|Interview with actor Niki Aneja
know I deserve an award, chances are that I won't get one"
|Posted on 14 August 2003
not debate whether she would have made a charming pilot or not.
But hadn't it been for the rebellion, television would have missed
out on a seasoned actress. Niki Aneja nee Walia didn't plan her
career as a television actress, she just took up a few modelling
assignments to fund here trip to Boston for pilot training. Although
she didn't make it to Boston, she did take up acting on late ad
film maker Mukul Anand's suggestion.
Following her cousin's (well known television actor
Parmeet Sethi) footsteps, she decided to give the small
screen a try too. Shows like Dastaan, Seahawks, Andhi Jaazbat
Ki, Piyaa Binaa, Patang and comedies like Baat Ban Jaye
and Gharwali Uparwali followed.
After a freak accident of the sets of Gharwali Uparwali,
she had almost packed her bags. Then followed her marriage with
UK-based marketing consultant Sonny Walia, which gave her another
good reason to leave the industry and settle down in UK. But as
luck would have it, the she got an offer from Ajai Sinha, for
a project that she couldn't let down. Now as we know she is getting
rave reviews for her performance as Dr Simran in Astitva.
In an interview that took place on the sets of Astitva, she
told indiantelevision.com's Trupti Ghag about her
journey as an actress and her latest show Astitva Ek Prem
What was it that made you take up Astitva, after you
almost bid adieu to India television?
Though I didn't admit it then, I have always admired Ajai
Sinha as a director and secretly hoped that I would get to work
with him. When I heard the story, I went 'wow!!!' I was offered
an author backed role on a platter. It would have been stupid
to let it go.
I don't really want to sound pompous but I was bombarded with
mails and telephone calls when I met with an accident. There were
pujas held for my well being. I was overwhelmed with this response...
I am not a film star to receive such response. People really wanted
to see me back on the small box. So I couldn't hang my acting
cap. Well, not yet anyway.
Of late the industry is taking quite a keen interest in your
show Astitva. What do you think is the reason it is doing
Take a look at the shows around, television really does not
have anything different to offer. Therefore a show like Astitva,
which does not have huge sets or bejewelled women, is a visual
treat. It is more realistic in its approach.
Care to elaborate...
Take for instance the scene where Simran is to discover that
Abhi (husband) is cheating her. There was a dramatic climax built
up toward it, like Simran's constant threats to clear his drawer
where he has slashed hotel bills. All that dramatised climax aside,
after Simran finds out that her husband's infidelity all she does
is to lock herself in her room.
With Simran being such a composed and well balanced character,
it seemed ridiculous even to think that she would loose her cool.
She is visible upset, but she does not blame anybody else for
Is there any kind of homework that you do prior to coming
on the Astitva set?
Personally, I am against taking the scripts home because I
do not have time. Plus I do not want to rehearse before hand.
It might sound paradoxical, but it saves a lot of time. When you
read your dialogue line beforehand, you already make up your mind
on how you want to emote. Even if there is a slight change in
the script, you are bound to get disturbed.
And since I am shooting for 20-16 days a monthfor almost 14 hours
every day, I have to do my groundwork on the sets.
What is the groundwork that you do for 'Astitva'?
Don't get me wrong, but writing for a daily is quite a tedious
task. At times you find the writers taking liberties with the
script, so we have to be forever on our toes. For instance, Simran
is a very mature and composed character. She would not get worked
up so easily, so she wouldn't swear in public even if provoked.
If the writer adds such a line we would have to improvise.
I also make it a point to crosscheck the medical facts. Although
the hospital is just a backdrop, you cannot let past a single
detail without verifying it. I have a friend who is a gynaecologist;
I rely on her expert advice for all the medical details.
Also, I have put on quite a lot of weight ever since I got married.
That has worked to my benefit I guess. I am 37-years-old on the
show, which I am not in real life. The extra weight helps me look
older. Although people, including my co-star, insist that I lose
weight I think it lends the character that authenticity. Plus,
I keep my nails short and never put any nail varnish and stick
to minimal makeup.
I get a good help from nature too. After 10 days of continuous
and rigourous shooting schedule fatigue shows on my face. Guess
with my character going through personal turmoil in reel life,
the face matches too (laughs).
I am a good observer, so when Astitva's Simran was pregnant.
I made sure I interacted with pregant women. I tried to copy their
facial expressions and body language. Did you know people thought
that I was actually pregnant.
Do you always put in this kind of effort or is 'Astitva' an
Actually, I don't really have to put in a lot of effort. It
was just a matter of common sense. But I did spend quite a lot
of time rehearsing for Pooja's role in Gharwali Uparwali.
I used to stand in front of the mirror making faces... making
sure that I don't look bad on the camera. I think anybody, who
is working for a comedy, should do this exercise. Comedy is a
serious job; it should not be treated like a monkey game. What
artistes don't understand is that while adopting certain mannerisms,
they should check if the expression looks good or not, otherwise
instead of laughing with them the audience will be laughing at
A show like 'Astitva' which does not have huge sets or bejewelled
women, is a visual treat. It is more realistic in its approach"
What was the reaction of people when you left modelling for
television? Was there any pooh-poohing?
No, the term model-actor never really applied to me. I guess at
that time I was this newcomer actor, who looked like Madhuri Dixit.
Although my career as a model was pretty successful, everybody
thought I would make a good actor. So instead of the sniggering
at me, I had people encouraging me.
|How do you feel when people called
you a Madhuri look-alike?
It felt very weird when I started out. The statement used to
describe me was the actor who looks like Madhuri Dixit and now it
is Niki Aneja, who looks like Madhuri Dixit. So I take it as a compliment.
|Are their any other projects in the
Well, the second line of my designer label Niki Aneja is out
and the third is scheduled for December. It is basically a collection
of western party wear blouses.
So after 'Astitva' you are planning to become a full-fledged
No, it was just that I didn't like being a bored housewife
in the UK when Sonny was busy with his work. Since I have been
in the industry for long enough to know about fashion, I decided
to design some clothes. It is basically something that I would
be comfortable wearing myself.
On the acting front, I have shot a pilot for Manish Goswami for
a political drama based show Swarth. It is a story of three
career-driven women from a political background, who happen to
be sisters. I play the middle sister, while Neena Gupta is the
elder sister and Shweta Kawatra is the youngest. I keep getting
offers to do soaps at least once every 15 days but I am not really
keen on such stuff.
Are you disgruntled with the industry?
Yes and with good reason. Wherever I go, I meet up with people
who like my performance in Astitva. People have come up
to me and started offering advice on whether I should take Abhi
back or not. It clearly indicates that the show is watched, but
is it reflected on the ratings...no! I do think TRPs are rigged.
There are award ceremonies coming soon, though I know I deserve
an award, chances are that I won't get one. It is likely that
the Balaji girls will take away the awards. Didn't you think that
Anchit Kaur was brilliant in Saaya. But she got an award
for her two-bit role in Dhadkan instead! Even she was surprised.
Even amongst the current lot there are a lot of talented actors.
I think both Shweta Kawatra and Sangeeta Ghosh have a lot of potential
but are unfortunately reduced to a bunch of hams.
|Any last words...
Yep, to my fans... I am really touched by all the mails you
send. I may not reply to them but doesn't mean that they go unnoticed.
It is because of your mails that I am back. And I really don't need
an award to know that I am a good actor, via your responses I get
an award everyday.
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