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WHEN India's most-loved television character Mihir — the ideal son and husband on Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi 'died' in 2001 — there was a nation-wide hysteria. Mihir was brought back to the show — and continued to tug at the viewers' heartstrings for eight years. His wife Tulsi too enjoyed similar status, along with the likes of Parvati, Baa, Prerna-Anurag and Mr Bajaj.
That, however, was another era. The small screen now offers a new range of characters. Some of them are the new household idols, even though like Amarr Upadhyaya, who initially played Mihir in Kyunki, says "no one on TV has attained a cult status" in the recent past. Still Indian television never refrains from offering its viewers new heartthrob and the viewers never stop loving them.
The old brigadeIN a strange way, it's the veteran artists who are the new darlings. When Colors aired Balika Vadhu in 2008, many empathised with the child bride, Anandi. But the one character that is still making a strong impact is that of Dadisa, played by Surekha Sikri. Her stern looks and clear diction have won her many accolades. Dadisa is orthodox, mean yet loving.
"It's a very dominating role and Surekha is not acting. She is performing. It's so natural," says Sudha Shivpuri, who played the role of Baa in Kyunki....
Meghna Malik, who plays the role of Ammaji on Na Aana Is Des Laado, is not a new face on TV. But her role as the matriarch in a Haryana village has got her all the attention. "Ammaji is not a run-of-the-mill character. She is loved for her way of talking and her acting skills," says actor Smriti Irani, who is still popularly known as Tulsi.
THE dominance of women characters never wanes — even though the focus has shifted from saas-bahu shows to women-issue based ones. In this shift, emerged the poor, unfortunate girl Laali of Zee TV's Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo.
Laali was the first character after a long gap who did not dress up and wear make-up even while sleeping. "It is the simplicity of the character that has worked. I am not treated as a celebrity by my fans — they treat me as their family member and call me Laliya," says Ratan Rajput, who is cast as Laali.
She, however, is pragmatic enough to know that television viewers have a short-term memory. "If five years later, people still talk about me, then it will be the greatest reward for me," she says.
The male bastion
THERE have been quite a few male characters on TV who stole the show from their female co-stars. But of late the popularity of women-centric shows has left little room for men to whip up a large fan-following.
Still, one character that stands out is that of Thakur Sajjan Singh. He is the villainous, yet funny, limping father in Mann Kee Awaaz: Pratigya, played by Anupam Shyam, on Star Plus. "This peculiar body language that Thakur has made him famous. This role is my tribute to Charlie Chaplin," says Shyam.
SHEKHAR Suman on Dekh Bhai Dekh, Supriya Pathak on Khichdi and Satish Shah on Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai are regarded as some of the finest comic actors on Indian TV. Many comedy shows came on TV, but few got as much appreciation as these.
In 2008, SAB TV aired Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah and introduced Dayaben, played by theatre actor Disha Vakani — loved, and sometimes disliked, by many for her shrill voice, typical Gujarati saris and heavy jewellery. The show even beat Balika Vadhu in the TRP race recently. "She is seen as the ideal daughter-in-law and wife," says Dharmesh Mehta, its director.
AFTER being introduced to dozens of ideal bahus with their perfect saris and sacrificing nature, the viewers craved a fresh character. That's when Suhana of Sasural Genda Phool stepped in.
Rebellious yet innocent, spunky and Hinglish speaking Suhana played by Ragini Khanna was an instant hit. "When I was preparing for this role I had one thing in mind — Suhana should get away even with murder. She is so charming that even an evening slot has worked for the show," says Khanna.
The 'It' couple
EVERY television era has that one perfect couple, who tide over many troubles together. After Prerna-Anurag, Tulsi-Mihir, Om-Parvati and Jassi-Armaan Sir, Zee introduced Archana-Manav on Pavitra Rishta in 2009.
The viewers love the chemistry between the two characters, played by Ankita Lokhande and Sushant Singh Rajput. "Manav and Archana have a sense of quiet dignity in them and this is what attracts people to them. There are no artificial emotions or melodrama at play," says Sukesh Motwani, fiction head, Zee TV.