Indian television

‘Vani Rani’ star Tanvi Azmi: ‘It is the talent and not the medium that matters’

The actor will be playing twins in the Hindi soap, which is a remake of the popular Tamil serial.

A decade after the television show Sinndoor Tere Naam Ka, in which she played a strong-willed mother of two sons, Tanvi Azmi is set to make her comeback to the small screen. This time, Azmi will be playing twins in the Hindi adaptation of Raadhika Sarathkumar’s long-running Tamil daily soap Vani Rani.

Azmi made her television debut as early as 1988 with Mirza Ghalib, in which she earned acclaim for playing the wife of the titular poet (Naseeruddin Shah). Since then, Azmi has been a household name, headlining Hindi soaps including Lifeline (1991), Zameen Aasmaan (1995) and Family No. 1 (1999). In Vani Rani, which will roll out on August 7, Azmi plays twins as similar as chalk and cheese.

Azmi has also proved her acting chops on the big screen, often playing strong-willed supporting characters with ease – the latest being Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani (2015), in which she played Peshwa Bajirao’s belligerent mother Radhabhai. “It is what I get to do in the the medium, be it a film or television show, and how I get to show my craft in it that matters and not the medium itself,” she told in an interview.

Vani Rani.

The 56-year-old actor made her debut with SL Narayana’s Pyari Behna (1985), a remake of the Rajinikanth drama Mullum Malarum (1978). She later went on to play significant characters in the telefilm Raosaheb (1986) and the movies Vidheyan (1993), Darr (1993), Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995) and Delhi-6 (2009).

“Where your Shah Rukh Khans come from: television has produced so many more actors like him,” Azmi said. “You know a lot of actors first say, let us try for films and then if we don’t succeed, we will go to television. I don’t think it is fair to look down on the medium of television. It is very heartbreaking.”

Azmi clarified that it wasn’t a conscious decision to work in television, and that she picks a feature film or a daily soap based on what it does with her talent. As she described the characters of the twins she is playing, she was smartly clad in a crisp cotton sari, posing next to a cutout of a dialled down version of herself. “I don’t think that much has changed as far as work goes, because pressures are still high,” Azmi said of her comeback to television.

While Vani is a self-made lawyer who is known for her obstinate opinions, Rani is a simple-minded housewife who wears her heart on her sleeves. The original Tamil show stars Raadhika and Venu Arvind, and has been produced by her company Radaan Mediaworks.

“While I have been used to that kind of pressure working for a daily soap, this time it is doubly so because I am playing a double role,” Azmi said. “We have to shoot the scene twice and I am there in the same scene as two different people. That is really what makes it more difficult and a little more exhausting physically. But it is so challenging and fun to play two different characters virtually at the same time.”

While the Tamil soap targets a regional audience, the Hindi adaptation is looking to broaden the story’s reach. “What excites me about a script is, if I feel as an actor it is going to give me something different to do, something I haven’t done in the past,” Azmi said. “In fact after Bajirao Mastani, I was very keen to do something very light and frothy. And now that has happened and I have managed to find that on television.”

Tanvi Azmi in Bajirao Mastani (2015).
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