Joined: 26 August 2006
I'M STUCK IN A RUT BUT IT'S A GOOD RUT
As Dr. Juhi in Sanjeevani A Medical Boon, she was a big rage and became a prime time diva. After that she appeared in Sindoor Tere Naam Ka and Jet Set Go, which met with little success. Then she surprised everyone when she tied the knot with actor Arjun Punj and even took a hiatus from the small screen.
But just when everyone thought Gurdip Kohli was yesterday's news, the prodigal woman rose from the ashes again to bag one of the most coveted roles on television – Bani in Kasamh Se, which was previously essayed by Prachi Desai. When Ekta Kapoor and Balaji chose Gurdip to play the popular character, it sent shock waves in the industry.
When we meet up with her, Gurdip seems relaxed and doesn't feel any pressure to live up to the expectations of the production house and audience. Since there were many actresses who were dying to play that role, does she see this opportunity as a windfall of sorts?
Gurdip thinks for a while and then answers, "I know that there were other actresses who were spoken to for the role but I don't know what happened with them. Things worked out with me and I am on board. They are my contemporaries and they have done similar roles earlier and even I have done these kinds of roles in the past."
But surely, she must have prayed for a miracle that eventually came true. Says the actress, "There was no gut feeling that I would bag the role but there is a confidence level in every actor. The character is very popular and it is one of Ekta's most loved characters.
I had no negative thoughts or any pressure like 'Oh my god! I am getting in the shoes of a successful character.' I have always got love from the audience for whatever I have done. It is a great character, which has lived its half-life on television. I have to be focused. It is not a walk-through kind of a role where you start and create it."
It has been seen that character changes do not always go down well with the audience; Gautami Kapoor replacing Smriti Irani as Tulsi in Kyunki… being a case in point. But Gurdip seems unruffled. In fact she seems elated to be on all the major hoardings across the city. "My publicity has been done very well for the show when I replaced Prachi.
The channel has done its bit. Now it is my turn to get hold of the character. Gautami came after a long gap but I am not coming after a long hiatus. I don't think there should be a problem. Let's leave it to the audience. I had got calls from Balaji during Sanjeevani for a lot of characters they had come up with but I was not free at that moment. I have always done main leads. There was nothing left to give to another producer. I never had time to take up Balaji."
But this time Gurdip was free looking for something and things just fell in the right place, at the right time. Though she hasn't met Prachi yet, she looks forward to meeting her soon. "She is a sweet girl. I really don't know how she feels about this change. Had I been in her place even I would have felt a little possessive about my character. She had built the character and she left for a good reason and I wish her all the best. Films are big and not everyone gets offers like that. She is very lucky. Keeping the past in mind, it took her places. This is a great comeback for me. To be back with a bang, with hoardings all over India; it feels great."
Bouquets aside, it is a known fact that Balaji is extremely cutthroat with their actors. Does she harbour any fears? Gurdip is quick to admit, "Balaji is quite a taskmaster. I am doing the central character and shooting all nights. I have been told that the first two months are going to be taxing.
I feel that the first two months are very important for any character to be built and registered in people's minds. And since I was resting, I am now enjoying my work so I don't think the pressure has hit me, as of now. Till now, I haven't had a full on meeting with Ekta; we just met once very briefly. Considering that I am working with her for the first time, I really want her to comment on my work."
Not many know that Gurdip was initially interested in the big screen. In fact, she was even called to audition for several films, including Swades but things didn't work in her favour and she had to be content with the small screen. Gurdip throws light on the subject, "I have said no to films. I was offered films before and after Sanjeevani. I feel that I don't want to start my struggle again. I am well established. I get time off with my family. I am not crazy about doing films. But if Ashutosh Gowarikar or some other biggie calls me, how do I say no? Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't.
If things had worked out, I would have been on the big screen today. It is not that people are bad on TV and great on the big screen. People are the same and destiny takes you there. I cannot follow all the demands of the producer – for instance, if they ask me to do a particular scene or wear a particular dress. I would like to work with a producer who understands my psyche and the kind of person I am. Ken Ghosh's Ishq Vishk too didn't work out for me but TV worked big time."
It took three-and-a-half years for Sanjeevani to get over and considering it was a weekly, it must have been heartbreaking for Gurdip when it ended. Like she says, "For a weekly to sustain for such a long time is an achievement in itself. When it shut down, I was really upset. When it was on air, my phone used to start ringing when the show would get over. I would get text messages praising me and that also happened with the first episode of Kasamh Se. I am so happy and this kind of a response, as it gives me a sense of dj vu. With television you need to be on prime time. Nine o'clock is a prime time slot when people switch on the TV."
Gurdip took a break from TV when she bought a new house though she continued doing cameos from time to time. "I took a break from work since I was exhausted. It was a new chapter in my life when I bought a new house. I had to take care of it so I did not shoot for a year and four months to be precise. In between I did a cameo in Bhabhi and anchored Good Morning Zindagi on 9X. That was work at a very relaxed pace. Now I am back getting grilled."
Her marriage with Arjun Punj was a fairy tale wedding and she still goes weak in the knees when she recalls the love saga. "I still get butterflies in my stomach whenever I think of my love story with Arjun. During shooting for Sanjeevani, he was an actor on board. We were good friends initially and we understood that we liked each other and love happened. Finally we thought that since even our families got along well, we should get married. Arjun always says that I was after him, which is true. It was mutual. I think he was too shy to make the first move, so I did it. Now we've been married for more than a year."
She informs us that Arjun is not doing TV anymore and only focusing on films. "He always wanted to do films. When he came from Delhi for the first time, he got Tere Liye. It was not well promoted but it was a good thing to get such an offer so early. That has played on his mind. Films are his forte. People do television to survive but now his focus is only on movies."
Since both of them straddle the world of showbiz, has there ever been a clash of interests or egos? "We understand each other very well," she states. "I know why he says no to TV and why he wants to do films. He loves films and I am a person who likes to do my own thing. I don't like to sit idle or wait because for me things have to happen at the right time. I cannot wait. He loves to do films and has a good support system. There are no clashes since he has done TV. Even if I'm shooting out all night, we are constantly in touch. There is no ego hassle and our families are compatible."
The couple was recently in the news for their performance in the reality show Nach Baliye 2. They took their defeat with a pinch of salt since they were planning to get married at that point of time.
"We reached mid-way, which was not bad, according to us. We were getting completely grilled since we were both doing main leads and running shows on our shoulders. We were rehearsing a lot while our families were getting ready for marriage. It was good fun. I love to dance with Arjun. Sometimes I just put the music on at my house and I keep dancing with him. I got to learn so much about dancing."
Usually it is seen that channels promote their own stars with such shows but Gurdip doesn't want to comment on that. "Channels have their own plans and strategies, so they know what is good for them. If you look at our episode in Nach…, we used to always smile irrespective of whether we got a zero or ten points. We had good fun and it didn't matter who was winning and who wasn't. We had a marriage to take care of."
Since she got hooked up so early in life, does she see her married status as a deterrent in getting more work? Gurdip has her own point of view on that one. "TV is a field where marriage will only do good to you. We did Nach Baliye and people know us as a couple; it is not that my offers are limited. I would not say that I was not established when I got married. I started early and got married after five years of good television. That's not a long time but people already knew me. I feel important things in life have to happen at the right time, so I had to get married."
Incidentally, Arjun is more than pleased with his wife bagging the role in Kasamh Se. "He has started calling me Nayi Bani. He is very happy. When I got the offer, he left the entire decision on me, like always. He never interferes. He helps me weigh the pros and cons. We took some time to decide and he thought it wasn't a bad deal."
The role is indeed significant but doesn't she fear getting stuck in the saas-bahu groove? Gurdip makes an honest confession, "I don't mind getting stuck in the rut since this is all what's happening. Even I would say that I am stuck in a rut but it is a good rut. There are only saas-bahu serials happening. If you don't want to do them, then what will you do? I don't want to waste my years. When my marriage happened, I took time off and when I start my family, I'll take time off again. By then, the face of Indian television will have hopefully changed and maybe I'll come back in a different genre like Desperate Housewives or something."
Gurdip was also offered Aamna Sharif's role in Kahiin To Hoga but she had turned it down since she had no time for it. "I wasn't free then. But I don't know whether it was Aamna's role or some other role. Whenever I got calls from Balaji earlier, my hands were always full."
The actress has maintained a rather clean slate professionally except maybe for her tiff with her Sanjeevani co-star Mihir Mishra. At one time, they weren't even on talking terms. But things have changed since then.
Like Gurdip reveals, "I have befriended Mihir and we are absolutely normal with each other now. If there is any offer where both of us have to work together we are ready for it. I have absolutely no problem. We were very childish at that time and we were just starting off. There was nothing from my side and Mihir agrees to that. Now we are mature professionals. Actually nothing went wrong. We just didn't talk to each other. He is dear friend now."
It was also rumoured that the cold vibes were such that Mihir and his wife Manini, would not even acknowledge Gurdip publicly. "Manini was the person who got me speaking to Mihir after the marriage. Manini is a sweetheart and how would she not acknowledge me? She is the kind of person who would first say hi to you at a party. She is not that kind at all."
But all that's behind her now. Today, all that occupies her mind is Bani and Kasamh Se. Considering her co-star Ram Kapoor is known to be a charmer, how does she intend on tackling him? Gurdip laughs and says, "I had met Ram once at a photo-shoot and he came across as a very professional guy. He came on time, shot with me and left for shooting. I have heard that he is a brat so I am getting all geared up to defend myself. You gain respect only through your work. If you don't come well prepared then people will not talk with you or they will make fun of you."
She also has great things to say about her boss Ekta Kapoor. Is she prepared for her temper tantrums? "She is synonymous with television. When you talk about television, you talk about Ekta. Sometimes you really lose your calm and you need to know why she threw her cell phone. She has to be very pissed off to do that. She is working too hard. It is important to work with the production house, which has changed the face of television. She is a successful woman and I really look up to her," says the Aquarian.
It's a new beginning for Gurdip and she's raring to go. Like she puts it, "I am very ambitious but I know my limits." Well, knowing Gurdip, that's not going to change much in times to come. And that's the best part about her.
**BY MANISH MISHRA
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