Sakshi Tanwar
Sakshi Tanwar Image Credit: Netflix

Indian actress Sakshi Tanwar will be in fierce form as an enraged mother on a mission to exact revenge on all those who wronged her differently-abled daughter in her latest upcoming thriller series ‘Mai’, out on Netflix on April 15.

“This is a story of an ordinary character caught in very extraordinary circumstances,” said Tanwar in an interview with Gulf News.

Sakshi Tanwar in ‘Mai’
Sakshi Tanwar in ‘Mai’ Image Credit: Netflix

Directed by Atul Mongia, the trailer of this thriller shows a hapless mother Sheel (Tanwar) witnessing a tragic and freak motor accident which kills her daughter and how she discovers that there were some criminal forces behind her personal tragedy. The series then becomes a murky concoction of corrupt police, morally bankrupt politicians, and high stake money games.

The series, produced by Karnesh Ssharma of ‘Bulbul’ and ‘Pataal Lok’ fame, also stars Raima Sen and Vivek Mushran. But it is Tanwar, whose credits include the hit television serials such as ‘Bade Ache Lagte Hain’ and ‘Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii’, who will be doing the heavy lifting. Although she has a solid body of experience behind her, Tanwar claims she’s an accidental actor who just took every challenge that presented itself including being a part of Bollywood blockbuster ‘Dangal’.

“Television happened as an accident and films too ... When you jus think I have done enough, something new and exciting comes up,” said Tanwar.

Excerpts from our chat with Tanwar as we talk about her new thriller, her acting process, and more:

On why she chose to sign up for the series ‘Mai’:

“The storyline, the character sketch of Sheel, her journey, the cast, the platform and the production house were the deciding factors. There wasn’t anything there which made me want to say no. Sheel is a beautiful character and it’s a role that I have never done before. It was a great opportunity to explore that side of an actor which I haven’t been able to do so far.”

On playing a strong part of Sheel who goes from meek to fierce:

“It’s incredibly empowering. Although I have been very fortunate to have always portrayed strong character even on television, it’s always great to be the centre of the story. And a lot has changed in the portrayal and the presentation and the premise. It has shifted and there’s far better balance.

I am happy that with the advent of OTT, there’s a new range of stories and characters that are coming up, and you can literally choose what you want to do or where you want to see yourself.

Sakshi Tanwar in 'Mai'

On turning fierce after a tragedy in the series:

“These are fictional stories and we have a chosen to play a certain prototype here. Motherhood is an emotion that is universal. If any mother sees something wrong being done to her child, she will react. Here too she she’s a mother who wouldn’t stay quiet when it comes to her daughter …. Sheel in ‘Mai’ has such a beautiful graph. It allows me to play the docile and meek mother, to a merciless one as she tries to uncover the truth. There’s an element of heroism in there.”

On an emotionally-demanding role taking a toll on her:

“As an actress, I can easy switch on and off. And that happens to me organically. Yes, the after-effects were more physical. I felt more tired, my eyes would hurt, and I felt drained physically. But there was no emotional residue as such. But that’s the way I function as an actor. I could be laughing a few minutes before an intense scene, and I will be able to do that. I don’t know what my process is, but I have been doing that organically for years now. When a director calls for action, I cease to be myself.”

On the legwork for her role:

“A lot of preparation definitely goes into portraying a character like Sheel in ‘Mai’ as there’s a graph. We did workshops with the showrunner Atul Mongia. We had workshops with all actors where we sat down and discussed our view points and what’s working for us and what’s not working for us. We had long conversations where we tried to work out some of the pivotal scenes in the series and how we should do it in a certain manner. But everything happened organically. Sheel in the first episode is different from the Sheel in the last episode … I had to do a bit of technical preparation in terms of playing a volunteer nurse in an old-age home. I had to learn the basics of nursing and then learn the sign language too along with learning how to ride a scooty.”

On working with actors like Raima Sen and more:

“A lot depends on our energies of your co-actors who help you give a completely different perspective to the scenes … None of us had worked with each other before. So all our energies were completely new for each other … And no scenes are alike in the series and the intensity level keeps increasing …”

Raima Sen in 'Mai'
Image Credit: Instagram/RaimaSen

On her most difficult scene:

“It was very challenging and very difficult to map this particular scene where the accident involving her daughter happens right in front of the mother’s eyes. I was blank because there was no situation that I could draw from real life that was even remotely close to the scene. No one has ever in a situation like that and imagining it was difficult too. But we shot that scene in the most organic and the directors were kind enough to let me run with my emotions … The aspect of survivors’ guilt is also beautifully mapped in the script.”

On being a part of a series with a differently-abled character:

“Vamika has done a beautifully tremendous job. Even though she can’t speak, she will come across as a completely natural and real character like any one of us. And that’s the beauty of OTTs, everyone is finding a space here without being looked down upon or with just a sympathetic eye. Her character is as real as the rest of us.”

On the way she perceives herself as an actor:

“I am a very under-confident actor … Even when I was doing television, it was like and error method on how I could do it differently. I still get butterflies in my stomach before every scene even though I have been around for so long. I am not used to the idea. I get jitters and my hands are cold before every scene … But ‘Mai’ gave me so much freedom to explore myself as an actor.”

Mai_Netflix_SakshiTanwar 2-1649842835150
Sakshi Tanwar will feature in 'Mai', a series on Netflix Image Credit: Netflix

Don’t miss it

‘Mai’ is out on Netflix on April 15