They are better recognised as the star-crossed lovers, Nandini and Karan, of the glycerin-ruled soap, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. But real life has been kinder to actors Gauri Pradhan and Hiten Tejwani. They met three years ago, as wet-behind-the-ears actors, rehearsing for the ad shoot for Breeze soap. Today Hiten has two films, Jogger's Park and Krishna Cottage, as well as several television serials and countless plays under his belt. He's garnered quite a fan following on television as well, courtesy such serials as Ghar ek Mandir, Kabhi Sauten Kabhi Saheli, Kahin Kissi Roz, Kya Hadsa Kya Hakeequat and Kkusum. He says that it was while playing screen husband to Gauri in another soap, Kutumb, that they decided to marry "for real". The two have been married for just over seven months.
Unlike Hiten, who is a pucca Mumbaiite, Gauri Pradhan's childhood was spent travelling through the country as her father was in the army. While in her second year of B.Sc. from a Pune college, she moved to Mumbai in 1999 when all of 18 to take a shot at the Miss India crown. She missed and settled for the next best thing — modelling. That's when she landed a role in the tele-serial Noor Jehan. From there to more modelling assignments and now Kyunki... that has proved to be the turning point in her career. While she intends to focus on one serial at a time (and the two-year course in counselling that she is working hard at), Hiten has set his sights on movies.
Gauri on Hiten
I first saw Hiten three years ago when we were boarding the same flight to Hyderabad, where we were to shoot for a Breeze soap commercial. Actually he didn't make any impression on me at all. In any case, I was only too busy with the book that I was reading. I remember that as we boarded the plane, somebody in the queue pushed me hard and I turned around to give the person a furious look. It happened to be Hiten who muttered something about someone else pushing him. Little was I to know that one day I would end up marrying him!
On the second day of the shoot when Hiten saw me rehearsing for a dance sequence in the ad, he had the audacity to tell me to "keep it up". That really irritated me and I couldn't imagine what right he had to nose around in my business. I returned to Mumbai and immediately left for a holiday to the US with friends. Hiten and I didn't meet for a few months, till we began shooting for Kutumb on Star Plus. However, even though we were told that we had great on-screen chemistry, we never spoke off the sets.
Today 90 per cent of my work has been with Hiten by my side — literally. I'm often asked if I feel uncomfortable, nervous or jittery working with my husband, but my answer is no. On the contrary, I quite enjoy it. Marriage hasn't changed anything professionally — but yes, I still don't mix very easily with the other actors on the serial.
If I could change something about Hiten, it would probably be his uncomplaining nature. I fear that people may just take him for a ride. But yes, he did get quite mad when I hurt my right hand on the Kyunki... sets recently, thanks to Akash (who plays the villainous Ansh). To my surprise (and secret pleasure) he made Akash a very angry phone call. I guess I'm still revelling in the sense of belonging that marriage has brought into our relationship.
Hiten on Gauri
My first impression of Gauri will always be of a pretty girl — a no-nonsense girl at that — with her nose buried in a book. When we started working on Kutumb, she completely ignored me off the sets for over six months. Mentally I had nicknamed her Hitler. Then one day, she smiled (finally) and the ice was broken.
Working together is actually an advantage and since I am also part of a serial other than Kyunki..., I'm not always by her side. So there are spaces in our relationship too. But a lot of people are jealous of the arrangement — it's actually wonderful to have your spouse close at hand.
Over the years, the only bone I have to pick with her is that she is very short-tempered. She tends to fly off the handle and I'm always telling her to slow down and relax. And she feels that I need to be more assertive. I think I'm more chilled out than her.
Even though our schedules don't allow for frequent holidays, we try and build in once-in-a-year trips to Goa and the US. Like our love for acting, we also share a passion for travelling.
I wouldn't mind doing more serials starring opposite her — as a matter of fact I'll look forward to them.