FPJ Exclusive: Vandana Pathak On Missing Out Roles Due To Her Age; Says, 'There's A Need For A Mindset Shift In The Indian Film Industry'

FPJ Exclusive: Vandana Pathak On Missing Out Roles Due To Her Age; Says, 'There's A Need For A Mindset Shift In The Indian Film Industry'

Returning on screen after a sabbatical, Jayshree aka Vandana Pathak is back with her impeccable performance in Khichdi 2

Priyanka ChandaniUpdated: Saturday, November 25, 2023, 12:59 PM IST
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In the 90s, when audiences saw Vandana Pathak as Meenakshi Mathur in Hum Paanch, they took notice of her progressive role that talked about women empowerment. She became the most favourite gossip bahu as Jayshree Parekh of television show Khichdi. The iconic character is still alive among 90s kids. The actor successfully nails the roles she plays on TV or in films. None of her roles have been stereotypical or something that she has done in the past including Bhavana Vasavade of RK Laxman Ki Duniya. But, it is Jayshree that she has never been able to detach herself from. The actor is elated to be back on the screen with one of her most popular shows Khichdi turned into a movie series. In this exclusive conversation, the noted actor opened up about her long sabbatical, playing Jayshree again, getting older in the industry, and accepting limited offers. Excerpts: 

How is it to play Jaishree again, one of your iconic roles on TV?

Returning as Jayshree is truly special for me. This character holds a unique place in my heart, and it's my favourite from my entire journey. When the Khichdi team approached me for the movie, rejecting the offer was never even a consideration. The love and affection the character has received from fans across various places I've visited are overwhelming. They fondly speak about my character, always asking when I'll be back, when Khichdi will return, and now that it's finally happening, our joy knows no bounds. Being one of my iconic roles, the prospect of getting back and shooting for the movie has filled me with excitement.

Did it take long for you to transition back into the role?

Absolutely not. Jayshree is my favourite character and the one I connect with the most. The character is so ingrained in me that portraying it feels entirely natural; all that remains is dressing up in that character.

It's been a long since we last saw you on TV, was that sabbatical intentional?

Yes, it was intentional. In 2019, my father-in-law fell ill, and I prioritised being at home to care for him. I value family immensely, believing that work can always wait, but my loved ones needed me then. Unfortunately, I lost my father-in-law, and the grieving period was challenging. During this time, I was offered a role in a Gujarati film. My family encouraged me to take it as a means of returning to work and finding joy amidst sorrow. Subsequently, I received compelling offers from the film industry, keeping me occupied over the years. Film projects not only allowed me to explore diverse characters and face new challenges but also provided the flexibility to pursue other passions. During this period, I delved into activities like reading, launched my own soap brand (Spring Water), spent quality time with my family, traveled, and honed my skills through the varied roles in movies.

Most of the roles you played on TV have become iconic. How do you pick your roles and shows that are best for you?

My selection process is guided by my intuition; if I feel a deep calling for a project, I commit to it wholeheartedly. This is non-negotiable for me. I've been part of many firsts in the industry, such as Hum Paanch being Ekta Kapoor's first show, Khichdi being JD's first show, and Ek Mahel Ho Sapno Ka being Shobhna Desai's first show. These experiences make my characters particularly close to my heart, and fortunately, they have all been super hits.

Usually, actors don't want to stay away from being seen on the TV, but it's not the case with you. Were you apprehensive that the audience may forget you considering the competitive environment of the industry?

You're absolutely right. However, in my case, after wrapping up each show, I intentionally took short breaks for rejuvenation, typically in the month of May or during Diwali, to spend quality time with my family. For television, I didn't pay much attention as I kept myself occupied with various film projects, ongoing commitments, family travels, and active engagement on social media. This platform proved instrumental in staying connected with my fans and keeping them updated on my work, life, and more.

How do you process getting older in a notoriously ageist industry?

Every industry has its pros and cons, and it's all about perception, acceptance, and adapting to the evolving nature of the business. There have been instances where I didn't fit a particular role due to my age, but it's crucial to acknowledge that and move forward. Hollywood sets a great example with actors like Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, Clint Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman, who continue to find meaningful roles. There's a need for a mindset shift in Bollywood and the Indian industry. As Neena Gupta pointed out in one of her interviews, young actors often play senior roles, but why not cast someone of the appropriate age for authenticity? Fortunately, our industry is gradually changing, and filmmakers nowadays are making more thoughtful star cast selections based on age and character suitability.

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