After portraying the popular character of Gehna in Balika Vadhu, Neha Marda took a break from television in the year 2012 to be the ‘adarsh patni’ to Ayushman Agarwal. The talented actress made her comeback in 2014 as the vulnerable, soft-spoken yet the confident Urmi in Zee TV’s Doli Armaanon Ki.
We had an exclusive chat with the actress about her role and challenges being part of this socially sensitive subject.
How has your comeback been with Doli Armaanon Ki?
Television has always been my first love, and I have enjoyed doing it ever since my Balika Vadhu days. I had to take a sabbatical after marriage because I wanted to give my family time. After almost 2 years when this show came to me I could not refuse the offer, plus my family supported my comeback.
What were the preparations you had to do for the character?
None really, Urmi is quite like what I am in real life. She is very family oriented and loves her family. Above all, I never prepare for my characters; I get into the role while I am playing it. Characters like Urmi cannot be rehearsed.
How has your experience been working with Pearl Grey?
Pearl had offered me Pratigya 2 as well when the talks were on for its comeback. Fortunately or unfortunately things could not work then, but I always wanted to work with Pearl. I think her shows have an amazing story to tell, and am glad this show worked out and I am doing it.
Doli Armaanon Ki is a very disturbing show with respect to women. How has the general response been from the audience?
This is where I would beg to differ; the show does not degrade women at all. In fact, it teaches women to fight for what is right. Even today in many places of India we have husbands beating their wives up. DAK is trying to teach those women to speak up and how important self respect is. We have got a phenomenal response from ladies all over; what surprises me is that even the protagonist of the show Mohit who plays an evil character gets as much adulation for the role he performs. Guess viewers realize that through this show we are trying to create awareness and that women have all right to stand up for what is theirs.
Urmi’s character has changed drastically throughout the show. She has transformed from a naïve girl into a mature and hard-hearted mother. How difficult was this change?
By virtue of being a woman I guess these emotions are already within us; hence it is not difficult to train those emotions to behave in a certain way. When the transformation of characters got explained to me, I understood how a woman would behave in the given circumstance. I would think how I would personally react in such a situation. This made me easy to gulp in the transformations.
The domestic violence scene where Samrat beats up Urmi was very heartbreaking and nerve wrecking for many viewers. How difficult was it to portray?
Yes, I admit it was not only difficult for audiences to watch, but as actors it took a lot from us too. Mohit was very disturbed while performing that sequence, and I had to completely shut myself from friends and people to get into the skin of the character for that particular episode. Such scenes can get depressing. But we have an amazing crew who gets us out of every sad and disturbing situation in quick time.
What would you like to tell those women who are victims of domestic violence and other social evils?
Do Not Bear It. We as women need to be respected; we make families and we should in turn be given the respect we deserve. If any man does not do this or crosses the limit we should stand up for it. It is better living alone than constantly living in the fear of being beaten up.
How’s your relationship with Mohit Malik off camera and how is it working with him?
He is a darling and a great friend. I even get along well with his wife Addite. They are the cutest couple I have seen. Mohit is extremely caring and he understands that I live in Mumbai alone; he makes sure I am well looked after and cared for. And Addite leaves no stone unturned in doing the same as well.
Ishaan’s character is back in the show. Can we see some love blossoming between him and Urmi in the coming episodes?
I would let the producers and the channel decide that. Let’s see what we have in store for the future.
There are certain similarities between Gehna in Balika Vadhu and Urmi. Both have been victims of violence in one way or the other.
Guess I fit such characters well and audiences relate to me in such characters…haha ! Well it is just a co-incidence, to tell you on a serious note. I think domestic violence is increasing by leaps and bounds and it is a sad state of affair. Hence every show seems to capture it as it’s prevalent.
DAK has not been very impressive with ratings. Are you worried?
DAK has got a phenomenal response; there is no way anything else would worry me. I get emails and messages from fans almost every day, that too in huge numbers. The TRPs may not be as good owing to the late night slot, but otherwise I know of many who love the show.
Urmi is now at a point where her own husband is trying to kill her, as per the ongoing promos. How do you think the viewers will react to this?
I would let the viewers decide that. I would not be in the right frame to comment on this right now, as I am too much into the character and feel it is apt for the show. Let’s see how the audiences react to it; one can never say what clicks and what doesn’t.
Do you think a person like Samrat exists in real life? Have you encountered one such person?
I have never come across such people personally, but we keep reading it in the papers about the wife being beaten or killed by the husband and so on. There is always evil everywhere, and I am glad that I haven’t come across one but am very sure people like Samrat do exist.
As for Mohit your co-actor, working on such heavy duty scenes wherein he has to be aggressive towards his wife does not come easily. And he has been expressing it in his interviews. How do you feel when you shoot for such violent scenes with a male actor?
It’s equally disturbing of course, especially when you are the subject of such violence. It isn’t easy, the reactions, the hurt are something we need to express. I have gotten sick at times but again as actors we cannot complain, as this is what is required of us. I am sure Mohit too has gone through a lot. It’s not easy portraying such dark characters, but like I said we are actors.
Tell us something about your married life. Do you regret not being with your husband at times?
Of course I do. Who would not, I miss him terribly and that’s the reason I try going to him every time I manage to get a break, or request him to come down. He is as busy as I am, but yet manages that time for me. I would have loved it if I was going back to family and my husband in particular after a hard day’s shoot.
When will you decide to start your family?
I have not planned this yet. I feel babies are not planned; they just happen. So let us see when God thinks the time is right.
What can we see in the upcoming episodes?
Stay glued to TV and DAK for that.