In 2016, a retrospective of some of Pavan Malhotra’s most memorable films was screened in New Delhi. In his address to the audience, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who was present at the occasion, said that the biggest of stars have four-five films in their kitty that can be truly called memorable, but the retrospective was showing six of Malhotra’s best films, which did not even include two of his most popular films — Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Black Friday. “Imagine his body of work then, he told the audience,” recalls Malhotra, adding that even he has never thought on those lines.
The actor feels it is all because of God’s blessings that he has managed to be a part of projects that have allowed him to display his acting prowess. From television shows like Nukkad and Circus to films such as Children of War, Road to Sangam, Black Friday, Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Brothers in Trouble and Bagh Bahadur among many others, Malhotra has always strived for work that has brought him creative satisfaction. “Even today, I am working and will keep working till I am physically fit. I am not living in past glories. I always say that my picture might not be there in the industry’s collage but I have marked a dot in one corner and that corner is mine,” he smiles.
Getting his share
In a career spanning more than three decades, people have tried to slot the actor but he has managed to steer clear of the stereotypes. It wasn’t always easy because it meant saying no to a lot of work, which could have helped pay the bills but not brought him the joy he was seeking. “I have sat at home for six months to one year. Work was coming my way but I would refuse it. So, I have taken those risks in my career,” he recalls. Out of concern, friends and well-wishers would urge him to take on more work but Malhotra’s heart was not in it. “The joy is in doing something different. One can only try, rest you leave to God,” he philosophises.
Yes, he has been told umpteen times that he hasn’t received his due or that he underestimates himself. “Everyone feels at some point that they deserve more. Sometimes you see people who don’t even know their job well but are getting a lot of work, but it’s alright,” he says. He is only grateful that till today, he has never had to ask for work. “From Nukkad till now, work has fallen in my lap. I always feel I will get what belongs to me,” he says.
For Malhotra, the biggest achievement is the respect he has garnered for his performances. “I do need money to pay my bills. I want to live a comfortable life, stay in good hotels when I travel, not have to ask for money in my old age and have enough for treatment if I fall ill. But when I leave this world, people should think well of me. I don’t need bungalows to live in. Bas kaam ki izzat honi chahiye (I just need respect for my work),” he adds.
When work brings work
Malhotra had played the lead in acclaimed filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s 1989 Bengali film, Bagh Bahadur, which went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film. Reminiscing about the special movie, which incidentally was also the first film to be shown at his retrospective in the capital, the actor says he would sit for hours to get his body painted like a tiger and then sit in the sun to dry it. “Later, I would use kerosene to remove the paint and use thinner on my face, bathe myself but even then, the smell of kerosene would linger on. I had to learn how to dance and it was physically difficult but it was all worth it,” he adds.
It was his performance in films such as Bagh Bahadur and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro that made him land roles in movies such as Brothers in Trouble, Black Friday and Road to Sangam among others. “When your work brings you more work, that is the biggest compliment,” he believes. Dasgupta, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, had also attended his retrospective in Delhi. “That was the last time we met. It was a very professional director-actor relationship and we had not really been in touch post that,” he shares.
The actor, who made his digital debut with Grahan earlier this year, will now be seen in the upcoming thriller, Tabbar, on Sony Liv. Malhotra plays the family patriarch who goes to unimaginable lengths to protect his children. “There are so many shades to this character and so much to do as an actor. I would not want to leave any good role that comes my way,” he chuckles. The digital space, he believes, has opened up yet another window for actors and technicians to tell stories they really want to tell, in the way they want to tell it. “You can watch a show, pause it, watch it repeatedly. That’s the advantage it has given the audience,” he says.
His criteria for selecting projects on OTT remains the same. “I do projects that bring me joy. I have received other offers too in the past but I said no to them. I don’t take loans, so I don’t have to take up shoddy work just to pay the EMIs,” he signs off.
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