Monday, August 28, 2006
Pavan Malhotra - the name might not strike an instant chord with the present generation audience. But anyone who was glued to the small screen in the 80s and remember serials like Nukkad and Circus might identify the talented actor. Talented because his first two films where he played the title role (Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro and Bagh Bahadur) won the National Award, and both in the same year (1989) as the best Hindi and best Indian film. His National award connection doesn't end there. He won the Best Actor award for the film Fakeer in 1998. However, despite all the critical acclaim, commercial success always eluded Pavan.
Hopefully things should change with next film Don. Yes, Shahrukh Khan's Don where he plays the negative lead.
You are being seen in Don after a very long time. How does that feel? It feels good. Any actor likes their work to be seen on the big screen. It's a big high.
Two of your films Black Friday and Perfect Husband could not hit the screens. Are you disappointed?
I feel very sad. As far as Black Friday is concerned, the verdict is around the corner. The producers are quite involved and a lot of people have put in their hard-work. I think it is one of the best films around and so everybody should get to see it.
Tell us about your role in Don?
I am playing one of the villains in Don and I found it really interesting. It's going to release this Diwali so go see it.
Would you call this film a comeback of sorts?
You can say that. This will be the release of a feature film having me in it after a long time. I am doing very few commercial films and if it starts with Don you can call it something of a comeback.
Was there any added pressure working on a remake?
No, I don't think there was any added pressure. I am not the kind of actor who takes notes and thinks about what the original role was, etc. Farhan Akthar gave us a bound script and it is not a shot by shot copy of the original. He has given his own touches to the film. The script and the way he has shot the film are different. The characters are also finer. Even otherwise as an actor it is your job to read a script and conceive the character, the actor wants it to. One should never go by what has been done.
You are apparently enacting Kamal Kapoor's role from the original. Didn't you even go through the original film or check out Kamal's character?
No, as I said I am not that kind of actor. If a film is being adapted from a novel and if the director insists I read the novel then I will go and read it. Otherwise I will go by the script because that is what my character should be like and that is what is the point of view my director has. So I won't go and watch Mr. Kamal Kapoor and see what he had done. I am a thinking actor. If 5 people are playing the same role then the 5 will all portray it in 5 different ways. All 5 can be right as well so it's not as if I am right and Kamal is wrong.
You are also doing My Name is Anthony Gonsalves as well. Tell us about that.
My Name is Anthony Gonsalves is being directed by E. Niwas. I can't talk much about it but I am playing a guy connected to the underworld. This is another Pavan Malhotra series of underworld films and in one way it's a challenge for me to do an underworld character in a different manner trying to give different shades which makes it different for me. I can't just lie back and do it. Off course the script also helps as well. The seed is always in the script. How you trim the tree and give it the perfect look is up to the actor. I have played roles related to the underworld about 4 times now and have always tried to give a different touch. Even a don has different shades like the background he has come from and what stage he is in his profession. In my film Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, he is trying to climb the stairs. So the body language and the attitude are different.
So do you prefer playing underworld roles?
No, I like to act with whatever is offered to me. Once a script is offered, I read the script and if the role is important then I like to perform it. I am an actor and like to play all different sorts of roles. It is just a co-incidence that I have acted as a don so many times. If a role is offered to me, I won't say that I have already done that but will see if the role is different or challenging. If you are an actor then you should do all sorts of things and not just stick in a particular slot.
Apart from Don and My Name is Anthony Gonsalves, what else are you doing?
I am waiting for a film called Pachas Lakh which Percept Picture Company and Sahara are going to release. They will be out with a print this month and are looking for a right time and date to release the film because it is not a big starrer. It is a very interesting film and I really like it and would want everybody to watch it.
You are credited indirectly for getting SRK a break into films. How does that feel?
That's not true! Nobody gives anyone a break. If I could give a break, I could have given it to myself. If someone is saying that, it is generous of them. Everyone comes with their own luck and destiny. Destiny brings people to the right place at the right time. If I was the source of something, it is his destiny.
Coming to your pre-Don days, tell us how your career as an actor began.
I started doing theatre in Delhi in the late seventies. I was in college at that time. It started off as a hobby. I never thought that I will become a professional actor who will be paid for his acting. I came to Mumbai because this is where the films were being made. Those days, I used to get Rs.100-150 for my performances on Doordarshan. I had a short stint of plays and skits on it but my acting started full swing with a serial called Nukkad.
Tell us about your Nukkad experience.
To begin with, it was a break of sorts for me. I got an interesting role and got to work with interesting people. Aziz Mirza and Kundan Shah were there. They worked as a team. It was a very good team to work with. There were two types of actors. One set was whose careers were being revived with the serial and the others were like me who were just starting off. The entire unit was so relaxed. Most of the times there were twenty six actors in one frame. So it was a great workshop in taking your cue and then giving space to another actor. After theatre, I was suddenly facing the camera. So it was a great training ground for me. It was a very popular serial and people still remember it.
Then there was also Mahesh Bhatt's Zameen Aasman on TV. Tell us a little about that.
People keep telling me that I was a part of very good serials. I feel lucky that such kind of work was offered to me. I worked with Hrishikesh Mukherjee in another serial Ujaale Ki Ore and of course Mahesh Bhatt's Zameen Aasman. I consider myself lucky because I worked in good serials and had good roles and good directors. Zameen Aasman was also an interesting experience. The character was complicated. I felt that the audience was not able to decide whether he is a good or a bad guy. That's what happened. Whenever he lied, he never made faces. In real life, whenever we lie, we never make faces. People just lie with a straight face. As an actor, I feel very good that people still remember my work.
Do you think the television scenario has changed from then to now with more melodrama seeping in and the actual story being sidelined?
Change is always happening. Even cinema has changed. All sorts of cinema and TV should happen for everyone. The bigger chunk of what's happening can disturb us. It also differs from person to person. Maybe what I don't like may appeal to someone else. A film like Omkara really excited me. I saw it twice and the second time I saw it, I liked it even more. I'm planning to watch it again. Maybe, someone else won't like it. There should be all sorts of genres for everyone. I have done serials which have had a very realistic approach.
Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro has turned to be a cult film in parallel or offbeat cinema. You played the title role. How did the film happen? Share some experiences about that.
I have worked with Saeed Mirza in Nukkad. I did Manoranjan and Circus with the same company. I was not the first choice for Salim Langde.... When the script was being written, the writers realized that they needed a younger guy, who can bring vulnerability to the character. I think Naseeruddin Shah was the original choice. When I was told that I had been selected for the role, I was so excited that I could not even react.
Is it true that you and Makarand Deshpande went to Chor Bazaar to get a feel of the character?
I knew that area as I had done production in that area for Saeed. I told Makarand that I'd take him around there. We would just hang out in the area, have tea and talk to people. We tried to get a feel of how people look and their body language.
Buddhadev Dasgupta has just won a National award with Kaalpurush. His first national award film Bagh Bahadur starred you in the lead role. That was by far one of your best performances...
I don't know if it was my best performance or not. I got that film immediately after Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro. As an actor, it was very exciting for me because both the films were poles apart. One was a guy who was flamboyant and was trying to impress people. He was trying to be a part of the underworld biggies. Then suddenly, you play a folk dancer who is so soft, without any aggression. He's a star in himself. Then he suddenly realizes that people are leaving his performance to see something in a bigger setup. Even the woman he loves has gone for the person who runs that setup. He feels that everything is collapsing. Both the film won National Awards. Bagh Bahadur won the National Award for Best Film. Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro won for Best Hindi film. Both the films were appreciated abroad. Because of these projects, I got the lead role in the BBC film, Brothers in Trouble. For Bagh Bahadur, it would take hours to put on the make up as some of it was paint. It had to be removed with kerosene. Looking back at all the efforts put in, I think it was worth it.
Tell us something about Brothers in Trouble...
My work always got me work. Someone saw one film and offered me another. Robert Buckler saw Bagh Bahadur in the London film festival and then offered me Brothers in Trouble. Because of Brothers in Trouble, I got a small role in 1947: Earth. There is a chain of your work getting you work. As an artist, it feels good that your work is being appreciated.
There was a trend of such low budget, offbeat films during the 80's. Do you think that genre of sensible and non-commercial cinema like Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Bagh Bahadur, Tarpan or Earth doesn't exist now?
No it does. With time, the look of the films change because of technique. What matters is the attitude behind the film. Take a film like Munnabhai M.B.B.S. You may say that it is a hardcore commercial film. But it still is a brilliant film. Film making in itself is an art. We can't call a film parallel just because it is low budget. Omkara is a brilliant effort. There were other recent films like Seher and Yahaan which were great. Black was an experiment in a hardcore commercial format. New people, new ideas and new shooting styles are coming in. Good films are still being made.
You've also experimented with regional films...
I did a few Telugu films. I did a film called Aithe for which I won a Filmfare and their State Award. It was a villainous role. The only thing that was difficult was the language. I had to work very hard because I didn't know that language. You can mug the dialogues but you need to know what you're saying. But on the whole, I enjoyed that stint as well, since it was a different experience.
How was it working with Aamir Khan in Earth?
It was very good. People often ask me how it is to work with stars. I have worked with both Aamir and Shahrukh and they're just like any other normal person and are very focused. During Earth, the unit would start at 4:30 am. Throughout the shooting, it has never happened that the unit was kept waiting for Aamir. At times when I reached on sets, he was already there.
Why did we see so less of you post Earth? Weren't you happy with the roles you were offered?
I think you should ask the producers that! I was not really offered anything really exciting. As an actor, I can't create work for myself. After doing the kind of work that I have, all I asked was for something interesting. I don't think I'm asking for too much.
What kind of roles are you looking out for in the future?
Anything that has a good script. My role should be important in the script. But now I have films like Pachas lakh, My Name is Anthony Gonsalves and Don. Hopefully, Black Friday should release soon. As an actor, I am constantly looking for work.
What do you prefer - theatre, movies, TV?
Once I shifted to Mumbai from Delhi, I didn't do theatre. I was very clear that I wanted to be a part of films. TV started at that time. If given a choice to do my previous roles for TV or Cinema, I would go for Cinema. TV is a box at home with the lights on and the phone ringing in the background. You see it today and it's gone tomorrow. I'm lucky to have been a part of Nukkad, Zameen Aasman and others. People still talk about them. Otherwise, serials are gone. It's like today you have eaten something and next morning. You have forgotten the taste.
For films, the audience is in one big dark hall. That experience is different altogether. Tomorrow if it a beta or a 16 mm running, that is different. The fact that 400-500 people sit in a dark hall and experience it is a whole different experience. I don't think TV can replace that. But as an actor when I say I am doing this particular serial I perform for the lens and the camera.
However, in the end if you are enjoying your work then any kind of medium is good.