Indian cinema has always had a huge variety of actors. While many find it safe and comfortable to adhere to only a specific genre and characters that they are able to do justice to, there are those who don’t want to be pigeonholed by the industry. And one actor who has always been flexible and versatile in his craft and has been picking a wide variety of roles is Pawan Malhotra.
From Nukkad to Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Black Friday, Jab We Met, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the actor in his more than three decade career has always proved how he can do justice to any character that’s given to him.
Malhotra, who turns 63 today, made his OTT debut recently with Grahan which has received a positive response. In this interview he talks about the controversy surrounding Grahan, how OTT has opened up new avenues, and while the industry wanted to typecast him they couldn’t do so and why a series like Nukkad wouldn’t work in today’s time.
Do you like to celebrate your birthday?
No, I don’t like to do that. I am not a birthday person. I get embarrassed if I am shooting and people start celebrating. I am working right now also, and I hope the unit members don’t remember my birthday.
Your recent show Grahan got into a controversy. Do you feel celebrities and cinema are a soft target?
We live in a democratic world and everyone has a right to criticise. People are going to react. I remember three days before the show was released, I got a call from a friend who said that a section of the audience is not happy because they feel we are showing Sikhs in a bad light. I asked him to wait and watch the show. We can see the reactions now. People who have seen the show have loved it.
How do you think OTT has changed the dynamics in the industry?
Be it writers, actors, directors, technicians, OTT has opened up huge doors for all creative people and given them new opportunities. The biggest advantage is that filmmakers can come up with unique stories and long-format content created for the digital streaming space, it is a great time for actors to explore unconventional roles and characters that appeal to the audience. I think it’s a great time for the entire artistic community, both in front of the camera and behind the camera. I was waiting for the right kind of role and I felt Grahan was a perfect show to start my journey in OTT.
How do you approach a character?
I do not have a fixed mannerism or style and speech pattern. One can never do my mimicry. Be it Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Road to Sangam, Black Friday, Brothers in Trouble or Fakir for which I received the National Award, the texture of my work changes with every film. As an actor, you deal with human emotions when you are telling a story and there is something in it that you cannot have the same approach even if you have played that type of character many times. I have played a Sikh character many times. But the character of Grahan is poles apart from Jab We Met or Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. The industry wanted to typecast me but I realised that one has to know when to say no and wait as I was not in a mood for repeating.
You have been in the industry for more than 35 years. How do you look back at the journey?
Like I mentioned earlier, no one can do my mimicry. Actors whose mimicry can be done generally are big superstars. People might not have photographs of mine, but I surely have made my own mark in this industry. I have done commercial films like Judwaa 2, Rustom, Mubarakaan and at the same time I have done films like Black Friday, Bagh Bahadur, Fakir. And there is a huge acceptance for what I have done. Also it is the industry and the media who differentiate between art and commercial cinema. For me every film is a commercial film because there is money involved. As an actor, choosing the film that I want to do is the freedom that I should have. When you sit with a story, sometimes you just want to do it. Like I mentioned, sometimes I realise it’s not my world, but I get molded in that space only to see if I can pull it off. Sometimes I fail and other times I succeed. The success doesn’t make me want to do the same thing again. Or the failure doesn’t want me to not do it ever again. I have always believed in God and worked with utmost honesty.
In an earlier interview you mentioned how you could never sell yourself. Do you think it affected your career?
Many people have told me to be active on social media. I should have my photographs regularly featured in newspapers and websites. But I have never done that. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet. I am not comfortable showing the world what I do in my personal life. My work should speak for me. Like I said, I work with complete honesty. If people appreciate my work they will show it. You have seen the show and you called for an interview and this is a big compliment for me.
You also mentioned how a television series like Nukkad wouldn’t work in today’s time.
Yes. It’s a fact. Society has changed and the values have changed. I have seen a few videos on social media where someone is asking the college students about who was the first president of India or who has written the constitution of India and they aren’t aware of it. People just want to google everything and get answers. Today’s youth is mostly into the latest phones and wearing branded things. So it will be very difficult for this generation to relate to what we showed in Nukkad.
What are the other projects that you are working on?
I have three films ready which are completely different subjects. The first one is 72 Hoorain in which I play the role of a terrorist. The films is directed by Sanjay Piran Singh and it also got a special mention at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MAMI). I also have Unfair And Lovely (which also features Ileana D’Cruz and Randeep Hooda). There is another film titled Love Hackers which deals with hacking. I am currently shooting for an OTT show but I cannot talk about it now.