Shaleen Malhotra, lead of Color’s show, Laado: Veerpur Ki Mardani’, has dismissed rumors that Meghna Malik, who plays the iconic character of Ammaji in this sequel of Na Aana Is Desh Laado, has quit the show.

“She was not shooting with us for a while due to ill-health, which led to speculation that she had put in her papers. But now she is back, and as far as I know, everything is ok.”

Coming to his emotionally unstable character, Yuvraj, he says,“It is a real challenge to play someone who loves his wife Anuskha (Avika Gor), yet can’t forget that she is the grand daughter of the same Ammaji, who had brutally killed his family years back. Hence, he keeps torturing her, in a way to hurt Ammaji. Inside, he knows what he is doing is wrong, yet his anger overcomes him. I am lucky to have got a multi-dimensional character, because normally, TV leads have single, positive emotions. His love/hatred for Anushka is counter-balanced by his devotion to his foster family–he would give an arm or leg for them.”

Shaleen is really immersing himself in his dark character. “Unlike other actors, who really don’t care about their roles, just switching on and off, I kinda need to internalize the character, to be able to do justice to the written material. And that has its dark side too, as sometimes I end up taking those emotions home. I have to sit quietly for a while or hit the gym, to get back to my real life. I even delay going home after shooting a very intense scene, lest the negativity starts to affect my personal life.”

“Being a supporter of women’s rights, I would often get beaten up back home while protecting female honour. And here, I have to do anti-women stuff, as that is part of his psyche. It takes a lot out of me; I feel I am punishing myself.”

When asked whether the ratings, which seemed a bit on the lower side,could be attributed to the dark theme, he says “I really don’t pay attention to numbers, for I had also done Arjun, which, at its peak, had record ratings, the kind no can boast about now.”

In closing, Shaleen admits that at first he was not very confident whether his on-screen pairing with Avika Gor would work,given the huge age difference between them.“But she is a very talented actor, who has done lots of good work. I am happy that audiences are warming up to our character Jodi.”