On the sets of Colors’ new show, Kavach… Kaali Shaktiyon Se, actors Mona Singh and Maheck Chahal are readying for a shot. The fair and petite Singh, known best for her role as the ugly duckling with a golden heart, in Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, is dressed in a pink night gown. The manglasutra dangles prominently from neck around which her blondish hair falls in curls. Caramel skinned Chahal, last seen in Bigg Boss 5, wears her hair red. Her dark brown eyes are now jade with contacts. Singh is Paridhi Rathore, good wife to Rajbir Bundela. Chahal is simply Manjulika. Spirits don’t have second names.
Mona Singh. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Manjulika possesses Paridhi, who is protecting her husband. The spirit wants to harm him, and love him, if that’s possible. Their get-ups go with their characters. When we watch a few episodes of the supernatural show, a genre that’s gaining traction on Indian television, it is packed with theatrics and catfights. When we sit down with the two for a chat though, they deny that their portrayal is stereotypical. "Paridhi is not the sati savitri bahu," says 34-year-old Singh, "She is an archaeologist, who doesn’t even believe in spirits and the like. It’s only when she the spirit that she turns believer."
Singh insists her character talks to her in-laws like she would with friends, and doesn’t do any of what we expect soap bahus to do. Besides, she is not as vanilla as she seems. "I actually get Maheck’s character bumped off since she is troubling my husband, and has fallen in love with him. But then I realise, that my troubles aren’t over. She is back, and this time, I need to be evil myself to beat her. Also, when she possesses me, I am pretty terrible. There is no good girl here," Singh laughs.
(L) Maheck Chahal and (R) Mona Singh in from Kavach… Kaali Shaktiyon Se
Chahal says that she was surprised when the role was offered to her. "I went for the reading and expected to play a vamp like most vamps on TV. But the makers asked me, ‘have you watched TV recently?' And I hadn’t. They told me, it’s changing. Your character has to be believable now, they said."
Manjulika is actually a good girl, who goes bad. "She has had a horrible childhood, and has never known love. And then she falls in love with this man. But she isn’t sure how to express herself, so she goes overboard. Then, they kill her! Of course, she is going to return evil, right?" Playing the vamp and ghost isn’t as trying as we’d imagine. It’s not about always carrying an evil grin or sporting arched eyebrows. "If you watch the show, I am normal most of the time. It’s just when I want to terrify Mona’s character that I become a chudail. Otherwise, I am like any other normal girl."
Singh says she took on the offer when Ekta Kapoor of production giant Balaji Films offered it to her. "I have rejected so many roles where they’ve wanted me to play the typical bahu. I couldn’t do them, especially after I played Jassi, someone who was trying to break stereotypes," she says.
We ask the two why they think independent women would relate to the show.
"Every man today has a gharwali and baharwali, even if the latter is only a mirage in his head. So, that’s why! We are playing modern women who are fighting over a man. How unrealistic is that?" Chahal wonders.