Not Watching ‘Sanjivani’ Helped Me Add Freshness: Surbhi Chandna
After the end of Ishqbaaz last year, Surbhi Chandna is all set to be back on the television screen in a new avatar. The actor plays the leading lady in Sanjivani 2, a new version of the 2002 TV show that got a lot of love from the audience.
In an interview to The Quint, Surbhi spoke about why she is glad she didn’t watch Sanjivani before starting shoot, how she got into her role of Dr Ishani, and what went into making the show an authentic medical drama.
Any memories of watching the old Sanjivani?
The real thing is that I haven’t watched the previous season of Sanjivani. But I also somehow feel like I am glad I didn’t. Now, I would want to. But at the beginning of starting this new journey of this season of Sanjivani, I am glad I didn’t watch because I somehow felt like I wanted to bring something new to the table. Something fresh. I didn’t want to derive from anywhere. Also, this season is totally different. The take in this season is different, very important subjects (are dealt with). Kaise jhol hote hain hospitals me, chahe wo liver transplants ho or kafi sare, and there will be some interesting cases also that we will be solving through the new season.
So it helped...
Yes. And characters are very well defined and very different from at least what I have done in the past. Dr Ishani’s character is very interesting. She talks less. She is righteous. She takes a stand for whatever she thinks is right. Saare kaam sahi tareeke se bhi ho sakte hain so there is no need for jugaad. On the contrary, the boy (Namit Khanna’s character) is such that he believes in jugaad. Though he is a Robinhood. He does jugaad but the motive and intention behind it is great. So I think the two stories, Dr Ishani and Dr Sid’s story, and how they are different from each other... but when they come together to do a operation or anything, they are great at their work. They are so in sync as doctors. Even though she is a first year resident and he is a third year resident. She is a junior and he is a senior. But when they come together, they have this amazing coordination. Achhi jodi banti hai unki.
She is a woman of few words. She doesn’t talk too much, but what she talks is sensible. The kind of character she is it’s because of her back story - her parents doing something that created a bad image of them, and she is still carrying the baggage of that.
It is obvious that your Sanjivani character is different from your last character Annika from Ishaqbaaz. After having played one character for a long time is it difficult to get into a new, very different character?
That is the idea of choosing Ishani and even Sanjivani. No denying it’s a cult show and it’s a big brand with a great recall value and a great brand to be associated with, Siddharth Malhotra (producer) brings his filmi background, if I may say so. When he directs something, if you’ve seen the first episode, you’ve seen the production value and it only gets better with episodes further ahead. Idea of choosing mainly was that.
Secondly, most important thing was Ishani was very different from Haya (Qubool Hai) and Annika. This girl speaks very less. That’s what I like about her. She is not flamboyant like how Annika was. This one is calmer. She is righteous and she takes a stand and she speaks, and she also has an amazing emotional graph to her character. She is multi-layered like an onion. It a very complex character to play. And it has been a challenge. Of course, you live and you breathe a character. The 6-7 month break was actually to come out of the previous character and start living a new life. When you go on sets you start living her. It’s been a month and now I am starting to understand Ishani, and how she is going to react in certain situations. It is going to take a while. It’s only going to get better with episodes.
Even the tone and the presentation of each show is different. Sanjivani’s look and presentation is very different from your previous show.
I won’t say I want them (viewers) to forget my previous image. I would love for them to remember me for all my characters. But the idea was also to do something different. That’s the reason I cut my hair short. We styled her in a specific manner, where she is going to be wearing these really fancy flare pants. We want to make some trademarks that we have done in the previous shows. People used to love the styling I have done in my previous shows. And that’s the reason we want to do something different in this show too. We have Shivani who has done my previous show Ishqbaaz, and she is doing Sanjivani too. She is trying to mix and match and get these great colours. Also her transition happens. She is mostly going to be seen in solid colours. When she is in love or has a new friendship we might see some pastels getting into her life. A complete character only happens when there is complete styling done, her dialect is worked on, how she is going to behave like a doctor etc. Slowly we are working on all these because it’s been just a month and every day you learn something new on set.
Since the show revolves around the hospital and the doctors, what went into making sure the portrayal is authentic?
Of course, the equipment is there , stretchers, machines, syringes - everything is real here on set. Everything is authentic and real. Our producer (Siddharth P Malhotra), was really nice to get real doctors on board. He came on set and really guided us. Things like how to wear gloves or how to use a BP machine, how you remove air from syringe, how to wear a stethoscope properly, how many beats you hear - these minute details. It’s very important because these doctors are resident doctors and they come with experience, and they are also assigned surgeries. So we had to get very authentic. We also have doctors visiting every week to guide us. Also, our director Abhijeet is so sound.
How is it working with Mohnish Behl, who has so much experience behind him?
It doesn’t even feel like it. He doesn’t have any airs or anything. When he is on set we are just having a lot of fun. He is keeping the atmosphere, the entire environment, so fun. Wo hum se ek baat se joke karte hain mere aur Namit ke saath ki ab to TRP ki tension tumhe leni chahiye (He jokes with us about one thing with Namit and me, saying that you two have to worry about the TRPs now). And he is joking around. Aisa lag hi nahi raha hai ki aap ‘the Mohnish Behl’ ke saath kaam Kar rahe ho (You don’t even feel like you are working with ‘the Mohnish Behl’). Even Gurdeep ji (Gurdeep Kohli) who comes with so much experience. She speaks to me like I am a childhood friend or something. And I have to mention Rohit Roy and Shayanti Ghosh. Shayanti and I sit and gossip and chat a lot. The vibe on the set is so good. Nobody gives the feeling that they come with this kind of mad experience. They don’t make us feel uncomfortable at all.
Did you do any kind of workshops before you started shooting for Sanjivani?
(It was) Lovely of Sid to arrange for a workshop. It was not really to do with Ishani and the character. But a personal insight, a few unanswered questions. It was a very private kind of workshop and what kind of an experience I had! Not spoken too much about it with my family also. It takes you back to the formative years when you were growing up. But I sometimes I try to derive from that week of workshop and try to apply when I have some emotional scenes of Ishani. I think it also kind of helps me. It was nice of Sid to organise the workshop. Who does so much hard work on a show generally? You just go, one reading happens and then just go on to the set. But Sid sir thinks of even the little things.
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