First of all: Archana Puran Singh Mr. M

Written by Mimamsa Shekhar | New Delhi

Published: July 1, 2020 7:04:22 pm

Archana Puran Singh’s Mr. Yes Mrs. aired on Doordarshan. (Photo: Archana Puran Singh / Instagram and Express Collection)

Archana Puran Singh is known for her comic timing. Be it Miss Prey Shalini as Miss Brezza in the 1990s Doordarshan show Shriman Shrimati, Ya Kuch Kuch Ho Gaya (1998), Singh’s screen outing has been memorable.

The actor, who began his career nearly four decades ago, has also been a part of films such as Raja Hindustani, Mohabbatein, Krrish and De Dana Dan. Singh was last seen on The Kapil Sharma Show.

But how did the former model end up becoming an actor? Here’s what Archana Puran Singh shared:

1. What was your first acting project? how did this happen?

I must have been around 20 and I did a television commercial with director Jalal Agha. We became good friends. One day, Jalal went with me to the dentist. He said that he needed to meet famous writer Javed Siddiqui. In his place, he took out Mr. Mr. The story of Mrs. told that its hero was Mahesh and the heroine was called Seema. I found it really fun. After returning to the car, Jalal asked my response and I said that I like it. Now I am sitting on the dentist’s chair and he starts drilling. Then Jalal asked me, “Archana, you are a model, but would you like to act?” The moment I found out that he was giving me the lead role of Seema, I sat up straight and shouted, “What!” The drill was still in my mouth, and the dentist shouted at me (laughing). I could not sleep that night.

Trikaya was the agency behind the show, while Jalal was directing and producing it. The agency warned her that the models were notorious for not knowing how to act. Jalal told me that it was a big risk, also because Jayant Kripalani, a well-known theater personality, was unlike me. I asked him how much money went into shooting the pilot. He said it was 60,000 rupees, which was a lot of money back then. But fortunately, my father was alright. So I told Jalal that if the pilot was rejected because of me, I would give that money. We shot the pilot, and it was rejected by the agency! I felt that I would need to call my father, but Jalal revealed that although the pilot needed to be shot again, the only thing that remained of the two actors. He loved Jayant and me. So we shot it again. It was a 26-episode show that aired on Doordarshan every Sunday morning.

2. What do you remember of your first day on set?

The concept of the show revolved around a girl going out to work and a man living behind the house. In my first scene, I am cooking some vegetables in a pan. There was no dialogue, but I am just fed up and not enjoying the process. My mind is somewhere else. It was a bullet.

3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you need?

I shot my first and Jalal said that it was not quite fun. Today, if you give me a similar situation, I can show you 10 different fun ways to do it. At the time, I kept watching Jalal Dumbstruck because I had no clue how the cooking process in the cauldron was fun! He was screaming at me. I asked for a few lines and they told me that I was working alone in the kitchen. Jalal had to face the problem of me being a non-actor. He had to show me how it was done, but I was a quick learner. I managed this particular shot after several retakes.

4. How was the rapport with your co-stars and team?

It was good to work with Jayant, though we hardly met after the show. We went to his house a few times. I was really shocked when Jalal died. He was one of the few real people in the industry, and he left very soon. I learned a lot from him. I grew up so much for his family too. His sister, who is married to Tinu Anand, remains a dear friend.

5. If you are given a chance to return to your first role, do you want to change anything?

I haven’t seen the show for the longest time, so I really don’t know how bad I was in it. Of course, I’m sure it can be done better. But perhaps there was a freshness in it. The lack of ingenuity probably worked for that role and made it real. Perhaps it worked because we were raw and untrained. So, I don’t think I would want to change anything. I think it was ahead of its time, a revolutionary concept, and Jalal treated it very differently. It had scenes of someone playing guitar and dancing to us on the beach. Today, we go back to retrograde time on TV.

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6. A film or role that inspired you to become an actor?

I loved Sadhana and even had ‘Sadhana Cut’. I made her such an idol that I felt like I could look like her by cutting my hair. I was very young then, but it was because of that that I thought about coming to the movies. There were many other actresses who inspired me. I will watch Helen’s dance and copy her moves. I was also crazy about Zeenat Aman. To me, she was a symbol of glamor. Later, when I entered the industry and became her friend, it was an unrealistic journey after being a fan.

It was the time of Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra. And movies were the only form of entertainment for us. We used to sit in a deep Dehradun theater, with broken seats, hardly any fans and lights going off in the middle. I grew up in the kind of environment where films meant that they were worth sitting there. We were so mesmerized by the whole experience. All of that impressed me a lot.

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