Free Press Journal

“I was worried about being overshadowed!”, says Nihar Pandya


Nihar Pandya is all set to make his Bollywood debut, and he insists he is ‘loving it’. Here he speaks to Shubarna Mukerji Shu about working with Kangana Ranaut, plans and more

One would say Nihar Pandya has had an easy life, till he decided to pursue acting. Despite his success as a model, immense hard work and comfortable life in Mumbai – Pandya’s struggle has been known to all in the industry, and is almost as talked about, as his affairs have been written about. Nihar Pandya’s claim to fame thus far has been the fact that he was once dating Deepika Padukone. But now he has finally landed himself a role in a film starring none other than Kangana Ranaut. The film is Manikarnika – The Queen of Jhansi. While he takes on the period film, we took him on a question spree.

It has been quite a wait, finally you are here, Manikarnika – we hear is already half way ready. How does it feel?

I am loving it. Of course, somewhere down the line there have been days when I might have felt that it was taking too long, but now with a little perspective and some work behind me – I think, this is perfect. I love the canvas of Manikarnika – I am working with some of the best actors and technicians. There is hardly anything I could complain about.

True, it is your big ticket in Bollywood, but were there days when optimism was hard to find?

Of course! But I had an excellent support system in form of my family and friends. Also, it helped that I was not really twiddling thumbs waiting – I was constantly working on myself and all that time has helped me become more prepared for a Bollywood journey.

For your first film, you are being adventurous doing your own action sequences, didn’t anyone advice you otherwise?

It is not every day, that you get to work with Nick Powell, he has been associated with the very best in Hollywood, I mean look at the films he has done The Last Samurai, The Bourne Identity, X Men – The Last Stand….such thorough professionals, they have worked relentlessly on this film, no offs even on Sundays. A lot of the action was happening on horse-back so that was another deal altogether. Knowing to ride a horse is one thing, riding it like a warrior is much the other. They taught us so well, how to nudge the horse into a trot, from a trot how to get into a canter… how to then follow it through with a full-blown gallop. It is difficult to fathom for a person, and to translate it to a horse is much another. But it was amazing really. These shooting horses actually start running at the word –action, while you are still getting your balance, your horse is already emoting. It is almost like your horse is acting better than you.

And yet, this being your first film – you might have had a game plan to deliver a performance at par with Kangana Ranaut, Atul Kulkarni and of course, the horses too. How did that work out for you?

Maybe in the initial days I was worried about being overshadowed, about how should I be projecting myself better. But the kind of support I have received on the sets of Manikarnika, I don’t think I would have enjoyed a solo-hero debut as much. The whole point is that everyone on the sets was helping each other to get the best shot. It was not an easy decision to go into retakes and stuff, but even our producer was willing to shell the extra money – simply because the film needed the perfection, the movement of Manikarnika is bigger than each of us.

It sure did come with its own fate. Talking about fate – we have to talk about the fateful incident when Kangana was injured.

Kangana has been such a wonderful actor to work with, she never once let me feel the brunt of that incident. She understood that it was a problem with the timing, we had rehearsed the scene a 100times and we had perfected that action choreography – but accidents happen. I have worked with injuries throughout the film, and we are only half way there. The incident was blown out of proportion by others and not Kangana. She was very sweet and understanding, she even spoke to me after the incident and told me not to worry about it and all. She is very professional. It is a risk we take as actors when we decide to do our own stunts and she completely understood that.

So far, what has been your take away from this film?

As I said I am only half way there, it has been an amazing learning for me. If there has been an Atul Kulkarni guiding me, there has always been a junior artist whose precision had helped make the frame perfect, watching Neeta (Lulla) ma’am giving each and every outfit such a thorough inspection – seeing this huge canvas come alive, has been an experience I will always remember. I don’t know about what my take away will be from a film like Manikarnika – I am just living the experience and learning through it, it is obvious that all my other films will reflect my time spent on the sets of Manikarnika.