Q&A with Meghna Malik, one of the most popular actresses on Indian television.
Actress Meghna Malik talks of art and money for soap
Meghna Malik, 37, is one of the most popular actresses on Indian TV. She plays the lead character of Ammaji, 60, a matriarch who supports female infanticide, in Na Aana Is Des Laado, a daily soap on the entertainment channel Colors. Malik is the highest-paid actress on Colors. She earns between 65,000 rupees (Dh5,371) and 70,000 rupees for every 30-minute episode, an anonymous source at the channel says.
q Did you always believe you would become such a popular television star?
a Not in my wildest dreams. I studied theatre at the National School of Drama in New Delhi and I've acted in a few Bollywood films. This role just came along. Twenty-five women had auditioned before me but I got selected.
q You play the meanest character on television. Does that affect the public perception about you?
a Surprisingly, no. Many of my counterparts who play lady dons or female vampires are treated rudely by many fans who cannot distinguish the actor from the character she plays. But I have only received love and respect.
q Does it surprise you that a soap that deals with a grave social problem (female feticide) is popular in the entertainment genre?
a No one should expect a daily soap to change society. Our aim is not to deliver pedantic messages; we're entertainers. Yes, we've brought a grave social issue to the fore. People are more openly talking about their long-held preference for a male child. But let's be clear: we are popular because we are entertaining.
q How driven are you by television rating points (TRPs)?
a It doesn't affect me, my method of acting. But the soap won't exist without TRPs. There was a time when audiences were enticed by noodle-strap blouses, and saris. Now the audiences want juicy, layered stories, and for that we have to be drama-driven. We have to introduce twists and turns in the plot.
q You're the highest paid actor on Colors. How does that feel?
a (Laughs) Are you sure that's not a rumour? Well, there's a lot of hard work involved. I shoot for 12 hours a day, sometimes seven days per week. It takes a day and a half to produce a 20-minute programme. My life revolves around this soap. I don't have a social life.