Disappointment is an understatement! I tried looking the other way and bang the bangles on the forehead, but there were no bangles. Then I tried jumping off my balcony but then my credit card people cradled me downstairs. I tried walking into the sea but then I suddenly remembered that I had left the geyser on, after all the filmy clichs failed, I gave up. However, fortunately I watched the parliament proceedings on Lok Sabha TV. After seeing the state of the politics of my country I suddenly felt much better about my own state.
But, it was a good show, a great channel and a very able team. A gap of a month or so occurred between getting locked in for the show and beginning shoot, during which my character's look tests and nitty gritties were being figured. One of those days, I wanted to spend some time on shoot, just to let the set up sink in. So I did and loved what I saw.
It was such a joy to see Barun Sobti, Sanaya Irani, Daljeet Bhanot, Karan Goddwani, Abhaajee (Abhaa Parmar) and Jayshreeji (Jayshree T) work their characters with such lan and ease. It was awesome to see how switched on Aman, the associate director, would be throughout the entire shoot. I had some fine interaction with the creative Richa Singh Gautam and even met the screenplay writer Gautam Hegde, who is quite the dude. Plus the chai on the set was something else. Toh bhai disappointment toh banta hai na!
However I would assume my disappointment would remain dwarfed by that of the team working on it since 18 months. When Lata, the production karta dharta on set, called me to share the news, I realised it must be harder for her, the cast, director, writers, creative team, tech crew and perhaps even the channel to let go of something they have nurtured for 18 months. I just wanted to give her a hug at that very moment, so I gave her one albeit over the phone.
Please tell us something about the character you were to play on the show, was it Arnav's role or some other role?
I was brought onboard to essay a new character paired opposite Khushi's character. He was meant to be something on the lines of a cold, manipulative, ruthless business tycoon, who had a mysterious past rivalry with ASR.
When I was talking to the director, Lalit Mohan over the possibilities on my character, he had some exciting thoughts cooking in his head. The motivator he is, he had me all charged.
I even shot for a day, for my character's teaser entry with Sanaya. It was meant to be planted in on the following Monday's episode. But unfortunately that turned out to be the last Monday for the show and the makers consequently saw no point in introducing my character. So all that we shot was done hello, hi, bye bye to on the edit.
You are very popular but I believe that you were also receiving hate messages as you were to replace Barun Sobti on the show. Those who uploaded those posts I feel were immature as it's no fault of yours that they had wanted to replace Barun with you. How did you feel on getting those messages?
It was heartening and always left me with a smile and at times a laugh. I could recall my own state of disappointment, when Pierce Brosnan (my favourite Bond) was replaced by Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. I felt cheated, let down and angry at the makers and I even went to the extent of believing that Daniel Craig was just an opportunist! But now a few Bond films later it's a different story. I love and respect Daniel Craig's ability to reinvent the character, though Pierce Brosnan which will always remain special. (Likewise Sean Connery is my father's favourite Bond).
However, the one thing that I see as common in the love for Barun and the hate for me is the passion which the audiences bring to their show viewing. It is this very passion that makes me put in that extra mile. So how can I complain about it?
Yes, we are all taught since school that change is inevitable and that change is good but it's only human for us to resist change. So as for all those who felt passionately 'for' Barun and 'against' me; were perhaps just being human not personal. They barely know me or my abilities.
Ironically Barun is one of the TV actors I have always admired. I loved him in the show Baat Hamari Pakki Hai. He filled the hollowness of that character with the substance in his ability and performances; which went largely unsung. This is exactly what I told him when I met him on sets and he agreed with a smile. But it is great to see Barun get the recognition due to him thanks to Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon? and ASR, I just wish him the best for his future endeavours.
As for the hatred, I'd say bring it on, for I believe stronger the hate, higher the chances of converting it to love, because they are two sides of the same source of emotion; the heart of the audience.
Of all the roles you have played on TV with which role do you identify the most?
I just identify with the wealth of all the characters I've played, wish I was half as rich as any one of them.
Do you miss the merchant navy?
Yes, but in a good way! There are moments which one can only experience at the sea. Those are what I miss.
You cook quite well. What are the dishes that you can make the best? Which are your favourite cuisines? Please give us an original recipe of yours.
I make the best Dhansakh in Andheri (the Mumbai suburb I stay in). My housing society just on the basis of the fragrance and flavours coming out of my kitchen, has given me a certificate of the best cook.
Oriental cuisine is my favourite cuisine .. and here is a simple winner of non-veg recipe. Chicken-a la – giraffe. Simmer half cup of milk, throw in paste of the following; half cup ginger garlic, half a cup green chillies, 8 onions, 3 cups soaked cashew nuts. Let the chicken (preferably not live) jump in after the curd and salt into the pressure cooker. After a couple of whistles, garnish with bright red chillies, chopped pineapple and love (fresh is always better but even tinned will do, I meant the pineapple, not love). Serve hot with caramel rice and a smile.
Disclaimer: I was kidding about the certificate but I still urge you to try the above recipe.
In an interview you said that you believe that your spiritual inclination keeps you centred. Please elaborate on this.
Me spiritual? I must have been talking about alcohol, I am sure.
Your hobbies include listening to music. What kind of music do you like to hear?
Just about everything except heavy metal. I find my taste and preference to music changing according to my personal growth and bank statements. When I am feeling rich I listen to happy and peppy stuff and when am broke I resort to melancholic tunes.
You also have an interest in movies. Please name your favourite movies.
Shawshank Redemption, Crash, the Munnabhai series, Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots, OMG, Memento, Schindlers List, Slumdog Miliionaire, Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Inception, Dark Knight, the Madagascar series, the Ice Age series, Wall E, Megamind, Separation (Iran), The Painting (France), Twice Upon a Time (France).
My friend Sharib has made this film Filmistaan and i was lucky to catch a preview. It's doing the festival circuit currently and they are working on its release. It's the latest addition to my favourites, I can't wait for it to hit the screens.
Being with the Merchant Navy previously, what did you think of The Life of Pi as it also has a sea backdrop?
I thought the movie was a spectacular audio visual experience and liked it more so for its ideology. What was special for me was the way Ang Lee showed how the concurrent brutality and generosity of the sea teaches one to surrender.
I had met the screenwriter of the film, David Magee during his visit to India for a workshop done by MAMI. He had spoken at length about how the film was written shot et al. All that conversation made the viewing of the film so much more interesting for me. Couldn't help taking a few learnings from it as well.
What kind of roles would you never do?
I don't know how to answer that. Life has taught me to never say never.
Do you have a girlfriend now?
Well that is something for me to know and you to keep guessing for now.
What qualities are you looking for in a wife?
Same as that I look for in my friends and a car. Sundar (especially inside), susheel (to me, others and herself), sasti (low maintenance because am cheap) aur tikau (sticks around).
Reporter and Author: Pallavi Bhattacharya
Photo credit: Dhruv Pandya