ARUNDHATI GANORKAR: IN BEAUTIFUL REFLECTION!by Aparajita Krishna April 1 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 12 mins, 14 secs
Aparajita Krishna has a past with Arundhati Ganorkar, they worked on a series, and together, they walk down memory lane to bring the conversation to the present.
In the later part of the 1980s, 1990s, the very pretty face, on-screen demeanor of the very young Arundhati Ganorkar got majorly marked by the Indian advertising agencies to advertise the products in print and on television and screen. Modelling led to acting in very prominent television serials. Quoting from some of the press-clippings in access: ‘Small screen charmer’, ‘Director’s Choice’, ‘She sells more than toothpaste’, ‘Pretty woman’.
Value-adding to her merit is one who himself was and continues to be a very, very noted television star-actor and a film veteran. Kanwaljit Singh most promptly responded to my WhatsApp message soliciting his assessment of his erstwhile co-actor. “She was one of the best during those days and did some very good work. She was opposite me in a series called Daraar. Despite the vast age difference. She was actually offered another role that was more her age, but she opted for this because it was meatier! A great combination of beauty, talent and affable demeanor! The series was directed by Mr Lekh Tandon. PS: I mean every word of it. This reaction was spontaneous. For someone else I may have taken days (to send in my opinion).”
Arundhati’s response was “Oh! How nice of Kukuji to do that!”
Arundhati and I also collaborated together on a TV serial back in 1998-1999. Those were pre-digital times and in her case the photographs/stills of most of her works are sadly missing.
Over the years Arundhati chose a different calling and life. She has been on the faculty of The Art of Living Foundation run by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, conducted online meditation courses and has been a votary of organic farming.
To the audience-generation-now of television, web-series, she may or may not immediately have an instant recall, but to us of that era she still dazzles in memory. The photographs herein testify to a presence on-screen/on-camera that is most charming and graceful.
The other day I WhatsApp-d her: “Hi Aru, wht’s new?’ She replied, ‘Nothing….Why?’ Me: ‘Ha ha no generally. Gud state of mind. Wanting 2 do a Q&A based feature on you for TDE’. She: ‘I guess one arrives at it (nothingness) after lots of introspection or even frustration. Honestly is it relevant…Is anyone interested in the past actors?’ Me: ‘Yes, relevant for us. We will be in a conversation that matters to us. Readers will read.”
And we got into the flow of this exchange.
So, to begin in the now, at this stage of, say mid-life, if you were asked to summarize your own assessment of your life lived so far, personally and professionally, how easy or difficult would it be?
I think I have had a very interesting journey so far. I hadn’t ever thought that I would become a model and an actor, though I had done professional children’s plays in school. Things happened to me. Acting is a skill I had and got a chance to use it. I had good opportunity to work with directors like Lekh Tandon, Vijay Anand, Ramesh Sippy, Anand Rai, Imtiaz Ali. We did some serials with good content. Then with Govind Nihalani and Shyam Benegal in advertising films. Currently I am playing the home-minister and being there for my 82-year-old mother along with my sister and keeping my options open about work. Along with that I meditate and get more people to meditate. I would like to compare my life to a flowing river, which was moving and gushing….and now has slowed down a bit. And, I can’t tell which way it will turn and what speed it will flow at.
Are you still working at The Faculty at The Art of Living Foundation run by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, headquartered at Bengaluru? As per net information you joined it in 2001. Do you conduct the Online Meditation & Breath Workshop. There is a photo of you with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It offers several stress-elimination and self-development programs based on breathing techniques, meditation, yoga. You were also involved in their first ever organic farmer’s market. Do talk of your experience herein.
I am and always will be connected to Gurudev. However, currently I am not teaching the program actively, although that knowledge is an integral part of my life. Organic farming is one of the social projects through which the Art of living is extensively encouraging the farmers to take up organic farming. In 2004-2005 I was travelling to Vidarbha and happened to meet a farmer in Yavatmal who was using fertilizers and had received an award from the government for highest yield. This was almost 15 years back. Recently having realized what damage it had done over the years because of the chemicals in the soil he and others had switched to organic farming. As far as the farmers market is concerned it was initiated very recently in Mumbai in 2018. The intention was to connect the farmer to the buyer directly and encourage the organic products.
One also learns that you were one of the persons instrumental in getting the circular passed with Maharashtra government for sponsorship of employees to do the Art of Living courses. You also initiated the Vidarbha Farmers Project with the Relief & Rehabilitation Department, Maharashtra Government. Which year was this?
The Government Regulation (GR) was passed in Mantralaya in 2003 and the Vidarbha farmers project was in 2005-2006. Regarding the GR in Mantralaya, it was challenging to talk about meditation and Sudarshan Kriya to IAS officers and ministers as they could not assess how it would be beneficial to the employees. So, we got them to first do the program and after having experienced themselves they passed the GR. A few minutes of meditation refreshes and clears the mind to be more focussed.
You are said to be a very good cook. As also a painter and innovative at art and craft. You are quoted saying ‘One of my favourite hobbies is clicking pictures of nature.’ Tell us more about it all.
Yes, I enjoy cooking. Occasionally making special dishes. However, I strictly follow my diet and do my walks daily. I enjoy creating, be it art or craft. The process of creativity is very fulfilling. Recently I had dabbled in ceramics and pottery. Nature, whether its wildlife, birds butterflies, flowers, landscapes, sunsets, gives immense peace and joy. Observing nature is like meditation with open eyes.
Now to journey back in time and go to the beginnings. Tell us about your familial background. You are a Bombay/Mumbai born-brought up person. What were your parents professionally involved with? You went to St. Columba’s High School, Mumbai. You are said to have won an award at age of 8-years for the portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi in an inter-school play competition. Then you studied Commerce and Economics at Sydenham College of Commerce & Economics. You then did diploma in Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) from Sophia Polytech? Interesting choice.
My father Satish Ganorkar was with Century Rayon and later on worked as a consultant. He was a Ranji Cricket Player. My mom, Urmila Ganorkar, is a homemaker. I have a sister, Vaishali.
Yes, I did many plays as a child and ‘Hatachi Ghadi Tondvar Bot’ was the one, which did as many as 35 shows in schools and professionally. My mom too was in the play, playing my mother. I did a play in college too and won an award for it. I did another play on DD, called Dhruva Swamini, a play by Jayshankar Prasad. It was in my first year of college.
I didn’t study to become a CA or CS as I found accounts and economics difficult to manage with all my modelling assignments. So, after graduation I turned to do ECCE.
So, recount to us how did modelling happen? Was it at the age of 17? What are the modelling assignments in print and television/screen that stay with you? Listed are Fair & Lovely, Pepsodent, Bru coffee, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Kodak and Calcium Sandoz. Add more.
I had Mahesh Mathai, top DOP and an advertising film-director, as my new neighbour. He saw me in a saree (dressed for my friend’s engagement) and offered a mother’s role in an advertising-film for Flora Oil. Simultaneously the assistant director for the play ‘Dhruva Swamini’ suggested my name to Vinay Apte for an advertising film of Tata Gemini Tea. I got my portfolio clicked much later. I became a known face to most advertising agencies just through work and recommendations. I thoroughly enjoyed doing commercials as it was about creating an impact with your acting skills in few seconds and one got paid well too. I did two comic advertising-films. Britannia Good Day and Le Sancy Stay With Me as it challenged by ability from the mundane expressions to exploring my skills. Heinz Tomato Ketchup (directed by Abhinay Deo) and Kodak (directed by Prasoon Pandey) too are dear to me as they were well made sensitive advertising-films.
You became one of the prominent faces of Zee TV when launched in 1992. You acted in serials like Kismat with Ramesh Sippy, Daraar, Adhikar, Kahan se Kahan Tak with Lekh Tandon, Gardish with Anand Rai, Naina with Imtiaz Ali, Tiger (1993), Abhimaan (1999). The TV content back then was very rich. Tell us of your experience and anecdotes.
Ramesh Sippy is a pensive gentleman. The whole set-up was like a film shooting. Once there was a shot where I, as in the character Bharti, is angry and crying and to enhance and help to emote he asked me to turn my back to camera and hit the wall, which was a set and guided me to do it on the part with a wooden support and say the lines. During the rehearsal everything went well. However, during the take, my hand slipped and went through the cloth like material and everyone was in splits.
Lekhji was more childlike and when excited about a scene or shot would switch to instruct in Punjabi. Initially I would get irritated (I love Punjabi as a language, to hear others speak, but do not follow it much). However, over time I started to get the hang of what he was trying to say.
I was lucky to have worked with good and supportive co-actors. Many turned out to be life-long well-wishers. Kanwaljit Singh was the co-actor who I worked the longest with in Daraar. He is a kind, sensitive human being. I had the opportunity to work with Irrfan Khan in serials like Adhikar and Gardish. A good and sincere actor. Prayers for him and his family.
There was also Tiger, a detective soap aired in the 1990s. Which channel? What was your role like?
The less said the better. I don’t remember on which channel it was aired. I think DD.
Personally, you and I collaborated on the 39-episode serial Antaraal for StarPlus. It started airing in 1999, but Kaun Banega Crorepati came on air and took away the slots of the running serials. They later aired it on Star Utsav in 2006, but with no promotion. It starred Om Puri, Uttara Baokar, Utkarsh Mazumdar, you, Joy Sengupta, Sheeba Chadha, Aamir Basheer and others. It was directed by Jogi Dayal, co-written by Preeti Mamgain and me, and produced by me. The photos show the younger you back then.
It was one of those serials that had good content. Well-written and progressive too and good co-actors. The subject well-handled. Yes, it was heart breaking when KBC butted in.
I read that you have also compered concerts on stage for Lata Mangeshkarji in the US. Do tell us more.
Oh yes! Lataji asked me to MC her shows. And I had never compered any live shows so I expressed my incapability to her. However, she encouraged me to do it. Even then I asked her to permit me to think for a day before I gave the final answer. I was terrified having to do live compering and that too for Lata Mangeshkarji. But I finally did compere ‘Lata Live 1995 Tour of America’.
Have you done a film, Aapko Pehle Bhi Kahin Dekha Hai, with Anubhav Sinha? Tell us about it.
I think it was inspired by ‘Father of the Bride.’ Om Puri got to play the role originally played by Steve Martin and he did a good job of Indianizing it. My role was that of a character actor.
National award-winning film Laaddo also figures in.
It was interesting to learn a new language and understand the socio-economic- culture of Haryana. I think I risked only to get a break into off-beat cinema.
One supposes that you must have got many feature-film offers. Going by your looks and presence, and naturalness-ease in acting. Do share the offers and the reason why you did not actively pursue films?
There were offers when I was the face of Zee Channel. But I resisted because I was inspired to do only off-beat cinema. Then when I was keen to do feature-films, I met up with Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Verma too. But then the Art of Living happened to me.
In the present are acting offers coming in? Would you want to, at your pace and with your choice, act more?
No offers currently and I strongly have a “I DON’T KNOW” in me.
Lastly is being a single woman an easy choice to navigate in life? How do you look at it?
I have no parameters to compare, but I think Mumbai is a good place for single women. Relationships too over the years have changed. Women have more financial and emotional independence and that’s good. And I don’t know what I would be like in a relationship now.
One can feel and touch in Arundhati of 2023 a meditative person, in-control of herself and her inner-being, gone beyond the worldly ambitions as understood in a material sense of the term. She is now also a photographer of nature as it rests around her. Her age and choices continue to beautifully and calmly sit well on her.