'The Internet empowered me as an artist.'
One of OTT's shining stars Geetanjali Kulkarni returns as Shanti Mishra in the popular Web series Gullak, now in its third season.
The actress doesn't mind playing a mother repeatedly on screen as she feels, every mother is different.
In an interesting interview with Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh, Geetanjali says, "As a young girl, I never wanted to be a homemaker. I have always wanted to work. I wanted to be a professional. Somewhere, you are told that being a homemaker is not a job."
How excited are you about the Gullak Season 3?
We are very excited.
The previous seasons were successful, and we received a lot of appreciation and love from the audience.
To date, people have been expressing their love.
We have worked very hard on the upcoming season.
The script is really good.
(Director) Palash Vaswani is a very good collaborator as he takes suggestions from each of us. When you are shooting season 3 of a show, you have already developed a very good rapport.
What happens is that when your show is a success, you are elated and are in a good zone.
Due to the rapport, you also get that confidence that whatever we put before the audience, they will like it because it is the next part of a successful show.
Because of that, the teamwork is great and the atmosphere is great.
I feel that with each season, every character is growing, maturing, and facing new challenges in life. Many difficulties arise, but everyone handles them differently and in their own way.
And as we age, we grow. So the kids working on the show have also experienced it.
You will witness a change in their voice and the way they react to different situations. All these things will be visible to the audience.
Do you think the show is a turning point in your career?
Absolutely. I started doing this show in 2017, and the first season was released in 2019. The second season released in 2020.
Everything has changed drastically since.
When I did season one, OTT was not settled yet. It was still new.
Gullak was the first show on OTT that was family-oriented.
Yes, this was the biggest turning point in my life.
I believe that Gullak has given me numerous opportunities to work on various projects and play a variety of characters.
You won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress OTT for your performance in Gullak.
Yes. When you get validation, you feel happy.
But you have to work hard and work sincerely, and that's very important.
If you work in such a way that you are collaborating with different people and exploring different stories, then you will get all of that.
So the first and foremost thing that is important to me is that you work together and do good work.
Awards are similar to how you crave ice cream after a good meal.
So awards are like ice cream to me!
They are necessary to make you happy, but at the same time, it's not that you are working for them. If you get it, you will naturally feel good.
Do you think OTT platforms have shattered the perception and image of a star?
I think we, as viewers, as an audience, don't say that we don't need stars.
We always want, you know, larger-than-life characters.
There was a huge gap, a vacuum where different kinds of stories were happening, but there was no place for them.
There was no space where you could portray stories that you now see on OTT platforms. That has been made possible by OTT platforms.
I am not a big fan of any particular genre of films. I like to watch different kinds of films.
At least, an audience like me has an option now. Earlier, we didn't have much.
I think that is very important, especially in a country like India where there are so many kinds of people.
The OTT platforms are catering to all of them.
There are so many platforms that I have never heard of but people are watching them.
I feel that for theatres, different kinds of stories and different kinds of actors work.
I think collaborative writing has come up.
New storytellers are emerging, making it possible for actors like us to be a part of different kinds of stories.
When did you decide you wanted to be an actress?
Actually, I had been more attracted to the theatre since childhood because as a middle-class Maharashtrian, we all used to go to the theatre to watch plays by these veteran actors.
I was always a fan of Marathi theatre.
As a child, I used to participate in dramas, short plays, etc.
We used to perform for the Ganpati festivals.
Since childhood, I have been participating in these activities.
When I went to college, I was a part of the Marathi dramatic section, where I took part in a competition, and then I went to the National School of Drama.
I have been acting since childhood, but, of course, only as a hobby.
I never thought I would take it as a profession.
But when I went to the National School of Drama, I was sure that I wanted to take up acting as my profession. I am thankful to the National School of Drama for that because it changed my perception of life.
Was it difficult for you to get your first break after you graduated from the NSD?
Yes, especially when you don't have the right contacts.
Also, at that time, there was no internet.
I used to call production houses to inquire about auditions.
When I came, we had serials. They changed to daily soaps soon.
I didn't think I could do them.
The kind of theatre that I wanted to do was accessible to me, so that's what I did. I still do theatre today.
But at that time, I thought that was the most accessible medium for me.
I preferred that rather than going to production houses and giving photographs.
I didn't have that kind of temperament.
Soon, the technological revolution happened and the Internet was easily accessible.
I remember mailing Atul Kumar that I wanted to do a play with him. The Internet empowered me as an artist.
I used to feel very shy when I used to go to these production houses with my photographs. It was difficult, but one has to go through it.
I think as a person today, I feel more matured.
I know what you have to put in as an actor in this profession to get this kind of opportunity, and I really value that and I am very proud of that.
I didn't think I was unfortunate as I have struggled so much. No, it's not like that.
I feel whatever happened was for my good.
I am thankful that this has happened to me because of the kind of person I am today, the actor I am, is because of theatre.
Do you and your husband Atul Kulkarni discuss your scripts with each other?
We don't discuss the scripts, but if something exciting comes up, we tell each other that I am playing this kind of character.
Whenever something happens on set, or if there is a shoot at night, I say that I enjoyed working with that director, or that this scene was very challenging.
I thought I could have done that scene that way.
We are very good friends.
We have been together for more than 25 years now, with, of course, all the ups and downs in life.
Of course, we have a lot of disagreements.
We fight a lot.
We have the same kind of nok-jhok that Shanti Mishra and Sanjay Mishra have in Gullak.
But yeah, we are very good friends.
Do you want to do roles that have a little bit of you in them, or do you want to explore roles that are completely different from your personality?
The kind of stories being told, and whether I want to be a part of that, are important to me.
Telling new stories is important.
Like TVF (The Viral Fever) hire such creative people.
They take risks.
They want to tell different kinds of stories.
Our writers used to send examples of what they were writing, and after seeing that, if I felt that we could write like that, they would incorporate that.
So all of these elements contribute to the series' richness.
Our director, Palash, would always ask us how we felt as actors. They take a note of what we are feeling. And that made the project rich.
So it's not about who's making it, it's about what stories we are telling and, of course, what role I am playing.
A lot of times, it so happens that, okay, she has done Shanti Mishra, so we will only give her roles where she plays a mother.
I don't mind playing a mother.
I don't mind playing Sangeeta Waghmare from Unpaused: Naya Safar again.
Every mother is different.
My aunt did not work, but she had a voice in her house. She used to make decisions about everything.
There are different kinds of mothers.
If it's stereotypical, then it wouldn't be fun for me.
What it adds to my life and what I get from it, and, of course, what I can give to the character matters.
Have you learned anything from Shanti Mishra?
I really admire Shanti Mishra because we have so many similarities.
I have been working for the last 25 years, and Shanti Mishra is a homemaker.
As a young girl, I never wanted to be a homemaker, you know.
I have always wanted to work.
I wanted to be a professional.
Somewhere, you are told that being a homemaker is not a job.
But I respect homemakers a lot because I have seen my mother-in-law train so many aunts of mine. Friends, who are homemakers take care of their houses so well, looking after their kids and their family, sacrificing their own dreams.
It's not easy to be a homemaker.
It's not just succumbing to the decisions of the men in the family but also putting forth their points.
I have learned that from Shanti. She is a person who will say, 'I won't have chutney on a silver plate, I will buy it myself.'