his Nukkad days, Pavan Malhotra, through a judicious
selection of roles in tele-serials and movies, has eked
out a place for himself as a versatile and committed actor.
A face that viewers now look forward to after critically
acclaimed roles in 9-Malabar Hill, Mrityudand
and Kahan Se Kahan Tak, among many other serials.
An arts graduate from Delhi, Pavan's first foray into acting
came through theatre. By chance actually after he was cajoled
into helping a friend on stage. He has not been seen in
theatre for over a decade now after his association with
television serials began in the early '80s. Malhotra is
quite particular about the kind of roles he takes up and
has done only 10 serials till date, two of which - Alag
Alag and Partho Mitra's Patang- are currently
airing on DD Metro. "It's the first time that I have worked
in serials simultaneously," he says, putting it down to
the kind of roles he has portrayed.
Even if the serials are coming on the same channel, each
character is distinct from the other. If in Patang
he plays a role of a man in his early thirties, in Alag
Alag he plays an aging fallible father who loves his
family. "Coming in lots of serials is not important, but
to maintain each character's individuality and make them
stand out on their own is of more value," he says.
Malhotra's seriousness at acting comes through in his conversations.
How true this is of the kind of characters he portrays also
come to the fore with the pivotal role of Aamir,
an illegal Asian immigrant of the 60's holed up in a derelict
house in Britain, in the BBC movie Brothers in Trouble,
as well as in Saeed Mirza's Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro.
"But I am not a serious person in real life," he is quick
to point out.
To find out more about Pavan Malhotra, indiantelevision.com's
Harsha Khot caught up with him at Prithvi Theatre, a fitting
ambience to have a chat with someone doing seriously good
work. His forthcoming projects include a television series
Khushi directed by Lekh Tandon and a Hindi feature
film Mukhabhinaya by Shyamanand Jalan
When did you realise
you had an inclination towards acting?
by accident really. I had no idea about theatre at all
until one day my friend pulled me along after one of
the guys on the show played truant and said I would
have to fill in for him. He assured me that theatre
wasn't as tough as it was made out to be. And he was
right. Later, being with the group, my interest in acting
developed and I began to do theatre in right earnest.
Earlier, I had no clue that I would do such roles, but
eventually after moving with the theatre troupe and
after coming to Mumbai, the idea of acting and a desire
to do something on my own became stronger. I did not
wish to simply take over my father's machinery tool
business. I wanted to act. That was the only thing on
What about acting do you especially like?
What about acting do I like? I find it is very interesting.
It makes you think. Everytime you take up a role, you are
accepting a new challenge, and the thinking process starts.
Acting is a thinking process. You begin to sketch out the
character and the way you would go about fleshing out the
personality in the script is what acting involves. Five people
could enact the same character in five different ways and
yet all of them could be right in their depiction.
Even Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Naseeruddin Shah or Om
Puri cannot say that they played a character to its perfection,
as there could always be better acting and better ways of
enhancing a character. I consider myself to be very lucky
for what was my hobby has become my full time profession.
And I enjoy it immensely.
did you first get into serials?
theatre group I was with was going to tour Mumbai for a fortnight
and I decided to go along mainly to satiate my curiosity to
see a new place, plus a desire to do something I like. Those
three weeks became three months and later I took up a job
as an assistant on the sets of Yeh Joh Hai Jindagi.
It's then the offer of working in Nukkad came along.
I had done a few appearances in other serials before but it
is this that brought attention.
How do you sketch out the character
that you are going to play?
Well, it depends on when I get the script.
I cannot sit at home and dream about playing a character without
a script. At least I don't see it that way. Then it depends
on the kind of character you are playing. Sometimes I can
relate a character to somebody I know. Sometimes you simply
have to create an imaginary character, while at other times
you just have to observe people and their mannerisms, the
way they live and try to sketch it out.
How do keep a track from scene to scene
while acting so that the spontaneity is not lost?
keep reading the script and make notes on the scripts for
the scenes are not shot in a sequence. At times scene 13,
29 and 50 are done back to back at a stretch but scene 21,
39 and 51 could be shot some other time. I make some markings
on the script as a clue to myself so as to maintain a sequential
you actually gone and observed somebody to play a
for quite a few roles actually. For Salim's role in
Salim Langde Pe Mat Roh Mac (Makarand Deshpande)
and me loitered around the (Muslim-dominated) Dongri
and Chor Bazaar areas of south Mumbai observing people.
The other character was of a drug addict. I spent
time closely observing their ways, but lost out on
the chance to act in the serial.
Is acting easy for you?
It is anything but easy. You are constantly occupied with
thoughts, contemplating, analysing how you would enact the
character. People should be convinced that it is the character
that is feeling sad or happy and not Pavan Malhotra.
Do you get into the character,
under the skin so to speak?
it's a myth. On the set I am conscious with thoughts like
okay this is the way I have to walk… reach there… and stop…
say dialogues. All these thoughts are going on in my mind.
Do you feel there is a certain
character that you just cannot play?
Yes, Johnny Lever. I admire him. He has a certain way of acting.
He makes faces and makes people laugh. I doubt if I'd be able
to do something like that. If I try the same people who love
Lever might perceive me as a man with a distorted face.
Have you seen the Pepsodent ads? It is about two siblings
in which the sister in an authoritative tone quizzes her younger
brother on history for which he has been preparing for some
upcoming exams. Towards the end of the ads the boy gives a
peculiar look of triumph after his sister agrees with his
alternative answer. I could never get that particular expression.
|Did you try it out in front of the mirror?
Er... yah … but, I couldn't manage to do it in the proper
What are your hobbies? Do you keep a
certain time aside for them?
No I haven't developed any hobbies as such. Occasionally
I play badminton, watch movies but no, I haven't really
been able to keep time aside.
Which are the roles that are close to you?
Salim in Salim Langde Pe Mat Roh and Bagh Bahadur.
Both of them were made in the same year and the characters
are absolutely different from each other. Salim is a flamboyant
character who is nicknamed Langda (lame) not because
he is handicapped but due to a stylish walk. While Bagh
Bahadur is a folk dancer with a painted body. He is wild
and has a certain rhythm in his body movements.
How do you work on your acting skills?
I try and visualise the character, the person's background.
How would the person's mannerisms be, how would he react in
a certain situation like for instance.
Do you focus on your make up?
the role requires it yes. Like for instance for Salim I had
grown side locks and had stylish hair. During the time the
movie was made it was the trend among the youth to grow a
small droopy moustache like the one that underworld don Dawood
Ibrahim had. But in Patang since the character is already
in his thirties there is no make up.
How do you improvise on the character?
I discuss it with the director, writer. The more we discuss
and listen the clearer the image becomes. Sometimes the characters
are discussed in the same set-up while in other units workshops
are held. It depends and varies from set-up to set-up.
Agnihotri,Pavan Malhotra andRenuka Shahane in Mrityudand
would you work around a metal-block while acting?
I don't face a mental block, but I do get scared whether
I'll be able to enact what is required. You want certain
emotions to come through but they simply don't come
all the time, even though during rehearsal you may have
got it right. Well I do get frustrated. Earlier, I used
to get depressed, even cry sometimes, but not anymore.
actor that challenges you in a positive way?
Naseeruddin (Shah) in Pestonji and Paresh Rawal in
the role of a eunuch in Tamanna. I wonder will I ever
be able to play such a character?
you a director's actor or actor's actor?
Both. I do my homework and if the director expects something
it is my job to deliver that. The director has the last say,
for he is the captain.
is the character closest to Pavan Malhotra?
I think the character in Patang which somewhat like
the way I am in general. I like to talk a lot when I am with
friends, have fun, and flirt a bit.
Is it easy playing yourself?
To maintain a character and bring it out is not easy. That
is why you often see certain actors who come in many serials
and their mannerisms have a lot of similarity between them.
That is not called acting. Every individual has certain inborn
mannerisms or body language. For instance the glint in Jack
Nicholson's eyes, that tends to be repetitive. That is why
a conscious effort has to be made not to repeat or bring that
Malhotra with Kanwaljeet in
Kahan Se kahan Tak
is your view about today's television serials?
Earlier the quality of serials was very good for instance
Tamas, Yeh Jo Hai Jindagi, Buniyaad, Discovery of
India, Hum Log. However, such quality series are
not seen any more. It is the same monotonous family
dramas that are brought out in sitcoms. People say that
there is no audience for such serials anymore. And that
these serials were hits then because DD was the only
channel. But I don't buy that argument. TRPs are of
course important but so is keeping say at least a half-hour
slot for such serials, even if it means catering to
two per cent of audiences who like it.
has it been working for films in India and abroad?
were lots of things in common. With the kind of films I did,
the scripts were with me way in advance. Bagh Bahadur,
Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro and Brother in Trouble.
In both set-ups we had similar discussion sessions. Workshops
were held before actually filming.
They have more money so they were more organised. Films there
have a slightly different way of shooting, which I cannot
exactly describe. You have to be there to feel the difference.
There are no last minute castings. Changes in sets, scripts
and people don't happen there. Everything is planned way in
are your forthcoming projects?
I am doing a Hindi feature film Mukhabhinaya by Shyamanand
Jalan. The movie means 'mindplay' but the protagonist is a
silent observer unlike what the title may suggest.