… one step at a time God willing"
Gauri Pradhan's outfits and accessories at Aftershock; shoes at Metro. Hiten Tejwani's outfits by Narendra Kumar Ahmed, at The Courtyard. All in Mumbai.
Location courtesy: Taj Lands End, Bandra.