By: Mohnish Singh
Tarun Khanna has been a familiar face on Indian television for two decades now. He made his first major TV appearance as Sameer in Star Plus’ Kabhi Aaye Na Judaai (2001-2003). The actor went on to play a variety of characters in several hit shows.
He is also known to have played Lord Shiva in more than half a dozen mythological shows, including Karmaphal Daata Shani (2016-2018), Paramavatar Shri Krishna (2017-2020) and RadhaKrishn (2018-present).
“I think it’s a privilege to get into this costume. Every time I do that, I thank God for taking on this role, ”Khanna told Eastern Eye when we met her on the sets of her next webcast. Geisha.
In this interview, Tarun Khanna told us about his new show Geisha, what he wouldn’t want to remember about 2020, the mediocrity of TV content, why he has no plans to quit TV despite its content losing its luster by the day, and so much more.
How was 2020 for you?
I didn’t shoot for three months. I fired for the last time on the 18the March and resumption of filming on the 22sd June 2020. So I didn’t shoot for three months and four days, to be more precise, which was actually a welcome break. I have a lot of time to spend with my family. My son recently turned 7 and this was my first time spending three full months with him. It was heaven for me.
What wouldn’t you like to remember about 2020?
I am unhappy with the way things have been handled. The government screwed it up. It wasn’t helping people. People didn’t get their wages for about three months. And when organizations finally started paying their employees, salaries were cut by 50%. What has our government done about it? Has there been a drop in rent for an unprecedented period? Did the government step in and force all landlords to reduce their rent by 50%? Has he cut gasoline prices by 50%? So what has our government done? There was a time when I was very supportive of our government. But now I realized he was only looking after his special interests, and I’m not happy at all.
Tell us about your next show Geisha?
A new streaming media platform called Digiflix is coming very soon. Geisha will be broadcast on this platform. I think the team are planning to launch the platform in April, and they are creating a bank of about 9 shows. They have already produced two shows; Geisha is third in the row. The manufacturers are very new, but they work very professionally. I don’t feel like I’m working with new people.
What are you playing in Geisha?
Geisha is a thriller where I play a cop, who investigates a case, which is the crux of the story. My character name is Rajveer Shekhawat. He’s a 40-year-old single cop. He has no faults as such, but he is not married. He is frustrated because of the same and his frustration leads to a number of comedic situations as well.
Even after playing various characters on television, you are mostly remembered by audiences for your mythological roles. Do you think television easily stereotypes actors?
Yes of course. The level of mediocrity that you find on Indian TV is something you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Indian television is worse than our government. I am amazed at the mediocrity of Indian TV shows. I have a question for all creative directors: what are you guys doing? I’m not saying the whole industry is like that. There are also some good people.
What do you hate the most about television?
The dumbest thing you may notice on Indian shows is that only the male and female lead roles are born with brains and the rest of the cast are presented as a brainless, mindless bunch. If the police have arrived to investigate something, they will only speak to Bahu who is the protagonist. The rest of the family will stand around her, looking puzzled. I’m asking you where is this happening? This can only happen on Indian television. I wonder how our innocent audience falls prey to such content. They might not know that manufacturers are building bungalows after bungalows by putting on such shitty shows. I feel why producers who have a lot of money and power can’t do something right. I’m happy to see them grow up and build new bungalows, but isn’t it their responsibility to do at least a few good shows that they can be proud of?
Do you think media streaming is going to pose a serious threat to television?
Television is already on its deathbed. TV show budgets have been slashed. Believe me, television will become redundant in five years. The way streaming platforms expand their market, television is doomed to go out of business sooner or later. It’s a do or die for television. The makers will have to wake up and smell the coffee. If they don’t act now and improve the quality of their content, no one will be able to stop their downfall. They put on such shitty shows, I can’t tell you.
Isn’t there a silver lining?
There are creators who try to put on good shows and stand out from the crowd. For example Tony Singh and Divya Singh from DJ’s Creative Unit. In 2003, they produced a show called Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi which sort of revolutionized the entire content landscape on Indian television. People have tried to replicate his success but no show could create the kind of impact Jassi… made. The creators think they are doing what the audience loves to watch. I am of the opinion that if you do not do good shows, how can the taste of the audience improve. They don’t have great shows to choose from.
In your opinion, media streaming is the way to go.
The only problem I find with OTT platforms is that they rely too much on flop movie actors. They should know for sure that audiences rejected them in the movies for a reason. How can their magic work in streaming shows if it doesn’t work wonders in movies? If they were so talented, why didn’t their charm work on the big screen? Actors who failed in movies are joining OTT in a big way. Another problem, in my opinion, is the casting of casting directors. Sometimes the cast is completely wrong and inappropriate. A girl who can’t even act was playing a superstar on a high profile show I watched a while back.
Is there an actor who really impressed you on a web show?
Pankaj Tripathi and Ali Fazal. Ali Fazal is a mine of talents. He’s a very good actor who can give a lot of so-called superstars his money’s worth. They can’t even stand in front of him. He’s at that level. This boy has serious talent. The same goes for Pankaj Tripathi. It is a household name today. He is the modern day Naseeruddin Shah.
Will the television take a step back for you?
Not at all! My kitchen is still running from Radha krishn what I do on Star Bharat. Playing the role of Lord Shiva is a privilege. He is the God of the Gods.
Let me tell you an interesting story. There was this big-ticket show on Lord Shiva that I had auditioned for. I didn’t get the part, the other guy who auditioned with me did. Later, I was chosen to play Ravan in this same show. I played the part in all honesty. However, I still wondered why couldn’t I play Shiva? Where did I miss? I later realized that it was God’s plan for me to play Ravan. I changed the way people normally looked at Ravan’s character before. Earlier there was this perception that Ravan should look like a devil with a belly and all. I was the first actor to play Ravan who didn’t look like a proverbial demon. Then they came up with the idea that good-looking actors can also play a villain like Ravan convincingly. You only have to stick a mustache. After that, I played Shiva in eight TV shows. I think it’s a privilege to step into this costume. Every time I do, I thank God for playing this role. I will never say no on television.