The Afsar Bitiya actor allays fears over the show becoming just another saas bahu serial, and gets candid on what she doesn’t like about Krishna
Afsar Bitiya is one of the top shows on Zee as well as across all channels. A lot of the credit of course goes to its female lead, Mitali Nag. She has won millions of hearts with her portrayal of the lower middle class Bihari girl Krishna who has big ambitions of becoming a Collector. Naturally, you would expect that off screen she would be more starry-aired. But no, she defies preconceived notions. When we meet her in her tiny green room (with yellow walls) on the sets of Village Boy Productions’ Afsar Bitiya, she is busy getting her costume right. Krishna is making the transition from poor girl in churidar kurtas to rich married woman in shiny saris. “My friend tells me ‘Now you are a rich ghar ki bahu!’,” she laughs.
Mitali gets word that they are not yet ready to shoot her scene. We have time to chat, but no chair to sit on. Mitali simply sits on thefloor, unconcerned about maintaining any appearance of sophistication, and cuddles a pug belonging to a fellow cast member. She loves animals, she says, as we start chatting about her home in Nagpur. Was it difficult to relate to the rural background of the show? “Actually, no. Yes, Nagpur is a developed city, but Bhagalpur (the town in Bihar where the show is set) is not a rural place. Our family is shown as a typical Bihari family, high on values, which is not really the case in most cities now. But it is not difficult, as I am a small town girl and Bhagalpur is also a small town. And I have the small town mentality, even if I am living in Bombay. Being dressed in churidar kurta was absolutely fine. This (she points to her rich sari) is not fine. I feel hot and heavy.”
From being an idealistically ambitious girl, Krishna has now joined the ranks of the countless other bahus on Hindi television. “The channel, the writers and everybody… they are more experienced than me. If they are trying to mould a character a little bit towards the domestic way, then I am sure they have something in mind for the show.” She agrees that though Afsar Bitiya started off on a ‘different’ note, you can’t escape the fact that “80 percent of the people who watch our show are housewives. After a point of time, they would definitely not want to watch someone just fighting the system. They would want to know what her personal life is, as a woman. She is an officer, but she has the responsibilities of a wife and a bahu (daughter-in-law), as also the responsibilities of a daughter of a father who struggled. How will Krishna manage these roles? This is going to be interesting and I am really looking forward to it.”
Frankly, we are relieved to know that Afsar Bitiya will not be just another drama about kitchen politics. “I am hoping it won’t become another saas bahu serial,” replies Mitali. “If it does, then I will say that at the end of the day, what works on television is saas bahu drama. If you see the shows that are on top, they are all saas bahu dramas. If people like to watch such dramas, then I am sure we’ll have a flavour of such dramas as well. But the saas bahu aspect will only be a part of Krishna’s journey.”
While she is knowledgeable about other shows, Mitali doesn’t actually sit down and watch the competition. “I don’t get the time because I shoot every day, 35 days a month, to be precise (laughs). But yes, whenever I get time, if I am able to catch it, I watch the new shows that are launched, just to see what the story is. But I don’t really follow television. I just follow Afsar Bitiya.”
She does that because she needs to know how she looks onscreen, she says. Mitali believes that it is important for a female actor to know that. Thankfully, she doesn’t have to work too hard on her fitness levels.“Touch wood, I am blessed. I haven’t been ill since I joined the show. When I joined, many people told me to eat a lot of dry fruits, it would help with stamina. I do that. I eat a lot of salads – keeps me fresh. I drink a lot of fluids. And I try to have positive thoughts. Thinking positive and being around positive people keeps me positive and healthy.”
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to think negatively. She would love to do so, especially on screen. Playing the goody goody Krishna can get a bit tiresome sometimes, she admits. “I like that Krishna has a never-say-die attitude. That’s something in common between me and her. If there’s anything that I want done or have thought of doing, I will find a way of doing it. Krishna is a very sanskari (traditional), Indian girl. Western thinking has seeped into me, but now that I am playing Krishna, I would like to imbibe her qualities. I think that in some instances, Krishna should take things more practically, but since she is the protagonist, she has to be good always. Too much good is also bad for health,” she laughs, “for the one who is playing good and for other people also. It becomes unreal. Nobody in this world is only good. Nobody.”