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“OTT Is Encouraging My Versatility”: Sandhya Mridul On Tandav, And Finally Getting To Play Non-Stereotypical Characters

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O betaji, India’s political climate is rarely naram, but always garam garam, if you know what I mean! *winks* And if you try and talk about it anywhere, social media or even your family WhatsApp group (even that’s not private anymore!), life could get risky. So what do you do? You try a little escapism that panders to your need for political drama and ideology clashes and offers you the safe respite of fiction. Amazon Prime Video does it quite well, if you ask me. They did it with Mirzapur, capturing the politics of India’s hinterlands. And now it ventures into the corridors of true power, with Tandav. It’s directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, and starring Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub and a huge ensemble cast that’d make you drool. One of those incredibly talented cast members is Sandhya Mridul.

 

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You may know her as Suhani’s sister from Saathiya, or Pearl from Page 3. But the 90s kid in me has seen her arrival on television with Banegi Apni Baat and Swabhimaan. But it wasn’t until Aashirwad, and her lead role in Koshish Ek Aasha (the title tracks of both shows are etched in my brain because 90s kid!) that we saw what she could really do. Turns out, that’s not all what this Angry Indian Goddess has in her. She’s dying to show us her versatility and luckily, OTT is smiling down upon every actor who is hungry for good work.

In conversation with us, Sandhya Mridul talks about her character, Professor Sandhya Nigam, in Tandav, working with such a huge ensemble cast, and finally getting to flex those acting muscles the way she wants, thanks to OTT.

Q: You play a college professor in Tandav?

Sandhya Mridul:  Yes, and a professor named Sandhya! My character, Professor Sandhya Nigam, is actually the most authentic and real person in the entire show. She’s got no political aspirations or drama, and is probably the most straightforward person you will meet. She is simply about the love quotient, and the emotional quotient of the show. In the future, though, Sandhya gets dragged into the political drama, which makes it an interesting arc because getting dragged into this world would be quite complicated since she doesn’t want to be a part of it at all.

Q: How was the experience of working with director Ali Abbas Zafar and your co-stars, Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia and Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub?

A: It was wonderful. The show is so well written, and the characters are well-etched and given their due. They have their own stories, their own resolutions, and Ali (director Ali Abbas Zafar) made sure during the table reads that everybody is working in tandem.

I haven’t done something like this and it was really exciting for me to be a part of. The table read was just wonderful and each character was so interesting that you stop just looking at your part and start enjoying the whole process. I think Gaurav’s (Solanki, writer) script and Ali’s direction are a great combination. And this cast of very different, interesting people that have been brought together also adds to the magic,

Q: Apart from your own, what other characters were your favourites and had you totally invested in their story?

A: I love Dimpleji’s role a lot. I tried to convince Ali Abbas Zafar to give me the role, and he was like, “No, Sandy!” *laughs* There are lots of characters in Tandav that are really edgy—Dino Morea’s (he plays her husband in the show), Sunil Grover’s character, even Annup Sonii’s. It’s difficult for me to pick one, but if I were a guy, I probably would’ve gone for Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub’s role!

 

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Q: The female characters in Tandav are quite something. Would you say they’re based off real women in politics or are aspirational in some sense?

A: Maybe when people watch it, they might think, “Oh this character is like this person” or something. But they aren’t really based on specific people, to be honest. Off the cuff, I won’t say ‘aspirational’ is the only word. I think there is a blend between reality and aspiration in this show. Gaurav Solanki and Ali Abbas Zafar have created characters that are not your run-of-the-mill characters. You’re going to see certain sides which may not have been explored earlier.

Even the casting makes a difference, you know, because Ali’s obviously seen some trait in somebody that he thought might be useful for that character.

Also Read: Shonali Nagrani Says The Women Of ‘Tandav’ Are Strong Without Losing Their Femininity. Finally!

Q: You’ve had such an amazing stint on television with shows like Aashirwad, Koshish Ek Aasha, and then in Bollywood with Page 3, Angry Indian Goddesses and so on. Do you see yourself leaning more towards OTT now?

A: Yeah, and fortunately, OTT is also leaning a bit towards me, so I’m grateful for that! There was a time when I thought that there was practically nowhere for me to go because I didn’t want to do stereotypical work that was offered to me. I couldn’t find my place because I wanted to play different parts and I couldn’t understand why people couldn’t understand that I wanted to explore a slightly versatile career. Since Angry Indian Goddesses, anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of different things… and alternate cinema.

OTT is kind of encouraging my versatility and giving me chances to play different kind of people, not just that, ‘Cool, bindaas, bold, strong Sandhya’ because that’s just not all I am. As an actor, that is not all I wanted to be. I’m glad that I saved myself up for this time, which is now letting me explore what I am capable of.

 

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I honestly feel I haven’t really been explored and exploited as an actor. So my only hope, at this point, is that currently whatever work I’m doing, gives me that opportunity and does not stereotype me. I’ve two more OTT projects lined up this year. By next year, you will have met three different women!

Q: Tandav is clearly full of quotable dialogues with major viral potential. What’s your favourite?

A: For me, “Ab hoga tandav” does it! It’s the most powerful and relatable line, and you’ll soon see why!

Tandav will begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video on January 15, 2021.

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