‘TV has regressed a lot’, says Renuka Shahane

As she speaks to FPJ about television serials today, regional cinema compared to Bollywood and striking the right balance

Renuka Shahane, the veteran actress who shot to fame with the popular Doordarshan show ‘Surabhi’ is all set to make her comeback to TV with the remake of ‘Khichdi’. While it was ‘Surabhi’ that made Renuka a household name, her role as Pooja in ‘Kora Kaagaz’ made her an inspiration for married women in troubled marriages. But in the past few years she has been taking it slow and focusing on children. While she admits to missing work, she has no regrets choosing her sons over her career. “Once I am free, I would love to be back on TV full time as I loved working in TV serials,” says Renuka. As an actress Renuka has played some revolutionary women on the small screen but confesses that women can’t have it all. Excerpts from the interview:

What is your opinion regarding content on television today?

We have regressed a lot. Today, when women are achieving so much in our country, it is a shame that they are not being represented on TV. The stories with regressive content where women are treated very baldly are much more than women who achieve their dreams. It is such a disappointment because in our times we had a huge variety of content from urban and rural settings. Now, you have even more content but all you want to show is how women are treating others people in a derogatory manner. They seem to only focus on North Indian women but women all over India have different experiences and lifestyle, they deserve a voice as well.

Makers of such serials argue that since these serials are revolving around women and they play a huge role than their male counterparts, they are not regressive but empowering women…

But look at what these women are doing in your serials. If a serial has a premise where the lead heroine wants to become something but unfortunately is married into a very traditional family so at the end she should have achieved her dreams but instead she is constantly ill-treated and she has no support whatsoever. This is all very regressive.

Your character Pooja in ‘Kora Kaagaz’ is an inspiration for so many women even today, how do you feel when you hear people look up to you because of that?

I feel very satisfied as an actor to be part of things that have made a difference in people’s lives. Even when I did ‘Imtihaan’ many girls for simple middle class families wrote to me that my character in that serial gave them the strength to face a lot struggles. ‘Kora…’ was instrumental in helping women in their relationships and that is a huge thing as it shows that television is a very important medium to bring about change in our society. The routine of a working woman, the difficulties she faces in her professional or personal life are not reflected in our serials today.

A lot of actors say that they prefer working in regional cinema as they can do more meaningful roles and they do Bollywood only to pay the bills. Do you agree with this view point?

Yes to a certain extent. Today, many lead actress like Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma are doing so many worthwhile films in Bollywood so things are changing but it will changes from the top first. The lead heroines will change, then the character artists and so on. Even for men in Bollywood, things are not that great as it is for heroes in regional cinema. People in regional cinema are so particular about their content than expense of money or sets. They have also been performing consistently that the actors feel they can showcase more range than what Bollywood can offer them. It is rare in Bollywood but things are changing.

As a working mother yourself, how do you manage your professional and personal life?

It is not easy at all. I don’t think that any woman can say that they have found a great balance between family and work. It is tough because you need to have a very strong support system which does not necessarily include family, it can be your staff or colleagues. I have chosen family. But I have never had any regrets when it comes to my work.

How easy is it for you to be choosy?

It is very easy for me to be choosy. It is nice to be known but not very famous and not have pressures of a star which gives you space to try out new thing or take a break and then come back.


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