Actress Pallavi Joshi, widely known for her television shows like Antakshari, Aarohan, Alpviram, Talash, etc, is extremely selective about the roles she plays. She’s no longer fond of today’s daily soaps, as she feels there’s no quality content left in them. In an interview with Nation Next, Pallavi Joshi speaks about her first ever television daily soap – ‘Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai’ (which brought her back to television after almost a decade), Marathi Cinema and the huge remuneration gap among the male and female actors.
You had returned to television in a daily soap – Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai – on &TV after a long hiatus. Would you call it as your comeback?
Not really, because I’m not planning to do any more television. I signed ‘Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai’ because I liked the story and because it was a finite show. I knew that the commitment was not going to stretch beyond four to five months. I hate doing daily soaps. I had stopped working in between because I didn’t want to do television, as I wasn’t getting good offers. I invested my time in my family rather than doing any bad show.
How’s your experience of working in the daily soap Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai after working in weekly shows like Aarohan, Alpviram, Talash, Imtihaan, etc? What has changed in the television industry since the 90’s?
Working in a daily soap is a terrible experience! We don’t have stories anymore unlike we had in the 90’s. The format has changed completely. We don’t look forward to working on literature or focusing on great story telling, or authors whose books can be adapted. Any character can suddenly turn into a naagin (female snake) or a dayan (witch) in a daily show! When we did weekly shows, we had a time frame with a definite story line, which we were extremely happy with.
You said that daily soaps are not your cup of tea. What made you go ahead with Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai?
It was the only daily soap that I’ve done in my life because the story fascinated me. I loved my character. I could see a flow of characters. Most importantly, it had a beginning and an end unlike today’s daily soaps; rather ‘serials,’ which keep revolving around something that doesn’t make sense. Today, everything changes as per the audiences’ taste. New storylines are brought in. I was hopeful that such kind of a thing wouldn’t happen with the show I was working in, because I was told that the people involved didn’t care for ratings (TRPs). They just wanted to make a project, which would be remembered for generations to come. Unfortunately, when we were at the fag end of the show, we too started doing the same thing.
For a fastidious actress like you, this is the most opportune time in Marathi cinema and TV, as very interesting projects are being made in both the industries. Still we don’t see you doing any Marathi serials or films after your last film Rita. Why?
I did a Marathi movie ‘Prem Mhanje Prem Mhanje Prem Asta’ in 2013 with Mrinal Kulkarni. It’s not that I wasn’t offered films; it’s just a matter of choice. I’m selective because if I’ve done a movie like Rita, I don’t want to redo a similar movie. When you perform well, people want to cast you in the same role multiple times. That I can’t do.
You had once pointed out that women actors are not safe while working. As an executive member of the CINTAA (Cine and Television Artists’ Association), what are you doing for the women’s safety during work hours?
Not just female actors, even male actors should be safeguarded during working hours. There are no concrete steps that one can take to ensure women’s safety but we have taken producers in our loop. Only members can work in the shoot. We ensure weekly visits to the sets to cross check every member with their identity card. If any untoward incident happens, CINTAA takes the responsibility.
You said that you wouldn’t work with the best of directors if you were being paid peanuts. We can see that the erstwhile male dominated TV industry has now become women-centric with the pivotal characters being women. Are women still paid peanuts in television industry?
Women are not paid peanuts anymore but are certainly not paid as much as men are in the Hindi TV industry. There’s still a lot of difference in Sakshi Tanwar’s remuneration and the remuneration of male actors like Ram Kapoor and Ronit Roy’s remuneration. Marathi movie stars are still paid peanuts more so because of the low production budget. Lets not talk about Marathi stars because they are treated like lepers! A Hindi industry actor, for instance, at Balaji Telefilms Limited, gets paid anywhere between 17-18 lacs per episode.
Even Bollywood is opening up to women-centric films like Queen, Highway etc. Has the remuneration for women increased there also?
Not yet. Have you ever seen Kangana Ranaut or Deepika Padukone charging 30-40 crores per movie?
While your film Budhha in a traffic jam (directed by your husband Vivek Agnihotri) got a standing ovation at Mumbai International Film Festival, it didn’t do well commercially. Haven’t the times changed in Indian cinema?
The film was just being screened during the afternoon hours in a lot of theatres. It was a very small release; you can’t compare it with a Bollywood blockbuster! A typical Salman Khan film would be released in 4000 prints across India unlike ours, which had just 150 print releases. We were no way in that league. Whatever box office collections we had acquired over the weekend for the afternoon show were very good. We didn’t have box office success on our mind when we released the film. We screened our film in all the IITs, IIMs and other premier institutes even before it’s release. The idea was to reach out to as many people as possible just to make them aware of the evil happenings around them in the society. We shot the film in 2011 but because of the producer’s indifferent approach towards the film, we had to release it in 2016 by fielding in more investors. Sooraj Barjatya was supposed to get involved with us for the film but because of the movie’s bold content, he couldn’t release it under Rajshri Productions. Had Rajshri Productions released the film, a wrong message would have been passed to its viewers.