She is hot property on Indian television. After having vowed the audience (old and young alike) with her performance in the Balaji Telefilms' soap opera Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Smriti Irani debuts on stage in Dubai...

By Ambily Madhu Menon (Staff Reporter)

Published: Tue 14 Jun 2005, 11:55 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:20 PM

in the play Kuchh Tum Kaho, Kuchh Hum Kahein on June 17 at Hotel Renaissance. Smriti, or Tulsi as she is popularly known (her character in the TV series is called Tulsi) has won hearts with her ‘do-good-daughter-in-law’ image.

Together with Apara Mehta, who plays her mother-in-law in the series, Smriti popularised the act to such an extent that the soap opera has crossed 1,000 episodes and is still going strong eating up a large chunk of the TRPs. Though her stage debut is also exploiting the mother-in-law-daughter-in-law equation, Smriti says it has been a different experience for her since she is also co-producing it.

The play, which is being touted as a social comedy, is being brought to Dubai by Oberoi (Middle East) Events. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Smriti Irani:

Don't you think the saas-bahu (mother-in-law — daughter-in-law) thing is being overdone?

Relationships, which stem from love, understanding and mutual respect can never be overdone. Stories that have a soul are eternal.

This is your debut on stage. You could have taken this as an opportunity to break away from your bahu image.

I have. I debut on stage not only as an actor but also co-producer of the play; which in a way is a new beginning. Similarly, the role that I portray in the play is of a career-driven woman who measures success in life with her rise in the corporate sector and not on the basis of the relationship she nurtures and a family that she brings up. Hence, making Sargam (her character in the play) distinctly different from Tulsi (her character in the mega-hit TV series).

Are you deliberately avoiding experimenting with roles or is it that you aren't being offered anything else, since the audience simply adores you as the quintessential good daughter-in-law?

Through Tulsi's character I have lived the life of a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter-in-law and now mother-in-law. No other female actor in the history of Indian television has had the opportunity to display such a range through one character only.

But apart from Tulsi, I have successfully played Sita in Ramayan produced by B R Chopra, hosted Kuch Dil Se, a show dealing with current affairs, done a comedy called Kal Aaj Kal Aur Kal and played a negative character in Kya Hadsa Kya Haqueqat. I have acted and experimented in different genres through various projects but since Kyunki Saas... has received the most media coverage internationally, I guess that is what I am currently being judged on.

So, in all this, what happens to the artist, in Smriti Irani?

She lives, breathes and creates as freely and might I add more wisely as she did before.

Doesn't she crave for creative satisfaction as a performer?

Like I said before, I have always experimented and will continue to do so to ensure that with each passing day, I grow better at my craft. The freedom to do so without any compulsions and the acceptance by my audience continues to satisfy me as an actor.

You've also branched into politics (She was the BJP's candidate from Delhi's Chandni Chowk constituency in last year's Lok Sabha polls). Tell us would politics have happened to you so quickly had you not become so popular on TV?

Politics happened to me before acting. The fact that I was an actor did intrigue people.

So do you owe your political career to your character Tulsi?

Like I said, politics happened before Tulsi. But I must say since people weren't aware that I was a politically aware and politically responsible person, my association with my party did come as a surprise to many.

Isn't it frustrating being recognised and called by your reel name?

I was a part of the team that created Tulsi, how can I get frustrated by it? It's a name that is called out with a lot of affection and respect for which I will always be grateful.

You have been quoted as saying that theatre is more challenging than television. Apart from the live element in theatre what else do you find challenging about it?

To stand on the same stage as Firoze Bhagat, a veteran and celebrated Gujarati theatre actor and gaining his respect and acknowledgement for my act has been my biggest achievement and was the biggest challenge I faced on stage.

Did you have to make any special preparations for your stage debut? Now that the script of Kuchh tum Kaho, Kuchh hum kahein seems an extension of your hugely successful television serial and that you have your on screen mother-in-law Apara Mehta for company on stage too, was the task simpler?

Kuch Tum... is about relationships and family. Yes, Aparaji's presence does help to a great extent but at times I also dip into my past experience in Bengali theatre to give my best. But in sum total, I think the camaraderie in my theatre group has made my debut on Hindi stage a dream come true.

You are a career woman and your political aspirations would demand a lot of your time and energy. Is it affecting your family life?

Do you ask this question of a man or is it just female professionals who are subjected to this question. In this day and age when women are at par with men, I think questions like this should be avoided out of respect to that equality.

Are you happy with what Smriti Irani has achieved in a comparatively short span of time?

Happiness is a state of mind. For me happiness lies in the company of my husband and in watching my children grow up to be good human beings.

You are by far the most recognised face on Indian television. What drives you to aim higher?

I honestly don't know. All I know is that I am living a life that many yearn for; for which I'm grateful. Hence, I never miss an oppurtunity to put in my best and making each day better and brighter than the last.

Weren't films the next obvious move? Didn't you want to make it big on the big screen too?

Between my family, my serial, politics and now theatre I hardly have time for anything else.

Tell us about Smriti Malhotra Irani without the Tulsi in her.

That's something private and I'd like to keep it that way.

You and Apara Mehta almost seem inseparable. What is the secret behind the comfort level you share?

I think it's mutual respect and understanding of life and relationships that make Aparaji and me bond. There's a lot I've learnt about my craft and life from her and it's our friendship, which gets easily transferred on screen.

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