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Indian TV soaps seem to have matured both in content and context. Today, its protagonists are no longer hapless young bahus tortured by evil mothers-in-law, or reeling under the apathy of spineless husbands.
Of late, there has been an influx of shows where 30-plus actresses are featuring as lead characters with meaty roles that show off their well-honed acting chops.
They are old hands, having reached the pinnacle of success in their first innings, and are now back in a reformed avatar to give the younger breed of actors a serious run for their money. They've shed all inhibitions and are willing to explore every aspect of the subject offered, be it playing the "other woman" or boldly consummating a marriage on screen. The likes of Sakshi Tanwar, Mona Singh, Shweta Tiwari, Shubhangi Aatre and Mouli Ganguly have broken the mould by captivating viewer attention and making producers once again look at them as having serious potential.
When Sakshi returned to the small screen three years after her iconic show Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii went off air in 2008, most regarded her second tryst as just another role. But a mature love story about a mismatched marriage required her to break out of her comfort zone, effectively making her the toast of tellyland once again.
The actress garnered a lot of attention for her "bold" consummation scene with co-star Ram Kapoor on the show. While critics might have arched their eyebrows over the act, Sakshi made her point - the envelope needs to be pushed!
Mouli Ganguly, another actor from the same ilk, who plays the other woman in Kya Huaa Tera Vaada, talks about the trend of going bold like Sakshi did, saying, "I can't say how bold my character looks, but Anoushka is definitely one of the most complex characters I've played till date. If it is absolutely required and shot aesthetically, I think bold scenes are acceptable on the small screen. That said, I do have my limitations. I have set some boundaries and I make sure I play characters with depth."
Adds Shubhangi Aatre, "There was a demand for only young faces to play protagonists not too long ago. Today, mature love stories appeal to the audience, and thanks to career-oriented women, late marriages are common too these days. Mature actresses are willing to experiment and even undergo makeovers as that prevents them from slipping into the maa and bhabhi roles. Actresses who look glamorous are game for this."
According to Maninee De Misra, actors in their 30s have gone through a process of learning through their characters, imbibed nuances, developed a new perspective, and grown up as individuals, which has enabled them to go beyond their comfort zones. She feels that age and experience gives them the clarity and conviction a bolder character requires. She says, "Established actors challenge themselves by attempting to play multidimensional characters. As you mature as an actor, you start pushing the limits to challenge and hone your craft. Younger actors are not yet comfortable with portraying bolder characters. They fear this will slot them into a certain frame. Also, the producer and actor have to have an association based on mutual trust, so that nobody's limits are trespassed. Now, bold scenes may not necessarily mean shedding clothes, kissing or doing intimate scenes. It's about using your body and persona with conviction to act out the scene with the required sensuality. What Sakshi did was a beautiful representation of what a woman in love feels and how she would express herself in moments of passion."
Agrees director Ravindra Gautam, "One ends up spending a lot of time teaching and grooming new actors, but shooting with mature actors is much more satisfying thanks to their experience." Prashaant Bhatt, fiction head with a general entertainment channel, says, "Storytelling has evolved keeping in mind the need for intelligent content that appeals to a cross-section of age groups. When viewers watch a 30 or 40 something actress, who is stepping out of her home to revive her dreams and aspirations, the striking similarities with her real life results in greater appreciation for the actress and her character. Also, since an older character has seen a lot in life, issues beyond just romance and kitchen politics can be highlighted."
Not on the same page
While the industry seconds that mature actresses have somewhat managed to dethrone the younger lot, 20-something actors defy this theory. Sargun Mehta, who is in her early 20s, feels, "Thirty can't be the new 20, as a 30-plus actress cannot play the character played by a 20-year-old and vice versa. I can't accept characters similar to that of Mona Singh or Sakshi Tanwarsince I'm too young to do so. I wouldn't like to play a mother or an elderly lady either." Similarly, senior actors can't play younger roles. "I don't agree with one particular age group ruling the industry. It's a mix and match, since different shows have different demands. Interestingly, both 14-year-old Avika Gor and 30-plus Sakshi and Mona are playing bahus. Sakshi hasn't done anything bold; it's just been over hyped," she adds.#
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