After spending almost three decades in the industry, Pavan Malhotra has become an actor who is comfortable with both commercial projects and the not so commercial ones. An arts graduate from Delhi University, the 57-year-old actor’s performances in films such as Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and the national award-winning film Bagh Bahadur among others have found much appreciation. Now, 25 years after the actor was first seen in the TV series Nukkad (1986), documentary filmmaker Meera Dewan has put together a retrospective titled “Unmasking Pawan”, where six of his finest films including the recent Children of War and Bagh Bahadur will be screened. Malhotra discusses the changes in the industry, the relevance of the issues in his films and upcoming projects. Excerpts:
It’s been 25 years since you joined the world of cinema. How has it changed over the years?
Change, I believe, is constant. If earlier the script would be decided on the sets, then now there is a bound script given to the actors. The content has changed and female actors no longer have to dance around trees to look beautiful. Also, low budget films have to fight the big budget films for audience. The audience has matured and thanks to the internet, they have access to international cinema.
What is that one film, director or scene that has remained special in all these years?
Every film and director has been special. But I will pick Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro as it brought me into prominence.
Why only these six films? There are many other fantastic projects such as 1947: Earth and Black Friday which are not being showcased.
The six films that have been chosen for the retrospective are very different from each other in terms of their content and the characters I have played in them. I’m an actor who doesn’t have fixed mannerisms and I do what the script demands. Once the project is finished I forget everything about it. Why films like 1947: Earth or for that matter Bhaag Milkha Bhaag have not been selected is because the retrospective is about Pavan Malhotra and in a film like 1947:Earth, even if the character (a butcher) is an important one, I just have four scenes in it.
How relevant are the issues that have been shown in these films in present times?
Even after 25 years, films such as Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (about the Hindutva mobilisation in the ’80s) and Bagh Bahadur (on the issue of the alienation of the traditional arts because of the advent of modern technology) are very relevant. Internet has changed many things. Films like Children of War are important because it is important to tell the story of the people. These films are human stories and are not dated, so they are relevant even today.
How do you prepare yourself for a role? What are your upcoming projects?
You have to use various sources, and depend on your instincts and imagination. Like for the biopic Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe, I was shooting in Punjab. I went and interacted with the people there and learned certain mannerisms from the bijis in the village. I saw a documentary on Bhagat Puran Singhji and observed how he bowed at the steps of the gurudwara. You take different things from characters you have played and put them together. Research and script are important but instinct plays an important role. Currently I am shooting for Rustom (with Akshay Kumar) and working on a project with Sanjay Chauhan and a Punjabi film.
“Unmasking Pavan” is on at IIC till January 21