"National Crush" cries the social media to which one lady from Sri Lanka adds "no international crush"—this is to describe Gaurav Khanna, who is right now playing the role of Anuj Kapadia in the series "Anupama" telecast on the Star Plus Channel.
When there was nothing left in the series, on the September 2nd episode, Anupama looks for her lost sandal and a male hand keeps the sandal under her foot a la Cinderella style, and the camera pans to the face of the man who, with a glitter in his eyes, looks deeply into the eyes of Anupama, that is, into the eyes of the viewers, and Anuj Kapadia has arrived not only in the series but also into the hearts of women cutting across age, regional, and even national barriers.
The writers had conceived of Anuj Kapadia in their imagination, but it becomes the responsibility of the actor who plays the role to completely translate and transfer the character and their imagination onto the screen. It is a cliché to say that AK is a phenomenal hit and the TRP just remains at an unbeatable 4.4 solely on the strength of Gaurav Khanna.
The character the writers had imagined was a handsome man in his early 40s who is super rich and super successful but nourishes an ek tarafa pyar for Anupama as he is captivated by her sadgi, which he considers to be her sringar. Writing a character like this is very easy, but transferring it to the screen and bringing out the same effect is a gargantuan task.
But Gaurav Khanna, right from his entry episode till today’s episode, had been riding the series like a colossus and had completely snatched the series even from Anupama, the heroine. He often tells Anupama that in a woman’s life, she plays the main role and all others are only side characters. But ironically, Khanna has even sidelined Rupali Ganguly, aka Anupama, and it is Khanna all the way. He has made himself so indispensable that he is made to be "present" even in scenes where he is not needed to be. A mere glimpse of him would ensure that viewers would not switch the channel. In the episodes to come, there is going to be more romance (Khanna will be in total control of all the scenes, I am sure, and Ganguly is just going to be a foil here).
The makers of the Maha episode that aired on December 12th wisely divided the air time between Sudhanshu Pandey and Khanna–In the first 20 minutes, Anuj Kapadia was the subject of discussion, and in the second 22 minutes, it was AK all the way. When Anupama struggles with her inner self to come to terms with the sweet truth that she had succumbed to Kapadia’s charms, the makers chose the most romantic song, "mit gayi dooriyan main yahan hoon yahan". An apt song, and Khanna just executed it brilliantly with panache. He brought in so much passion in his eyes that there were many repeat views for this song alone.
Love scenes are not as easy to execute as one imagines. Once, Kamal Haasan, one of India’s greatest performers, said, "You just give me a chair and I will enact a beautiful love scene for you." Such was the confidence of the man in his talent for transferring emotions on the screen.
And I see the same confidence in Khanna now. He has those great lady killer looks with broad expressive eyes which he uses very effectively at the right places-just winks lightly (reminding us of the great Rajesh Khanna), sometimes mischievously too, and looks longingly yearning for his love’s attention, emitting fire when anybody even verbally hurts his love. The way he uses his eyes, I am reminded of the famous remark that Kumudam Tamil journal had written about the late Sri Vidya in the film Apoorva Raahangal: Sri Vidya’s eyes are like the set because every emotion in the film is taking place in her eyes. Similarly, Khanna creates an out of this world experience with his eyes.
Actually, there is no proper set also erected as AK's house. Hindi serial producers are noted for this, but here they have thought it unnecessary because in all the scenes Khanna appears, they seem to revel in tight close-up shots, so the background pales into insignificance.
His baritone voice, especially in reciting shayaris, is just impeccable. He gives the right pauses and has a clear diction that forces the audience to listen to him again and again. No wonder there are several videos which the fans have edited and brought out, compiling all the poems which he says to and for his love.
To be frank, this character is a very difficult one to portray. It is an arduous task to make it so convincing, and even more difficult to make the women fall in love with him. Khanna’s execution is just more than perfect. His bol doon, bol doon looking at Anupama’s eyes has made women’s hearts skip several beats. This has become as popular as Rajesh Khanna’s eye wink and SRK’s palat among women.
Khanna has been the TV lover boy for a long time, but this role is more difficult to sell to the audience.This is not the typical hero romancing a young girl, but the woman he has to love is not very good looking, has crossed forty, and is the mother of three grown-up children, one of whom is already married. In an Indian context, especially for Indian middle class women, accepting this concept itself is a challenge.
The writers had created the role, but the onus was completely on the actor to make the audience accept Anuj Kapadia and also his love for Anupama. It is a tight rope walk and a mild slip by Khanna means everything will be finished. If it had backfired, the character of Kapadia would have turned into a joker in the eyes of the viewers. It was Khanna’s looks, his body language (already his "thumps up" sign is very popular), his dialogue delivery, and the total package that had made Anuj Kapadia an "international craze".
Right from his monologues on his love for Anupama, to the outburst, "Han main pyar kartha hoon anupama se, chabbes sal pehle kartha tha, aaj bhi karta hoon, hamesha karta rahunga," to his sudden direct confession to Anupama, "Main tumhari nazron me nazre dalkar kehta hoon ki main tumse pyar karta hoon tumse pyar karta hoon," to a straight-down-to-earth, "I love you the most," Khanna’s repeated love confessions all had an extra-ordinary style and panache.
Khanna’s greatest strength is that he is a rare combination of several qualities rolled into one. He is a macho who can take on goons yet has an impish smile and a child-like charm. He is tough and firm yet very suave. He is debonair and sexy yet very soft and thoroughly romantic. His smile is so magical that the moment he appears on the screen, it connects him emotionally with the viewers.
He is the type of man who makes every woman feel like holding his hand and telling the world by having him that she has conquered the world; he is the type who makes her feel proud; he is the type who she expects to whisper in her ears, "I am there for you in all your good and bad times." Khanna has truly created that kind of magical aura around him.
The serial watchers are mostly women, and they are family-oriented women. But within every woman, there is always a hidden teen-aged girl who still loves to live in the world of fairy tale romance. Khanna is the type who exactly fits into that mould and has easily paved his way into the hearts of all the women who have fallen head over heels in love with him. Last week, when the makers of their lover boy made him a cry baby, the women just pardoned it and saved the series just because they love him so much.
The writers had created Anuj Kapadia – no denial of that – but it was Gaurav Khanna who made Anuj Kapadia lovable and adorable. If not for him, Anuj Kapadia would have flopped and so would have the series. Anupama began as a woman's fable—after 356 episodes, Khanna effortlessly changed the dynamics and made it into a fable about Anuj Kapadia and Anupama—this is Khanna's personal triumph.
For the writers, well, anything is acceptable as long as the cash keeps flowing in. It is, after all, a business of entertainment.