Actioners and cop thrillers have been largely dominated by men. And the cops played by our male superstars follow a template, that of brawny men taking on bad guys by often defying gravity but always staying true to the larger-than-life formula.
But the boom in the OTT universe has made sure that no women actors are left behind. While we have seen many packing punches, these female cops, more often than not, are humanised as they straddle real world problems. Joining the precedent set by actors Shefali Shah in Delhi Crime and Raveena Tandon in Aranyak, among others, is actor Gauahar Khan.
In her third web outing this year titled Shiksha Mandal, which released recently, she is seen in the avatar of a cop for the first time. She also engages in some solid action sequences, and for her, it is one of the biggest reasons that drew her to the MX Player original series, that revolves around a fraud that shook the entire educational system.
In an exclusive conversation with News18, Khan says that she decided to take on the role of a police officer in Shiksha Mandal as it lends ample substance to the plot and adds pace to the narrative. “Playing a cop got me excited because it was an action-oriented role and it assumed a pivotal importance in the series. I was extremely ecstatic that I was getting an opportunity to do action for the first time. I love thriller as a genre and Shiksha Mandal is a social thriller, so I had to do it,” she shares.
Happy to have checked one of the wishes from her bucket list, the Begum Jaan (2017) and Ishaqzaade (2012) actor tells us, “Doing action onscreen has always been a dream. My father used to always tell me, ‘Beta, you should do some action-oriented role.’ Now that he has passed away, I wish he had seen me playing a cop in Shiksha Mandal, riding a horse and firing bullets, all on my own. He would have been really proud, but I’m sure that he’s smiling from up there as well.”
Quiz her on her homework to slip under the skin of her character and grasp the body language of a policeperson to the T and Khan says, “I’ve seen people in the police force of varied personalities. I didn’t want my character to be a caricature and have a certain body language [that’s usually associated with a cop].”
Talking about essaying the part which is a unique blend of unflinching strength and vulnerability, she elaborates, “She’s a daredevil and would go to any extent to solve a case. She’s a person who knows her mind but she’s also extremely real when it comes to her equation with her husband. My endeavour was to make her as believable and real as possible. She’s extremely vulnerable when it comes to her dynamic with her husband even though she wants to be very strong about it.”
But Khan is quick to admit that playing only strong characters with a voice and spine isn’t her priority. “I want to play all kinds of parts and especially, the ones where I’m not seemingly strong. But 80 per cent of the roles that have been offered to me are of women who’re extremely strong. I like to play characters that appeal to me; they need not be of a strong stature or personality,” she asserts.
The 39-year-old recalls her characters in the web series Best Seller and the short film Sorry Bhaisaab (2021), who called their own shots despite not being quintessentially strong. “In Best Seller, my character was very naïve to her husband’s ways. Although she was a strong woman at work, in her personal relationship, she would give in to every nonsense of his. That was quite a mix of two personality traits. And in Sorry Bhaisaab, I played a typical high-headed middle-class woman, who was unreasonable and always wanted the big things in life,” she remarks.
For Khan, the goal is to defy every rule in the book. Having transitioned to acting from modelling and doing a dance numbers in a bunch of films, she feels that she had to walk the unconventional path right since the beginning of her career.
She explains, “I just hope I can keep defying every kind of stereotype. When I had started out as an actor, there was a norm that if you don’t star opposite a big actor or only do item songs, you’re never going to be an actress. I’ve been fighting these things throughout my career and I’m glad that I’ve been able to do so successfully.”
The actor, who was recently seen in the music video Baarish Mein Tum, adds, “I’m not a rebel and I don’t want to prove something just for the sake of it but if it comes my way, I would definitely want to fight the stereotypes. But whenever people dissuade me from doing something, I say, ‘Bring it on!’ I want to try and prove them wrong. I’ve done that in the past. In fact, my entire career has been all about that and I hope that I can continue to do so in the future as well.”