Ekta Kapoor’s show Koshish - Ek Aashaa told the story of Kajal, played by Sandhya Mridul, who gets tricked by her in-laws into marrying a mentally challenged man, Neeraj, played by Varun Badola. But, Kajal deals with her circumstances in a dignified manner and fights for herself. The show’s unique storyline and commendable performances by co-actors such as Jaya Bhattacharya, Anupam Bhattacharya, Savita Prabhune, Prachi Shah and Shubhangi Gokhale, helped it garner a lot of acclaim and attention. Anurag Basu’s direction was yet another crucial element in the show.
Apparently, tarot card reader Sunita Menon advised Ekta that Sandhya would be lucky for the show. Sandhya loved the role and the story but also had other reasons to take it up. She says, “My friends thought that I was too urban and western-looking and wouldn’t be able to pull off an Indian look in a role. So, when this role came to me, I took it up as a challenge. As an actor, I want to be able to pull off all kinds of roles. After I did Koshish, I was like ‘Yeh dekho’ (now see this) (laughs).”
Sandhya was glad that Kajal’s character appealed to her. She admired that Kajal was resilent and fought for herself. Sandhya credits Anurag’s direction for helping her react to Varun’s character of a mentally challenged person without coming across as a “terrible human being.” “It could have looked like Kajal was a horrible person who isn’t being nice to a challenged man. Anurag was a great captain. We had a good bunch of co-actors too, and I am still in touch with them,” she says.
Ekta wanted Kajal to be glamorous, while Sandhya wanted Kajal to remain simple and real. The actor says, “We are both strong-minded women and we had our disagreements. I didn’t put on too much makeup or wear dark lipstick. Ekta would send lovely saris and I wouldn’t wear them. I would tell her that I won’t wear silk saris while cooking in the kitchen. She would say ‘You are my heroine’, but I would say, ‘Kajal is a dukhiyari (troubled soul)’. However, the fact is that the show turned out to be great.”
Sandhya was adored by millions of fans; she has had women coming up to her asking for advice on how to deal with their in-laws and husbands. Once, when a woman reached out to Sandhya, the actor learnt that the woman was trapped in an abusive marriage. She lived in a middle-eastern country, with her in-laws’, who took away her passport and didn’t give her any money. She told Sandhya that she got the strength to win her in-laws trust after watching Kajal’s journey and finally escaped to India. “That story was so heart-wrenching that it doesn’t leave me. I felt overrated and yet proud to have played a part that helped her,” adds Sandhya.
There was also a flip side to the reactions. Sandhya recalls an experience.“Once, when I was at Lokhandwala market and smoking, a bunch of women came up to me and said that I should be ashamed for smoking as it influences the youth. I just said, “Sorry aunty, I am Sandhya. Not Kajal,” she says, laughing.