Reflections on Acting, Challenges and Audience Influence

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Reflections on Acting, Challenges and Audience Influence

Sunday, 09 June 2024 | SAKSHI PRIYA

Reflections on Acting, Challenges and Audience Influence

MAHESH THAKUR shares insights into his illustrious acting career, spanning television and cinema. From memorable roles to industry evolution, he reflects on the challenges and successes that have shaped him as an artist. In a conversation with SAKSHI PRIYA, he also opens up about his recent show Aangan Aapno Kaa, shedding light on his experience playing a father’s role in this heartwarming project

What motivates you to continue acting and how do you view the role of the audience in your career?

I get the audience’s love and reaction. Being an actor means experiencing the audience’s reactions, which keep me going. They encourage me to do better. I would say it is the audience that inspires me to act.

Among the numerous characters you’ve portrayed, which role has been the most memorable for you and why?

I think a role that is very different from my personality would be Tej Singh Oberoi from Ishqbaaz. That character is nothing like me and I had to create a persona that was really nasty, cunning and thought differently. It’s a really interesting character that I played, so I would definitely give credit to that role. Generally, the roles I play are similar to my personality and I feel that’s not very challenging but the role in Ishqbaaz was challenging. Playing the honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also challenging because it is difficult to embody a character who is very much in the public eye. Another challenging role was playing Sadhu Vaswani. All these characters are memorable because they are different from who I am.

You’ve often played positive characters. Did you relish the opportunity to portray a villain in Ishqbaaz, and how did you approach that transformation?

First of all, in television, we have very different ways of working. The episodes and scripts come on set, so we don’t have time to do much homework. My basic approach in the initial days when I worked on any television character, which is very different from the rest, is to do a lot of reading. I read one to six episodes, and once I am done with reading, I try to get into the character and experiment with different voice modulations in my own space. I try taking pauses when delivering dialogues and ensure that I don’t repeat certain expressions. In Ishqbaaz, my character was so negative that I didn’t want my kids to watch it, as they were very young at that time.

What have been some of the biggest challenges and successes in your acting career and how have they shaped you as an artist?

One of the biggest challenges in my acting career was transitioning to television. When I started doing daily soaps, I realised that you put in just as much hard work as you do in films but it’s for one telecast. After that, it’s gone and often forgotten. As actors, we used to be very particular about giving a fantastic shot, striving for perfection. However, in television, you don’t have much time. You get only a few minutes and maybe 4 to 5 takes to get the shot right. No matter how perfect a shot I gave, there was always room for improvement, but in television, it often goes unnoticed because it airs only once and then it’s long gone. This was a learning experience for me, helping me understand that, at the end of the day, actors are a product of the writing and direction. It’s not just about the actor. Many actors in the industry think it’s all about them, believing that their performance alone makes a movie or show a hit. But that’s not true. It’s teamwork that makes a project successful. TV has taught me humility as an actor. It made me realise that while an actor might attract the audience for the initial viewing, it’s the combined effort of the entire team that makes a lasting impact.

You’ve seen the television industry evolve over the years. How do you think it has changed, and what are your thoughts on the current trends in TV shows and content?

Yes, definitely. The sensibility has changed. Audiences are now more open to rich subjects and they have a say in what they want to see. You can’t disregard the audience today. You have to be very careful. People always try to bifurcate between whether a film is for villagers, town people or two-tier towns. I think that divide is disappearing. We have to ensure that the content generated is not just to cater to one segment, as the divide is reducing between these three categories, thanks to the internet. Everyone now has access to all sorts of content. So, as a content creator, you have to keep everyone in mind, not just a single type of audience.

Looking back on your time working with Sridevi, is there a specific scene or moment from filming Malini Iyer that stands out in your memory?

Sridevi Ma’am was and will always be a legend because she was one of the first heroines where movies were made if she said yes to a project, like Chandni, Lamhe, and all these beautiful films she was a part of. No matter how much I say about her or praise her, it will always be less.

Recently, you are working on a project, Aangan Aapno Kaa. How has your experience been playing the father’s role in this project?

I am playing the character of a dad, and it’s great. As I said, you need a good team of actors, and we have a very good team here, especially my daughter, with whom I am very close and interact with often. There are always lots of hugging scenes, giving love, and treating them like babies, so we have to get into a very comfortable zone. Even on the set, they call me Papa instead of Mahesh Ji, and I am good with that. They are very sweet co-actors.

What was your experience like working on Dil, Dosti Dilemma, especially considering the fantastic team of women involved, from the director to the producer?

Dil, Dosti Dilemma was great fun because we had a fantastic team filled with women, from the director to the producer. It was nice seeing all the women coming into action and working so brilliantly as a team. I enjoyed my time in Dil, Dosti Dilemma, and it was shot beautifully. The story was one of the simplest out there on the streaming platform. You can watch it and have a great time with your loved ones. It was an extremely sweet story, and I just loved working on the project.

How do you approach acting in different mediums like films, television and web series? Do you have a preference among these mediums?

An actor is always an actor; they should not choose any medium. The only difference between TV and film is not that much. The major difference between working in front of the camera and on stage is significant. When you go on stage, there is a difference in working in front of the camera. In front of the camera, you have to take care of lights, know which dialogue to say and when and work with the cameraman, co-actors and director, so there are lots of things happening in one shot. It’s pretty complicated for a person who starts straight in TV and film because lots are happening on sets. When you do a stage, it’s all about you. You forget your line, you’re supposed to carry on; you are not supposed to stand blank on the stage because you have a live audience watching you. So, that’s more challenging, I feel, for actors working on stage because it’s all about dialogue delivery, trying to work on body language, so much is happening on stage that it’s more of a challenge rather than working in the medium of TV and film. Acting on TV and film is also challenging but not as challenging as the stage. Also, if you’re good on stage, it doesn’t mean you can be good in front of the TV and camera because you have to control your expression and not go too loud because TV is a subtle medium. One thing I learned about the theatre is that in theatre, you have to pronounce your words; you cannot speak loudly. The last person sitting on the back bench in the auditorium should be able to listen to you. It’s not about raising your voice; it’s literally pronunciation which goes right up to the end.

Many actors look up to your career. What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in television acting?

To all the new actors, hang in there. Hanging in doesn’t mean losing your patience, balance or giving up. This is one of the most difficult professions you could choose. If you have multiple choices, I would say let acting be the last one you go for. But if you are going for it, then be resilient. You have to be there because you never know when the right break will happen for you and when things will start working in your favor. Don’t give up. If you are an actor, you should think about it as always being an actor; otherwise, you will never get anywhere. So, choose your profession wisely.

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