Jennifer Mistry Bansiwal is a synonymous name with the serial Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah aired on Sab TV in which she plays the role of Roshan Sodhi. She had made her film debut with Halla Bol and had done her first daily soap with Balaji Telefilms.
She has cameoed in Airlift and a lot of other such movies. However not many know that Jennifer is a classical Kathak dancer, a Karate blackbelt and a professional angel card reader and has her YouTube channel by the name JenniferMistryBansiwalJMB. Read her conversation with Team Storiyaan as she talks about memorable moments on the sets of TMKOC and her life off the camera.
Questions and answers
What was the inspiration behind Smiley Check?
The lockdown has resulted in a lot of stress and anxiety amongst everyone. However, my family and I had a good time and sometimes we used to get bored so my daughter and I decided to come up with this. I told her that whenever she was angry, I would show her a smiley and vice-versa. So the rule was that whenever the other person would show a smiley, the first person would have to smile.
This intrigued me to help others in the same way. This was the thought behind it, and I made a short film out of it. I edited it, and my husband recorded the whole footage. It has won 7 awards by now. I had to edit it again because the video quality was not very good in my first edit. So the main inspiration behind it was that – “We can change the vibration of the entire world just by a smile”.
You had also cameoed in movies like Airlift, Halla Bol, etc. how has that been for you? Are there some things that you've learned through that?
When I had performed “Krazzy Four,” I remember I was very new to this and had only one shot, and I completed the shot in one take. I remember, the director, Jaideep, had come to me and said: “Outstanding, very good you did very well.” I kept wondering what was “well.” But now I realize that as there are so many people who take an entire day or a lot of time to do a scene, it leads to the shoot being delayed. Therefore, me performing it in the first take was appreciated by the director.
In Airlift, we were shooting in Jodhpur; it was a completely new experience, and we stayed there for a long time. My husband and daughter were also present there, and we spent some family time together also. Plus, I got to learn a lot from Akshay Kumar and Nimrit Kaur. The director, Raja Menon Ji, was very good, so it was a great experience.
Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah has been running for decades. Can you narrate some memorable incidents you had on set?
It would be unfair if I say that the past twelve years have had only a few memorable incidents. Every day was a memory. We eat together, we enjoy ourselves together, even we play pranks together. I had different chemistry with everyone. If I have to narrow it down, I can remember two incidents. Once Munmun (Babita) was seated, and Amit (Champak Chacha) had thrown a dummy snake on her; she was infuriated and chased him around the whole set. Secondly, Amit (Champak Chacha), who was the humourist on set, would hit me with his cane, whenever I stood next to him. I pleaded him not to do so, but then I took the cane from him and hit him. When I hit him, Amit gave out a loud shriek, and Dilip (Jethalal) was like, “woh already Haddi hai, Jenny kya kar rahi hai, uski haddi toot jaayegi” and then I apologized. It was pure fun.
Do you ever face time commitment issues while working on TMKOC? What are the problems you have encountered on your journey with TMKOC?
Yes, the time commitment is one of the issues with which I struggle the most. Because if I have a shift at 7 o’clock, I have to leave the house at least by 6:30. I have to take my lunch and me, so I can’t meet my sleeping daughter. By the time I return, she would have gone to bed; this routine was repetitive. So I was usually baffled between giving her time or taking out time for my job.
Sometimes, it would also happen that there would be fewer scenes in a day’s shoot, but I still had to sit on the set the entire day because of the schedule crafted by the directors. Also, in daily soaps, your schedule is not made beforehand, so most of the time, we come to know about our schedules only a day before the shoot. Initially, these were the issues, but being an actor it’s a part and parcel of life.
Tell us about one best and worst thing about working in TMKOC for more than ten years.
The best thing would be my character. I had a lot of freedom to do my hair up in any way I want, and I can wear whatever I want, be it a saree, salwar-kurta, gowns, or Punjabi night dresses. I also like wearing jewelry a lot, and I can do that on the show. Sometimes my scenes get over early, and I do not have to worry about the dialogues, which are some of the best things.
As I mentioned before, the worst thing about it was the time aspect; we cannot plan anything. Because when you are committed to one serial, you cannot plan to do anything else like an ad, another serial, or a web series. Being an actor has its own pros and cons.
Which character/co-actor are you closest to from the cast of TMKOC?
As I had mentioned before, I share a very unique and different relationship with everyone. Munmun (Babita) is very close to me; for many years, we have been sharing many things and everything. With Madhavi (Sonalika) and Ambika (Komal), I share a spiritual bond. When we sit down together, we end up discussing spirituality to great lengths for hours. Madhavi ( Sonalika) and I shared the same room, and we would together listen to a lot of Kishore Kumar songs.
I had a different bond with Disha (Daya ben) and Neha (Anjali), and I used to share the vanity van. Disha was very naughty, and she used to perform a lot of nonsense comedy on which I would end up laughing. Mandar (Bhide) is almost like a family friend; our families have gone out together many times to places like Nashik. His wife is a very good friend of mine.
Azad (Dr. Hathi) was the closest to me, and he used to share a lot of his secrets with me, and we bonded over food. He would come on the set every day and ask me, “Jenny, Aaj khane main kay layi?” Everyone would know Azad (Dr. Hathi) had arrived. He used to like my Dal-Chaawal a lot, and he used to bring a Sindhi paratha, which I used to like a lot. Even with the directors, I have good bonding, and all the unit members on set. It was a lot of fun altogether.
How would you describe your relationship with the cast members? Do you have a karmic connection with Disha (Daya Ben)?
I have a different bonding with everyone, and the vibes are different, but I get along with everyone. If I have to ask anything technical, I go to Kush (Goli). With Disha (Daya Ben), I shared a vanity for five years, and she also lives in Powai, and I too live in Powai; her husband’s name is also Mayur, and so is mine. Her brother’s name is also Mayur, and his birthday is on 26th August, and my daughter, Leikisha’s birthday, is also on 26th August. Disha’s ( Daya Ben) daughter’s birthday is on 27th November, and my birthday is also on 27th November. So I keep telling her that we have a karmic connection because we just have too many similarities, and during the lockdown, we became closer and shared a lot and talked a lot, which was nice.
You started your acting career in 2008 with the film Halla Bol which featured Ajay Devgn, Vidya Balan, and many others. Was it a good start for you?
It was my first film, but before that, I had done a serial. The very first serial I had done was Kusum, a Balaji Telefilms production. It was a tiny role that I did.
So my first role was in Balaji Telefilms. Even after my delivery, I had worked with Balaji on the show Naagin, but due to some issues with the dates, I could not complete it, and I could do only a few episodes, and I had to leave it in the middle. With Balaji, I have done quite a few small roles like Kahaani Ghar Ghar ki, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, and then Kasoti Zindagi ki. I had a good role in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, in which I was Makhrand Deshpandes’s wife. But yes, I did begin my journey with Balaji, but TMKOC was my first hit, and in films, Halla Bol was my first hit.
All the small roles led me to the bigger ones, so yes, I can say it has been a good start.
Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah is among the longest ongoing shows, how does it feel to be a part of that family for a long time?
Whatever I am in my life today is because of Taarak Mehta. I am lucky that even after delivery, and my kid turning three years old, I returned to the sets. What could be greater than this? Moreover, everything from the hair to the character and dressing sense, everything was according to my preference. Not many people know, I had started practicing Buddhism in 2007. It is called ‘Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism’. It is an organization called SGI (Soka Gakkai International). We chant mantra- ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’. So, I had visualized to bag the role of a similar kind, and Roshan happened to me. What more could I get then?
I have started a lot of things during this lockdown. I have done Reiki, I do Angel card reading, and I meditate. So, I do a lot of things, and I need time for myself. There can be nothing better than Taarak Mehta because and I receive loads of appreciation. Everywhere I go, people would call me Roshan. They treat me with respect and love. I am blessed and grateful.
A lot of actors avoid playing a character for the long term as it wraps into their identity. So what made you stick to your character for a decade?
All my relatives are Parsi in Mumbai. I have to talk with them in Parsi strictly. The mentality of people is that they think they are being typecast. But I believe that for 12 years I have been typecast and I am getting paid for that. I am enjoying it, and I am doing all of my work along with the household chores. It’s not about typecast; it’s about doing things that you love.
It’s not necessary to have done Roshan’s role for 12 years so that I won’t get anything else. It’s not like that. It just takes a moment to break that stereotype. You never know what becomes a hit. Whatever you think happens. My future and my life will be built on my thoughts.
For all its glory, acting is notorious for its unpredictability. So do you have anything parallel to your acting career?
I had started a business of jewelry. I started supplying jewelry in production houses on rent. I hadn’t re-joined Taarak Mehta back then. But then, when I got back to Taarak Mehta again, all of this was left behind as I couldn’t give time. But now, because of lockdown, I have a lot of time. So, I have started a lot of things. I am a professional Angel card reader. I do Angel’s card reading along with radical reading (a type of healing modality). It’s a different healing course. I have a different healing group, too, in which there are more than a hundred people. I am already taking a workshop ‘Chakra Revival’. The people who had created a radical course manage this, so I mentor people. I am doing a lot of healing, and people have felt at ease after talking to me.
Recently, I have the channel on YouTube named JenniferMistryBansiwalJMB. It’s been there for a long time, but I have recently been active on it. I am working on that. Even that is slowly turning into payments. There are many things, and of course, we need to put hard efforts. I learned editing in lockdown. I edit my videos. So, I am saving money, and the money is also flowing in.
You have your acting roots deep in theatre, so can you talk about your journey as a theatre artist. What are some of the prominent things you learned since your days as an amateur actor?
I joined the theatre in Jabalpur Madhya Pradesh. I had done many plays. I was doing theatre also, and because I am a certified Kathak dancer, my Kathak shows would also go on simultaneously. I left the theatre in a few years. I might have done it for 2 to 4 years. After that, I became friends with Mayur, and there was a track change. I got married, and my husband Mayur encouraged me. Slowly, I got back on track. The appreciation that you get in the theatre is something that you don’t get in the movies and television. In the film, we get to know the reaction of people after they watch the film. So, the intoxicating feeling of clap that we get in theatres is the best thing.
You also have a diploma in classical dancing Kathak and even in Bundelkhandi folk dance. Can you talk to us about your passion for dancing?
I would be around 4 or 5 years when my mother enrolled me for Kathak. I completed my diploma in the year 1995 in Kathak. It was for eight years. I had completed Bundelkhandi folk music in 1998 that was of 2 years. I couldn’t practice that much, but I have still participated in the inter-college competitions. I have done Bundelkhandi performance in Nukkad Natak. For shows like Kathak, I had left it for years. Back then, I had performed a lot, but after that, I started Kathak in the lockdown after twenty years. I took off my ghungroos and made a video on that. I have made a Kathak video. My daughter Lekissha is also learning Kathak and Karate. I have a black belt in Karate too and I am practicing Karate again after 25 years in lockdown.
Since I am doing it after so many years, I am not good and flexible as I was before. I don’t remember that much. But I hope to continue practicing this in the future.
Having also worked for English theatre, how different has been the experience for? How can language play a part in making an experience different?
I have done only one English theatre play. I had practiced for months. I got to learn a lot and even made good friends. My English improved a lot through them. Unless we don’t have the right audience, English theatre is not that enjoyable. It was a corporate setup play and not a catchy story. So, maybe that is why it didn’t go that well, but if it had been a great concept, the audience would have enjoyed it. But still, it was a very good experience.
You have a collection of Shayaris on your insta. How did you get into shayaris?
I have been interested in Sher-o-Shayari since childhood. I like the Urdu language a lot. I have four to five books in that language, which is on Shayari. I had even written a few Shayaris long time back. But then, the interest was left behind.
The lockdown has allowed me to start it again. Everyone thinks that since I am Parsi, my Hindi isn’t that good. So, I will fulfill my passion too, and even people will get to know that I know Hindi and Urdu. I have started in that way. I just love it. I wish that I get a role in which I can speak in Urdu and present a Shayari. In a way, they have a different character. That will be great. Of course, I love it. But my Urdu isn’t that good. I have to search for a few meanings here and there, but still, I love that.
In what ways has meditation helped you? Do you think practicing meditation is essential?
I have started meditation for two years. Before that, I used to chant. Since the time I have started meditation, I feel out of the world. I feel as though I am traveling. I feel that my soul goes away from my body. I just feel that bliss. We call that astral world and I travel out of my body and come back. It feels light and great after that. I sit and meditate twice a day.
Meditation is about paying attention and being in the moment. Don’t think either about the past or about the future. So, every moment is meditation. If you can do that, your life will fall into place. What happens is that you don’t enjoy the present. You keep worrying about the past or future. So, I am achieving that, and enjoying every moment in meditation. I meditate twice a day and have my yoga sessions. Meditation and yoga has helped me maintain a balance.
Do you believe in affirmations and healing therapies. What is your motto of life?
Affirmations have helped me a lot. I had done many workshops. I even heard videos based on affirmations. My morning starts with healing for half an hour. I am an ardent follower of The Secret Movie and my life is a series of manifestations. I believe in paying gratitude, spreading unconditional love, living in present, understanding and valuing every soul.
My funda of life at any given moment is EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY as they say in Parsi – Khavana peevanu ane majjama revanu.