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Actor Raj Zutshi marks his reentry on the show Madhubala with a cake in his hand and a menacing smile on his face, singing Nayak nahin khalnayak hoon main. Zutshi's character Balraj Chowdhary is that of a baddie — one who has no qualms about killing his daughter and he makes no effort to play down this fact. It is, in fact, this very aspect of the character that attracted the seasoned actor to return to television after a long hiatus. "I was skeptical of doing fiction on television but Balraj Chowdhary is so mad and larger-than-life that I was taken in by him within four minutes of narration," he says.
Little over a decade ago, television's greatest strength was its writing and powerhouse performances. But when shows adopted the daily format, television witnessed a dip in strong performers and a surge in the number of newcomers who played key roles. However, Surekha Sikri with Colors' Balika Vadhu, changed that a few years ago, triggering a trend.
Today, Zutshi is among several other seasoned actors who feature in television shows. Among others are Raza Murad, who is Zutshi's co-actor in Madhubala. Marathi film and television actress Mrinal Kulkarni is one of the key characters in Khamoshiyan on Star Plus. Mangal Kenkre, who essayed the role of Vidya Balan's loving landlady Ratnamma in The Dirty Picture, plays the protagonist in Kaali — Ek Punar Avatar. Popular film actress of the '70s, Vidya Sinha is the matriarch on Zee's Qubool Hai.
Sukesh Motwani, fiction head at Zee, believes that the trend can be attributed to evolving content on television. "The content had become too pulpy, but underlining social themes, strong characterisation and better writing is changing that. So if Vidya Sinha agreed to return on screen, it was because the show Qubool Hai's depiction of a modern Muslim family is close to reality," he explains.