Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar
Sakshi Tanwar is best known for playing the role of Parvati in the television serial Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii. She has now put the iconic character behind her, however, with soaring popularity as Priya in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain. In an interview with Rajul Hegde, the actress discusses how she worked towards success in her profession and gives youngsters career advice.
Can you start off by telling us a little bit about your background? Please share some memories of your childhood days.
I was the youngest of three siblings. Both my older brother and sister pampered me a lot; in fact, I was saved from a lot of mischief I got into because they stood up for me. Growing up in a typical Indian family with its set of values and traditions was all about home, family, ghar ka khana -- that brought a whole lot of happiness as I was growing up. With a supportive and loving family to fall back on, in case of any crisis, life for me is simply full of fond memories. In fact, it is this strong support system that I had, that helped me move alone to Mumbai and live on my own.
Tell us about your first job and the first salary you ever received -- what did you do with the money?
My first job was as a sales trainee at the Taj Palace Hotel in Delhi. I worked at (clothing and accessory store) Khazana and received a monthly stipend of Rs 900. With my first salary, I bought my mom a yellow and green cotton sari and also a few things for my dad, brother and sister.
'To begin with, acting was a source of quick pocket money'
Photographs: Bade Acche Lagte Hain promotional still
Did you always want to become an actor, working in the entertainment industry?
Coming into the entertainment industry was just by chance. After my graduation from Lady Sriram College in Delhi, I was preparing for administrative services and mass communication entrance exams when a friend called me to audition for Albela Sur Mela, a music-based show on (TV channel) CPC Doordarshan.
The show had two anchors who had hosted two episodes; then one of them did not turn up. So my friend told me to audition and that was it -- there was no looking back. Though I was interested in the stage and dramatics in school and college, I never ever thought of acting as a profession. But there was no looking back after that.
What drew you to this line of work?
To begin with, it was a source of quick pocket money and soon the acting bug caught on and I started enjoying what I was doing. Ehsaas, Dastoor, Bhanwar, Rajdhani gave me huge opportunities to showcase my acting talent and soon I simply started getting more involved in my characters. And of course, the appreciation and attention I was getting only made it more special.
'I got a call for a (job) interview and the same day, I also got a call to audition'
Photographs: Still from Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii
Is there any particular event/incident that changed the course of your life?
I clearly remember, it was January 15, 2000. I got a call for a (job) interview and the same day I also got a call to audition for the serial Rajdhani. The irony is that both places were at two extreme ends and I just could not go to both. So I left home and the moment I reached the crossroads, I just moved towards the location where the audition was taking place. This was a decision that changed my professional life.
But there's one big incident that changed me as a person. I was visiting my sister in Pathankot, Punjab, and from there I had to leave for an event in Delhi. I had three bags, one of which contained my costumes, makeup, accessories (I was very possessive of my things).
Seeing that I was going alone and with three bags, my father said he would accompany me to Delhi. Upon reaching there, however, we realised the bag with my makeup/costumes had been left behind on the train. I just lost my temper and literally yelled at my father!
On learning of my rage, my sister called and asked if what I lost could not be replaced, and I said yes, it could be. "Then, why this tantrum?" she asked. "Do you realise how much you hurt Dad for such a small thing?" That was the moment when I realised that material wants are temporary and its family and relationships that matter the most. The incident brought about a huge realisation. Today, I see myself as a more understanding and rooted person.
'Highs and lows are a part of life. They teach you the best lessons'
Photographs: Still from Balika Vadhu
What is the best thing about working in television and the movies?
I believe work is not designed, it's destiny. I got into acting by chance. But then I started exploring the depth of acting...the concern is to entertain your audiences, make a place in their hearts and this realisation then becomes your passionate drive. The end result is all the attention, appreciation and accolades that come your way. And what better way than television! It gives you the opportunity to get up, close and personal with the audience. You become a part of their family and also touch so many lives.
What according to you are the most important personal characteristics for success in any field?
I believe that whatever you do, it must be done with dedication, sincerity and you must enjoy it. It's only then that you can bring out the best in you. Perseverance is also very important. One should never give up!
Looking back on the highs and lows in your career, what advice would you give youngsters?
I have had a fairly good career graph. After Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, I did take a two-year sabbatical to spend time with my family and also for myself.
I waited for a different role far from the iconic Parvati Bhabhi I played and then came Bade Achhe..., where I play a fiercely independent young woman in her 30s ready to live life on her terms. All I can say is life is full of ups and downs -- it's like a giant wheel that goes up giving you a high and slowly comes down leaving you cold! Highs and lows are a part of life. They teach you the best lessons.
'There was a time when I had so many dreams that I almost lived in a dream world, but not anymore'
Have you ever dealt with self-doubt, fear of failure?
We all know nothing succeeds like success and yet it is the most transient thing. In life and in our careers, we do face failure, but taking a cue from failure to race towards success is what kills the fear of failure in man. Failure is a part of life -- take it up as a challenge to achieve success.
When the going gets rough, how do you deal with negative feelings?
By nature I am a very cool and collected person, and don't get into a frenzy in any situation. There are ways of dealing with issues, so choose the path you like and simply go for it. I personally am too dependent on my family and friends for every little thing, and even in difficult times seek strength from them.
How do you handle success?
Success can be an intoxicating feeling, but like I said earlier, it's transient. If you are grounded then you begin to enjoy it gradually. And if you include those behind your success, then you are standing on very firm ground. I am very humbled by the kind of success I've seen. I think it's because of my parents' blessings that I have been able to come this far.
How do you handle criticism?
Both praise and criticism are an inherent part of our profession, but I don't let either affect me. I use them constructively, to improve myself. While praise can blind you sometimes, it's criticism that opens your eyes and ears to a part of you that you yourself were afraid to accept. Imagine someone opening up your closed mind!
What drives you on?
My passion towards my craft and the drive to excel, plus the love and admiration from my audience.
What dreams do you want to realise in the next five to 10 years?
I take one day at a time. There was a time when I had so many dreams that I almost lived in a dream world, but not anymore. I have realised that the moment you open your eyes, it's to stark reality and your dreams just wither away. I move forward with each day, facing challenges along the way.