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Exchanges on the rail

Last updated: 11 July, 2009
Srabanti Chakrabarti

NEW SHOW

Sony’s ‘Ladies Special’ revolves around the life of four women who travel to work by train and develop a bond over time, says Srabanti Chakrabarti

FOCUSSING ON WOMEN: Stills from Sony’s television serial ‘Ladies Special.’

FOCUSSING ON WOMEN: Stills from Sony’s television serial ‘Ladies Special.’You have heard about ladies special train compartments, buses and beauty parlours. Now is the time for a ladies special show on Sony. Set in Mumbai, the storyline of the serial revolves around the life of four women, the challenges they face and how they come together to counter them. Interestingly, the production house has created a replica of suburban trains in a set. 

Ladies Special stars Shubha Joshi (Neena Gupta), Nanda Shinde (Shilpa Tulaskar), Bubbly Chaddha(Ashita Dhwan) and Pooja Singh (Payel Sarkar) as four train buddies who travel to work and back together by the Ladies Special train. The show started being telecast on Sony and has already created a niche audience for itself. And the reason for this is nothing but the uniqueness of the storyline, and the production value of the show is quite good. 

Come to think of it, this is quite an interesting change from the saas-bahu soaps, where a realistic storyline took a backseat while multiple marriages and impossible relations were shown on television. Ladies Special is being produced by Optimystix who earlier produced one of the most popular shows on Indian television, Yeh Meri Life Hai. Sunday Herald caught up with the two leading ladies, Shilpa and Ashita from the show while they shared their emotions and the initial reaction from the audience on their shows.


Shilpa plays the role of Nanda Shinde — a happy-go-lucky, positive and warm-hearted woman, working for the government. Married to Shivam Shinde (played by Sandip Kulkarani), Nanda has two kids — Geetika and Garv. Nanda’s entire life revolves around her husband and two kids. “In the show, my marriage and family life are so perfect that it is the envy of everyone else,” says Shilpa who is very happy with the way the show is shaping up. “When I was first offered offered this role, I knew this show was going to be popular in Mumbai since people can relate to their day-to-day life, and the rest of India because nothing like this has been shown earlier on television. There are hundreds of mothers in Mumbai who follow the same routine — wake up early in the morning, drop their kids to school and then go to work,” explains Shilpa.  

Shilpa started her career with Shanti when she was barely 18 years old. “I started very early. I never looked like a teenager, so typical girlie roles were never offered to me. But that worked in my favour and I could do many more meaningful roles,” says Shilpa who is open to doing films as well.

FOCUSSING ON WOMEN: Stills from Sony’s television serial ‘Ladies Special.’Ashita Dhawan, on the other hand, plays the role of Bubbly Chaddha, a true blue Punjabi kuri who is loud, talks about big things, giggles and keeps everyone occupied in the train. She works as a receptionist and is married to Mintoo Chaddha (Satish Sharma). Her loud and flashy style is what makes her unique in the Ladies Special train. And she is obsessed with buying stuff on EMIs, which she repays religiously. “My character is like a breath of fresh air in the show. And it is completely different from what I am in real life. I can’t identify with my character at all,” says Ashita. “I enjoy doing comedy and I am doing that successfully,” says the actress who has been getting a number of offers to take up comedy. “As long as I am doing good work, I am not scared of getting typecast. The other day I was at a DVD shop and a young kid recognised me as EMI! That was my best gift,” she adds.

Was she also part of the train travelling brigade in Mumbai? “I have travelled by the local train in Mumbai once and the experience was not good at all. I was caught by the TT. Someone asked me to take a train from Andheri to Lower Parel and I boarded in first class with a second class ticket, without knowing the difference. I was caught by the ticket checker,” remembers the actress. “Since my school was in my locality, and my brother and I used to go to college together, I never really had to travel by train,” says Ashita who started her career as a model.

Shilpa, however, was truly part of the train brigade. She says, “Oh yes of course! I don’t think there is anyone in Mumbai who has not travelled by train. But that is not where the similarity ends between me and Nanda. I take motherhood very seriously and that is exactly how Nanda does it. I am very conservative but at the same time not narrow-minded either,” says Shilpa. She goes on to narrate an incident while explaining the character, “There is this scene in the show where Nanda’s daughter wears a mini skirt and gets bullied in the train. After returning home, she tells her mother that she won’t wear the skirt in future. Nanda responds by saying that rowdies should not control your movements. If you don’t want to wear a mini skirt, do not, but do not be driven by them,” says the actress.

“Oh yes, I am really excited about this. I knew my family and friends would like the role, but what I did not expect was the tremendous audience response to this show. The kind of feedback I have got on Facebook was unbelievable,” says the visibly excited Shilpa. Ashita’s performance has also been praised. “The best feedback I get about my show is from my mother. She goes to a lot of kitty parties and she has been telling me about how her friends have raving comments about my performance,” says the proud daughter.

“I think since I am also Punjabi, the dialect is the same. Plus, in real life also I am a very fun loving person. People around me know that very well. I guess these similarities are being reflected in the portrayal as well," adds the actress who plays a character like Babli in the superhit show Bidaai. This show salutes those ‘unsung heroes’ of our society who manage to play many complex roles, day after day with dexterity and determination.

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