Divyanka Tripathi: I have hardly worked with Cezanne Khan in Yeh Hai Mohabbatein!

Ekta Kapoor replaced Cezanne Khan as the lead of Yeh Hai Mohabbatein, but no one knows the real reason behind the sudden decision. We tried to ask the leading lady of the show, but she claimed to have barely worked with him. Hmmm…

Divyanka Tripathi has a soft look, a sweet smile and a twinkle in her eye that will make you want to grin from ear to ear. She seemed totally excited about her first show, Yeh Hai Mohabbatein (YHM) with Ekta Kapoor, the czarina of television. The actor spoke about her break from daily soaps, learning to do comedy, working with Balaji Telefilms, Star Plus and Karan Patel….

How does it feel, coming back to daily soaps?

It is amazing, coming back. First, I have been busy doing a lot of comedy shows for the past four or five years and waiting to get some interesting daily soaps. But for the last two years I have been on a break after Comedy Circus. During my break I heard a lot of stories, but none of them really appealed to me. The story has to touch my heart. Selecting a daily soap is like picking a groom for me. The moment you read a story, it should click and make you feel, this is the one. So I was waiting for the right story to come and that’s when I got Yeh Hai Mohabbatein. I didn’t want to play a mellow and meek role this time, like the one I did in Banoo Main Teri Dulhann. I wanted to explore something new and hoped to show a new side of me to my audience.

Was it tough, doing comedy?

I love challenges and comedy was a way to challenge myself. It was very difficult. The dialogue deliveries in daily soaps are very different from what you do in comedy. In a drama series, we can change the lines a little here and there; it will not affect the storyline in any way. All we have to do is concentrate on the emotions we are trying to bring forward. But when it comes to comedy, you have to stick to lines and punches. We have to by heart the script verbatim, even if it’s ten pages. That was the first part of my schooling. Second is the timing in comedy. You have to deliver your punches at the perfect time to generate that laughter. That’s a very different art. It’s like the rhythm of music – you can’t break it. Now I feel more confident as an actor.

In Yeh Hai Mohabbatein you are playing a Tamilian Brahmin; why don’t you have any accent?

Yes, I am playing a Tambram, but without the accent. My character Ishita Iyer is born and brought up in Delhi and you won’t see that accent in Delhiites. I am a well educated dentist, so my English and Hindi are very good. We couldn’t attach the accent ‘coz it will then become a caricature. Plus, I’m playing the main lead and it’s essential that people all over India understand me and connect with me. However, I do utter words in Tamil. I have rehearsed them very well so as to not hurt the sentiments of the Tamil audience.

Then why are your parents in YHM depicted with such heavy accents?

They are normal Tamilians; in addition to that, there is a backdrop to it in the story. You will have to see that in the show to know what exactly.

Do you think society is evolved enough to accept inter-caste marriages?

It is true that you will see a lot of inter-caste marriages happening mainly in metros, while in small towns this practice is very rare. I know inter-cast relationships haven’t been accepted that much, not even in my family in Bhopal. However, I think it is very essential to make people aware of the different castes and creeds and the differences between them. This Punjabi vs South Indian angle was created by Ekta. There is no mention of this in the book.

How different is the show from the book – Custody by Manju Kapoor?

There is a lot of difference between the book and YHM. We have maintained the basic plot. YHM is about a married man who doesn’t love his child for reasons best known to him. He lives across the way from an infertile woman who feels sorry for the little kid and shows her affection. The little girl is the only reason the two exchange words and thoughts, ‘coz otherwise she hates the man. Even though we have changed the story, we have taken the copyright from the author to be ethically right.

Do you think the topic is controversial or touchy? Is that why Ekta chose the 11pm time slot?

It’s an inspiring and powerful story. YHM showcases the traumas a woman goes through just ‘coz she can’t conceive. Normally, a woman would go into depression in such a scenario, but not Ishita. She is powerful, self-made, confident and an independent person. This show depicts her strength. There is nothing derogatory or controversial about this show. I believe it will take Indian society one step ahead.

This is your first show with Ekta Kapoor…

I wanted to desperately come back to daily soaps, and I have been waiting for a good story and production house – only then, coming back would make sense, no? YHM was like God’s call. I literally got everything decorated on a platter for me. Star Plus, Balaji, a story like Custody and a brilliant star cast to work with; I couldn’t ask for anything more. I feel blessed.

Karan Patel and Cezanne Khan – how was it acting with both of them?

Uhhh… (Long pause)I have barely worked with Cezanne. I have shot mostly with Karan, so I wouldn’t know. All my initial scenes that have been shown are with the Iyer family. I was surprised that the lead was changed, so I have no clue how it was or why he was replaced.

So did you get to act with Cezanne at all? The last time I asked you that, you said it was great.

Uhhh…. uhh (Blushes and stays quiet).

Okay, and Karan Patel?

Karan is a very talented actor. You never have to explain anything to him; he is always prepared in advance. When he comes on the sets, Karan is already in his character. Working with him is a cakewalk. Even Juhi, the little kid, is adorable.

So is the production house what you hoped it would be?

The moment you come on the sets of the show, everything is ready for you. Balaji is well prepared with every little nuance of the daily soap. When a reel goes to Ekta, she changes 50 things in it, but you never feel any kind of regret, ‘coz the final product is perfect. I really couldn’t ask for a better production house to work with.

Do you think it’s very demanding, working for Ekta?

I want people to be demanding, I like it that way. Unless they give me challenges, I’ll never be able to grow as an actor. I love it that Ekta challenges me as an actor.

Do you think it’s fair to replace actors at the last minute?

(Laughs) It’s a lovely question, but I really have no answer to it. No views to it either. Please don’t subject me to this.

Do you enjoy the pressure and endless shooting hours that come with daily soaps?

I love it. I enjoy working with a certain amount of pressure.

Would you be comfortable if the makers changed the main crux of the story in time for TRPs?

I think changes are important, ‘coz we have to cater to an audience. And if we don’t make the story according to the likes and dislikes of our viewers, then what’s the point? Daily soaps are made for a particular audience and if they don’t like it, then change is essential.

How clued in are you to the numbers game of shows?

I check numbers only up to a point, till they don’t affect me and my working style. If they start affecting me and my lifestyle, then I stop.