A television series that has been grabbing a lot of headlines in the recent months is Sumit Sambhal Lega.
The Indian version of hit American sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, which recently commenced airing on Star Plus, has added some unique desi twists into the mix. Manasi Parekh Gohil plays the wife of the title character, who is caught between bringing up her family and dealing with her overbearing in-laws.
Eastern Eye caught up with the talented actress and singer recently to find out more about her, Sumit Sambhal Lega, the character she plays, her strong connection to London and more.
How do you look back on your journey as a singer and actress?
It’s been such a fascinating 10 years for me as a professional artist on TV. I have been singing since I was four, so that connect is obviously older. But just the diversity of experiences, the chance to interact with and learn from fellow artists, working with varied directors and writers has opened up my mind and made me a much more layered person. I have always done work that I believe in and sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it’s not. But I feel very privileged to have travelled across the world due to my work.
Which of your many projects has given you the greatest joy?
Be it my first project as a solo lead India Calling; my winning music reality show Star Ya Rockstar against competitors like Kapil Sharma and Sachin Pilgaonkar; my show Gulaal where I explored the role of a lifetime with its complexities and finally putting together and working on Sumit Sambhal Lega, the joy has always been in the journey, and it has been very good.
Tell us a little more about your connection to London?
I have such a special connection with London. It was because of the Globe Theatre London that I got a chance to work on the Gujarati play Maro Piyu Gayo Rangoon, based on Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well.
The Globe had commissioned only two plays from India to perform at the Globe To Globe Festival in 2013 and 2014, and mine was one of them. I played the central character Heli (based on Helena) and performed to packed houses in London. I got to explore the city and live near Southbank, right next to St Paul’s Cathedral. I would go eat at Borough Market and grab a drink with my husband at the Aqua Shard Bar. I instantly fell in love with this melting pot of culture.
How did you feel about landing a lead role in Sumit Sambhal Lega?
I have been a huge fan of Everybody Loves Raymond since I was in college. When I got to know it was being remade in Hindi and they were casting for Debra’s role, I was hoping I would get a call and I did. Finally Steve Skrovan, who is the writer of the original show, was down from Los Angeles and he picked me for Maya. I was ecstatic because the charac-ter is really meaty and any actress worth her salt would love to play her.
So you were a fan of the original show?
I followed the show a lot when I was in college and loved the earthy and real humour. It’s a complete family show and I feel they have captured the craziness and idiosyncrasies of marriage like nobody else has. I absolutely love it.
How does Sumit Sambhal Lega compare to the original?
The idea is the same – that of the man stuck between his wife and family. But we have Indianised it and made it our own, to such an extent that after a point the audience won’t think it’s a remake. It’s more of an adaptation.
How does Maya compare to Debra?
Maya is almost like Debra, but younger, spunkier and sweeter. We didn’t want her to turn into a nag as the audiences should be able to relate to her. So Maya is classy, fun and sophisticated.
Who will this show appeal to most?
It will appeal to families as it is wholesome and a complete entertainment sitcom. We don’t have many of those on TV these days. Either they are too infantile or they are downright violent.
Are you ready for the comparisons?
Yes, of course comparisons will happen, but that’s just going to be the initial reaction. Later, I’m sure the characters will grow on people.
How much does it help that the people who made Everybody Loves Raymond are involved?
It helps tremendously as they bring in their work ethic and also information about how their show was conceived and each character was created. Also they are quite strict about following the original format, so that the idea behind the show remains intact.
Are you ready for the pressure that a demanding schedule for a TV show like this puts you under?
I have been working on television for so many years that in fact, this show has been a cake-walk as I only shoot 12 hours, 22 days a month. There was a time I would be on set 36-48 hours at a stretch sometimes, and would be working 30 days a month. Once you’ve worked like that you can survive anything. So in that sense, Indian TV prepares you for the worst.
How do you think comedy compare to other genres?
It’s harder to make people laugh than cry. It’s a very serious art form and I feel the Americans have it down to a science.
Tell us something not many people know about you?
I love to read and have hundreds of books at home and on my Kindle.
What is your best and worst quality?
My best quality is my adaptability and my worst is my forgetfulness.
What are your biggest passions away from work?
Yoga – I practice yoga 365 days a year. And I love to cook and travel.
What inspires you most?
Being with passionate people and sharing ideas and thoughts. Listening to good music inspires me too.
Which would you say are your favourite fashion accessories?
I love my shoes. I have lots of different kinds of shoes.
Finally, why should we all tune in to Sumit Sambhal Lega?
Because it’s fun, mad and fresh.