Writer Vinita Nanda would often narrate stories, of the time she spent in a hostel, to director Raman Kumar. But little did she know then that her experiences will result in a hit TV show. Vinita’s tales intrigued Raman so much that he used them for Tara, a 1993 show about four urban women, and their friendship, ambition, love and secrets.
The title role was played by Navneet Nishan, who became a household name once it started airing. Ratna Pathak Shah, Neha Sharad and Amita Nangia played the roles of the other three girls. “We wanted to rope in all the stories into one character. But it was too much. So, we created four,” says Raman.
The show revolved around Tara, who falls in love with a married man, played by Alok Nath. He had a teenage daughter, who never accepted Tara. It was the central character on the show, and the lives of all other characters were intertwined with her. “We didn’t know that we were making something extraordinary. Today, if someone tried this concept, it might not work as well. I didn’t realise it would be so different,” says Navneet, who didn’t want to be part of the show initially, as back then, there was a notion that “if you do TV, you wouldn’t be able to move away from the image of the character you play”. “I reluctantly agreed as I was living in Mumbai, and had bills to pay. In fact, I wasn’t aware that the show was called Tara. I was pleasantly surprised after the promo released. I wasn’t keen to play Tara as I found her boring. I wanted to play the alcoholic Sheena (the role played by Amita),” she adds.
But soon Navneet fell in love with her character of an independent girl, who lived according to her rules. “She had a child out of wedlock, was non-conformist, and ran a huge business empire. It was an exciting role to play. I remember, my hairstyle, which was a short crop, became quite a rage. My hair was short when we started shooting, and Ramanji wanted me to retain that hairstyle. Usually, a female character with short hair was considered a negative one. Yet Tara was loved and accepted. I received so much love from people, which was shocking for me,” says the actor.
The show was supposed to be on air for 52 episodes, but it ended up running for more than 500 episodes. It was on air for five years. Each episode ended with a hook, which created curiosity, so that the audience would wait for the next episode.
Grusha Kapoor, who played Tara’s stepdaughter Devyani on the show, surprised the senior actors, as she “never got nervous while acting”. “I wasn’t scared of anything. It wasn’t a big deal for me to be part of the show. I wasn’t awestruck by the whole setup, as my father was a writer-director. Also, I related to my role of a rebellious teenager as I was 15-16 years old that time,” she says, adding, “Tara was a path-breaking show. We showed Sheena drinking beer, Tara having an extramarital affair, my teenage character falling in love with an older man. Back then, you didn’t have such tracks on TV shows. Tara was progressive and broke many barriers.”
Raman also recalls a kiss on the show that created quite an outrage. “It was between Navneet and Deepak Seth. It was a big shock to the audience, as even films didn’t show kissing scenes that time. They had cheat shots. It didn’t backfire, but we soon realised that going that far on a TV show wasn’t the right path,” he says.