TALENT WATCH Juhi Babbar lit up the TV screen with her rib-tickling debut in “Ghar Ki Baat Hain”; not surprising considering her starry lineage. RESHMA S KULKARNI
The arc lights are not new to Juhi Babbar. She grew up watching father Raj Babbar earn accolades in Bollywood; even as mother Nadira enriched the theatre scene with her group Ekjute. It was but natural that Juhi felt the familiar tug. “Even though I literally grew up doing my homework at mom’s theatre rehearsals with veteran actors teaching me maths and English, I felt my calling lay in fashion designing. So, I graduated in fashion and costumes from NIFT and upon graduating in 1998 began designing costumes for Ekjute’s plays like ‘Dil Hi To Hain’, ‘Begum Jaan’, ‘Jasmaa Odhan’, ‘Pencil Se Brush Tak’.”
Juhi would have been content designing costumes but fate intervened. Her mother saw her as the potential lead for “Yahudi Ki Ladki”. “Contrary to notions that I must have had an easy entry with mom being at the helm of Ekjute, she was (and still is) such a perfectionist that she never ever thought of casting me just because I was her daughter. In fact, even for ‘Yahudi Ki Ladki’, she made me go through auditions and rehearsals before handing me the role,” remembers Juhi. She did full justice to her mother’s expert-eye, and bagged roles in consequent productions: “Begum Jaan”, “Suman Aur Sana” and “Daudaa Daudaa Bhaaga Bhaaga Sa” among others.She also moved to writing and directing plays such as “Aaj Chhutti Hain”, “Naukri” and “Pukaar”. “It has been a fabulous journey so far to play various characters ranging from intense to emotional to comical. The high, that one gets performing them in front of a live audience, is unparalled and what I live for,” says the ‘thinking actress’ who is also a visiting faculty on drama at various educational institutes.
What’s more, Juhi continues to work in tandem with a lot of NGOs and has been continually striving to widen the reach of theatre via Ekjute by stepping up the marketing campaigns and taking theatre workshops.Juhi admits that she did have Bollywood dreams at one stage. “I was barely out of college and producers were showing interest. I made my debut with ‘Kaash Aap Hamare Hote’, and later a Punjabi film called ‘Yaraan Naal Baharaan’, only to realise that I stuck out like a sore thumb in the glitzy world of Bollywood. Thank God I made a fast retreat before committing major blunders,” laughs the actor. for whom television, surprisingly never happened till now! “Though I’ve always wanted to do TV, somehow due to my hectic schedule in theatre and also because none of the offers interested me, I never took the plunge!” says Juhi who finally did that when offered Red Chillies Entertainment’s Ghar Ki Baat Hain, on NDTV Imagine.
Small screen debut
What made her take the TV bait after all? “For starters, I’ve always wanted to showcase my comic side and this programme, which is Shah Rukh Khan’s ode to his fav telly-serial of yesteryear, ‘Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi’, gave me a chance to do just that! Also, I was very excited to be directed by veterans like Aziz Mirza and Anant Mahadevan and finally, the role in itself was so cute, real and tempting one that I had to take it up.Radhika, my character, is so much like me – she loves to talk on the phone, loves to shop, loves to laugh out loud, is trendy but not a glam doll…I could identify with her.”So, in other words, Juhi wanted to do something miles away from the saas-bahu sagas, is it? “Not really. I’m an actress who’s open to all kinds of roles, only provided they have substance. I wouldn’t want to deck up in 50 kgs of jewellery and be lost in a crowd of 100 relatives! If there’s a saas-bahu saga that gives me a challenge, I’d love to take it up.”Interestingly, Juhi was keen to make her TV debut through a chat show; she says “I would still like to do a chat show. I’m always up for airing my opinion on any topic under the sun and a chat show would provide perfect foil for my personality.”
But till that happens, I’m happy doing GKBH” says Juhi who hopes that the treatment of the show, which is so akin to the non-melodramatic, sans hoopla, almost theatrical shows of yore, will pull people to theatre.“I’m very keen to see the day when theatre gets restored to its former glory; when people throng to plays as they do to multiplexes” confesses Juhi who is currently working on scripts; is readying for her recitation of Mirza Ghalib’s poetry and looking forward to her trip to Dubai with the play “Pencil Se Brush Tak”, where MF Hussain (on whose life the play is based) will grace the show!
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