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‘My rugged, awesome Afghani character is bound to create TV history’: Mukul Dev

Monday, January 29, 2018
By Chaitanya Padukone

Debonair, macho Mukul Dev is one of those fortunate film actors who has had the privilege to be a ‘co-star’ with thespian Dilip Kumar (his double role) in ‘Qila’, with former beauty-queen Sushmita Sen in ‘Dastak’, with acclaimed actors Nana Patekar and Madhuri Dixit in ‘Wajood’ and as part of the  star-cast in the  Amitabh Bachchan starrer ‘Kohraam’. Having acted in and even hosted TV shows (like ‘Fear Factor’) in the past, the bass-voiced Mukul will soon be seen in the upcoming mega TV period historical ’21 Sarfarosh: Saragarhi 1897’ in this new GEC TV Channel ‘Discovery Jeet’ which will commence telecast from February 12. The new channel Jeet is poised to “disrupt the GEC market in India, with its innovative massy content and  strong sentiment of ‘underdog winning’ and the  ‘hai mumkin’ mantra ,” according to its VP-Head Sameer Rao. Afternoon D & C connected with affable Mukul who was in a mirthful mood. Excerpts:

What made you accept this negative Afghani character in ’21 Sarfarosh: Saragarhi 1897’ TV show on ‘Discovery Jeet’?
Since you know me over the years, as an actor I am always craving to play impactful roles regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. Out here in ‘Sarfarosh..’, I play this ‘rugged’ tribal nomadic Afghan chieftain called Gul Badshah  who hails from the Pashtun mountain belt and who fiercely fights for his land. Since the ‘Battle of Saragarhi‘ is a landmark in our history, so I immediately consented to the challenging offer. In fact, I was also intrigued when I was told that the character would possibly be playing the Afghani national sport called ‘Buzkashi’, which is a horse-mounted goal-scoring tough game.

What is the theme of this historical show and why this figure ‘21’?
It’s a lavish fiction show inspired by the real-life story of 21 dare-devil soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army which defended an army outpost at Saragarhi in the North West Frontier Province. It was  against an onslaught by over 10,000 Pashtun and Orakzai tribals in September 1897. The stellar cast of the show includes popular heart-throb sinewy TV star Mohit Raina as Havildar Ishar Singh and Luke Kenny as Major Des Voeux and it is produced by Contiloe Pictures.

What was the intensive  ‘prep’ that went into your character ?
Being from Delhi we have been exposed to the Afghan culture. To get my Afghani accent right I took basic pronunciation lessons from my father who knows how to speak in Pashtun and Persian. But then I need to keep in mind that it’s a Hindi serial and watched by an Indian audience. My sword-fencing and horse-riding skills had to be fine-tuned. Sometimes, my uncovered long hair is ruffled-wild and unkempt (smiles) and I stay in tents.

What is it that will keep viewers hooked on to this show ?
The overall showmanship, the authentic costumes and treatment, the awesome bravery of the Indian soldiers, the realistic wars and the amazing Afghani culture. My rugged, wild, stand-out awesome Afghani historical character is bound to create TV history.

You suddenly ‘disappeared’ from the Bollywood scene over the past decade?
   Quite true, I may have been missing from major roles in blockbuster hit Hindi movies. But I did act in a few Hindi films that were not so prominently marketed. Frankly, I was more busy doing regional cinema. Can you believe it, that I have acted in over half-a-dozen Punjabi movies and some seven Telugu films.

There are also three Bollywood films being made on the same Saragarhi Battle subject, with popular star-heroes as the leads. Any concerns?
Actually, it only goes to show how potentially popular the subject-theme is. Since ours is not a movie, but a meticulously made TV show there is hardly any apprehension. In any case, we will be the first to connect with the (home) audiences, next month itself.

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