PeepingMoon Exclusive: ‘It was time to show my craft, wanted people to sit up & take notice,’ says Anjana Sukhani on her OTT debut 'Saas Bahu aur Achaar Pvt Ltd'

Anjana Sukhani has got people talking about her for all the right reasons after she made her web series debut with TVF’s Saas Bahu aur Achaar Pvt Ltd. The actress plays a very different character from all her past outings in films. In a deglamorized role, Anjana plays Manisha, the second wife and stepmom to Anup Soni’s grown-up children. The series has Anup and Amruta Subhash in the lead and has garnered great reviews. It is currently streaming on Zee5.

In an exclusive interview with PeepingMoon, Anjana spoke about breaking her glam image through her role, foraying into OTT, working with TVF, her viral dialogue about mending and what it means about life.

Excerpts from the interview:

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First things first, what appealed to you about Saas Bahu and Achaar?

I was absolutely excited and thrilled and now that the reviews are coming in I am all the more happy, but the real test is when audience see it and they personally write to you and say what they think about the character. I was super thrilled about the show, about my debut on Zee5 with a web series like that and the character like that so it’s special for me.

You are essaying a very delicate role in the series, of the second wife who is generally stereotyped in films and pop culture. However, your character comes across as someone extremely positive and caring. Your thoughts on it?

The first time I read the script, I called up my director and said, ‘This can’t be true’, and he was like, ‘What, why’, and I was like, ‘she is too good to be true and in this day and age and for a woman to easily accept grown-up children of a man she is going to marry and she is so casual about it when she says that line, “Haan to bachche rakh lenge na ek saal ke liye phir unpar chod denge ki unko kya karna hai,” and that just made me feel that she is not manipulative, she is not cunning, for her it’s okay. Even she comes with a baggage; she also has a child when she marries this man so for her it’s not just a liability for her for this man’s children but it’s a liability of the man for her child. But I still felt that she is too good to be true but eventually I had to give in and say, ‘Fine, maybe there are people like this that exists’. But I guess since wherever there is darkness there is light so I guess Manisha is the light in the series.

Do you think we as a society since there are lot of modern family now with divorced couples bringing up children or step-parents with half-siblings thrown in so is it easier to see and accept your character of Manisha from the series?

I feel it completely depends on what strata of society we are talking about. There exists both kind of people, in a more educated or liberal society which is more upper-class or whatever it is easier for people to forgive and move on because there is so much going on in their lives and their lives are not only about a relationship, there is career, there is so much more so their liberal minds are more easy because you are more exposed to the world, but in a society where you are still in the lower rungs of society to have that openness, you know we’ve not defined as to what does she do before getting married to this guy. There is no backstory to her saying ki woh teacher thi ya clerk thi ya salesgirl thi, humko nahi pata hai and then to have an open mind to be able to be accepting of a man’s adult children, I’m not saying that it would be impossible but it will not be easy for a woman either. And I feel Manisha’s journey that way is a very emotional journey of acceptance so when you see the series you realize that all she s trying to do is to feel the acknowledgement of the fact that she also belongs here now, this is her family, this is her house and she is just making other people realize that she is also a family member now, usko bhi aise treat karna hai, so uski journey to yehi hai to feel accepted.

How was your experience of working with Anup Soni and Amruta Subhash?

I don’t have a lot of scenes with Amruta but we did interact a lot off-screen a lot and she is phenomenal. I don’t think she even needs words to say things, her eyes, her smile, her face are enough to say what she wants to convey. I feel her face is so expressive, she is such a beautiful actor. And Anup is such a seasoned actor, you know he’s been here for so long and done so much of work and you know he comes from the National School of Drama, unki pakad bahut hi amazing hai apne craft par. When you watch the series also you’ll know that they are so effortless that you don’t feel as if they are acting or they are not the people they are playing. You’ll feel that Anup is Dilip only; you’ll feel that Amruta is Suman only; it is so real that it is magical to believe that you’re in the same frame with them.

What took you so long to foray into OTT? Did you have any inhibitions on changing mediums from films to web series or were you not happy with the kind of roles being offered to you?

There is no transition that I feel. I wanted to debut on OTT because its reach is so amazing and people are not making that effort to go to the cinema, cinema is in your house now and the pandemic has changed that people are enjoying watching good content at home. I was looking for something which was moving because OTT is working because of the content, because the actors who are executing that content are working. If there are some shows which do not work then the content must be really shitty and I’ve been huge fan of TVF and their work has been absolutely impeccably beautiful. You pick up any series whether it is Panchayat, Gullak, The Aspirants etc and they have scored out of the park with every one of them and I wanted to do something that was relatable and I get to stand out. I did not want to be this one character with one scene and I wanted to have a journey as an actor in the series and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better character than Manisha’s.

TVF has built a reputation of bringing real-life stories perfectly onscreen, same can be said about your show. How was your experience of working with the TVF team and director Apoorv Singh Karki?

Apoorv is such a talented guy, I feel even he does not realize this fact that how talented he is. His hold on emotions is so strong, he is so effortless that you don’t even realize how he gets his actors to emote on screen. He is only in his early 30’s but his hold on emotions generally comes after several seasoning in life and if you can get that executed so early in life then it is a commendable job. It is really nice when people don’t know how truly genius they are and Apoorv is like that he doesn’t know how magical he is. I truly feel that I could not have gotten a better debut; I feel I manifested Manisha’s character and the web series and Zee5 and TVF. Obviously, I went through a round of auditions and there were other contenders as well for the role but I don’t know how they chose me but I completely justified their risk in choosing me.

We have generally seen you doing glamorous parts in films, was it a conscious effort on your part to break away from that mould?

It was a deliberate act on my part to break away from that image. It’s not as if I can’t do a glamorous role again but unfortunately a glamorous part does not carry a lot of weight or depth of the craft and it was a time that I needed to show my craft. I wanted people to sit up and take notice and say ki yeh sirf good looking ladki nahi hai jo sirf short kapde pehen ke dance kar sakti but she can also act. And you know in these last two years the mindset have changed a lot of the people, they don’t want to see trash, people want some meaning in life and what better for me to bring that meaning with the right project and the right people in the business.

Your one dialogue from the series, ‘Judta wahi hai jo tootta hai,’ has made an impact. What do you have to say to that?

It’s true because in every relationship if there’s something broken mending that only is life, no? We are forever mending things whether it is our career or our relationship or mending your own emotional health, we are mending all the time.

What are your future projects?

There is something that is ready to release and should be out in August or September and it is something totally different from Manisha. I will not give away much but it is a completely 180 degree turn for me acting wise.