If you grew up in the early 2000s, there is no way that you could have escaped the wave of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii. My mother, in particular, was partial to the latter. There have been multiple occasions when arguments in the house used to automatically stop at 10pm. The show is centered around Parvati, played by Sakshi Tanwar. She played the character for nearly eight years. Her career trajectory has been onwards and upwards from thereon, whether on television (Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, 24:India-Season 2), in films (Dangal, Dial 100), or the web (The Final Call, Mission Over Mars). Tanwar is now being seen in a Netflix show titled Mai-A Mother’s Rage, where she plays a mother investigating the murder of her daughter.
Sakshi Tanwar recalls that she was sold out on the one-line pitch she heard for Mai. It read: It is a mother’s journey from meek to merciless. She elaborates, “In her journey, as she investigates the truth behind her daughter’s murder, she transforms and sees the dark side of the world around her. She finds her own way to unravel the truth, but gets sucked into the rabbit hole of crime and violence.”
The trailer also had shots of her beating people up mercilessly. It would be hard to believe, but Sakshi Tanwar has beaten up people in real life. “I’ve done the latter part during my school and college in Delhi. We used to regularly travel via DTC buses, so one can imagine. My father hails from a police background. My sister and I would fight it out if someone troubled us. We were never taught to be quiet and tolerate injustice. My father had always taught us that ro kar ghar nahi aana (Don’t come home crying). We’ve not beaten people black and blue, but have slapped them for sure. All of us are born with various emotions. Even a two-year-old who has not been exposed to anger and violence will know how to hit or shout when it comes to their defense, so we all have streaks. If you have had a good life, you will never have a chance to get these emotions out.”
“OTT is changing the roles actors portray. Now, it is more about the story and the character. You could be a newcomer or a well-established actor; if you suit the character, you will be cast in the role. The platform gives a chance to a lot of people, and there’s room to experiment and explore. There is a lot of freedom in terms of storytelling and acting. When you are acting in-between an action and a cut, that thought never comes across that the character you are portraying may not be real. There may be no reality or connection between you and the character. But that is the beauty of our profession,” she adds. The actress believes that she has left Parvati, but Parvati has not left the audience. “We began the show in 2002, and it is 2022 now. The show and the characters are still fresh in people’s minds. I still have people who come up to me and talk to me about the show.”
Does she also believe she was boxed into an ideal image of a mother and a daughter-in-law post the success of the show?
She expresses, “I don’t think so. Today’s audiences know that an actor can do any role, and more than one role simultaneously. Despite playing all these characters, I was able to bring out my individual personality. I got to become Sakshi, the person that I am today. It was a good thing that happened with the advent of OTT. People started to notice the actor behind the person playing mom and bahu and bhabhi. I got to portray different roles like head of Anti-Terror Unit (ATU) in 24: India-Season 2 to Air Traffic Controller in The Final Call to a senior scientist in Mission Over Mars. Even though I play a mother in Mai, the kind of emotions I portray are very different from what I have portrayed in the past, and that, for me, is more exciting.”
About four years ago, Sakshi Tanwar became a single parent by adopting a nine-month-old baby girl, Dityaa. She feels that being a mother in real life and on-screen have pretty much no bearing on each other. “At the end of the day, it is a role, like I played a mother in Kahaani in the beginning of my career. And I had only played mothers and grandmothers and whatnot for years. Being a mother in real life has been a great ride. Yes, the pandemic has been difficult for most of us, but in a way, it was a blessing for me. I got to spend some beautiful time with my daughter. During the first lockdown, it was just me and her, and my house help. My parents were stuck in Delhi, and I was in Mumbai. For those six months, the way we bonded, the way I got to know my child, probably I wouldn’t have gotten that kind of 24×7 undivided time with her otherwise. It is a lot of fun, but it is also very challenging. When your child is between a toddler and a preschooler, they are not going out. They don’t meet any friends, and they are only with adults. But I’m glad that I was there fully; there wasn’t much that I was doing except for Mai. I cherish the time we’ve spent together.”
After spending more than two decades in the business, actors usually want to do more than just act. But Sakshi Tanwar doesn’t want to take on anything besides acting; she clarifies, “I don’t have any aspirations of becoming a producer or a director. I’m best suited to be an actor. Main har cheez achchhe se kar loon, ye kaise possible hai. I don’t take up every project that comes my way. I pick up projects that fit my schedule and require less time commitment. I had a phase in my career wherein I was working continuously. I wanted to take it easy, and work at a much slower and leisurely pace that suits my life, wherein I can take my holidays, spend time with family, and have long periods of time doing absolutely nothing. I consciously started applying that in my life, so I won’t take up any other work if I feel this much is good enough for the year. This strength and freedom has come after years of working non-stop. Now, I think I’m balancing things out,” she signs off.