First Shaheen, and now Kumkum. For Juhi Parmar who came in quite green behind the ears when she first landed in Mumbai from Rajasthan, it's been a smooth ride.
Shaheen, which died young on Sony, was not able to cut the determined young actor's career short. Her fetching looks and winsome talent has landed her another title role - this time the big budget Kumkum on Star Plus, that hopes to redefine afternoon programming on television. While Kumkum went on air last week, Juhi has another show lined up - Virasat on Sahara that premieres 22 July. In the next few weeks, one more serial featuring Juhi - Saara Aakash, based on the Indian Air Force will start telecast on Star Plus.
She has her hands full at this minute - in itself a remarkable feat in a finicky industry. Juhi is not complaining either - she says she relishes every minute on the sets, acting being a passion she can never tire of. The sprightly actress took time off between her shooting schedule to share some thoughts on her life in the industry with indiantelevision.com correspondent Amar.
From being born and brought up in conservative Rajasthan, how did you make it to an acting career in television?
Right from childhood, I was obsessed with the idea of acting on screen. After completing my studies, I came down to Mumbai from Jaipur, where I have been born and brought up, and put up with my uncle and aunt here. I went about meeting producers and was lucky to get breaks quickly enough. I started off with a one episode role in Jee Sahab, directed by Manjul Sinha and followed it up with a four to five episodes role in a thriller series- Who. The title role of Shaheen was of course the turning point of my career.
Did you learn acting at any school or are you self taught?
Acting can't be learnt. It's a feeling that comes from within and that too very naturally. The sets have been my acting school and the directors my instructors.
After the docile Shaheen, Kumkum must be a very different character to portray.
Kumkum is a virtuous modern Indian bahu. Apart from being Jatin's wife, she is everybody's friend - right from the grandparents to the kids in the family. Everybody can confide in her and she extends help to everybody in solving their problems. She is a very warm and sweet human being but not in the conventional sugar-coated style. She is conscientious and upright and will never support something she feels is wrong.
How important a landmark is Kumkum for you?
Very important. It's on rare occasions that you get to play the title role. And once you do, you run the risk of getting typecast into that character. It happened with me with Shaheen. After Shaheen, most of the offers I got were for Muslim socials where I had to play a character similar to Shaheen. Hopefully, Kumkum will give me a new identity and help me get recognized as a versatile actress.
"Every time I begin with a new character, I try to undo all that I did to get into my previous character and start afresh"
How did you prepare for this role?
I go largely by my instincts and try to be as uninhibited and natural as I can be. For Kumkum, the director Sanjay Upadhyay gave me a detailed narration of the character and the important incidents unfolding with her in the story. I took it from there and made my own observations of how the character would actually behave.
What are the factors you take into consideration before taking up a new role?
My role itself and its significance to the central story. After Shaheen, people's expectations from me have gone very high and I can't take up uninspiring roles that don't quite match up to these expectations. So, I have refused many offers in the last one year.
Does acting on TV tend to be very taxing? How do you plan your schedules?
Well, schedules on TV just cannot be planned because of the endless pressures of meeting deadlines. I end up shooting for 25-30 days in the month, but I really don't mind it. Physically it is tiring, no doubt, but I am so passionate about acting that my spirits have never been dampened.
Do you like the script to be given to you well in advance or do you prefer having a look at it just before the shot?
Yes, I prefer to go through the script well in advance. This is not to memorize it but to get a feel of what exactly is expected of me on a given day. This helps me to mentally gear myself for the performance. When you are shooting for two or three serials simultaneously, it always helps to know the script beforehand so that I get the focus of the character right.
Is there a scene or performance you regret and feel that given another chance, would have come out much better?
Yes, there was a scene in Choodiyan, where I had to talk to Akshay Anand about my mother who died when I was a child. In this scene, my voice had to be choked and had to break and my eyes had to be moist. Somehow, I found it very difficult to do it to the director's satisfaction. After a while, I became so conscious of myself that the scene would just not come right. Finally, even though the director liked it and okayed it, when I saw the scene or when I think about it even now, I feel I could have done the scene much better.
Who are your favourite directors?
I have been really lucky to have worked with some outstanding directors on TV. My favourite directors are Pravesh Bhardwaj, who directed me in Shaheen, Imtiyaz Punjabi who directed me in Choodiyan and Sanjay Upadhyay, who is directing me in Kumkum. I would love to work with Ravi Rai, whose Sailaab I doted on when I was in school.
How important a role does a director play in improving an actor's performance? Are you a director's actor?
A director plays a pivotal role in bringing out the desired performance from an actor. A director needs to know very clearly what he wants from his actor and he should be able to communicate that very effectively as well. A director is like a coach who keeps guiding and correcting your performance. Yes, I consider myself a director's actor. Not having been trained, I have learnt by the trial and error method, thanks to directors who have all been very supportive and helped me improve on my shortcomings. My directors have played a key role in my success.
"The advantage of a mise en scene is that there is a lot more spontaneity and a better flow to it"
Have you ever done a mise-en scene? Is it easier or more difficult to perform?
Yes, I have. It's certainly not difficult for me at this stage because I can carry a performance effectively without a pause or break. In fact the advantage of a mise en scene is that there is a lot more spontaneity and a better flow to it. But the disadvantage is that even if a lightman or a spot boy makes a slight error, the entire shot has to be re-done which can be very stressful.
How important is it for a TV actor to market himself/herself?
I don't know because I haven't had to do it. Luckily, I got good breaks early on in my career and based on my performances in these serials more offers followed. I have neither had a publicity agent nor have I gone to producers' offices asking for work.
Do you follow any self improvement regimen?
No, because my acting schedules don't permit me time for it. My effort is just to enact a role with as much freshness as I can and give a natural performance. Upadhyay, who I consider among the finest directors in the industry, has always insisted that good acting is all about being natural in your performance and I fully agree with him. Besides, every time I begin with a new character, I try to undo all that I did to get into my previous character and start afresh.
Which has been the happiest moment of your career?
There have been two extremely happy moments - when I bagged the roles of Shaheen and KumKum.