Pavan Malhotra, who has acted in hit films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Jab We Met and TV serials of the 1980s like Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi as well as Nukkad, is making headlines for his performance in the upcoming film Mission Raniganj which released on October 6.
The 65-year-old, who grew up in old Delhi’s Nawabganj area and studied at Manav Sthali School and Hansraj College, has spent close to four decades in Bollywood and has received several awards for his work in films.
He is considered close to superstar Shah Rukh Khan and it is said that it was the Bollywood star who encouraged him to pick acting as a career when the two were living in Delhi.
Malhotra, who first started acting in the Delhi theatre circuit before shifting to Mumbai, spoke to Patriot about his upcoming film and career.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Tell us about Mission Raniganj?
A: Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue is directed by Tinu Suresh Desai. In 1989, there was a frightening accident in the coal mines of Raniganj (West Bengal). Over 200 miners faced a terrifying situation deep inside the mine. The film is a cinematic adaptation of that incident. Dating back to 1774, Raniganj Coal Mines hold a significant place in India’s history. The film’s protagonist is the late Jaswant Singh Gill who led the rescue effort. On November 13, 1989 when the coal miners were working at Raniganj, a series of blasts to break the walls caused the structure to shake and a wall in an underground area adjacent to the site where the miners were working cracked. That crack resulted in flooding of water, causing six miners to lose their lives. Those who were near the lift were pulled to safety. However, 65 miners got stuck inside.
Q: What’s your role in Mission Raniganj?
A: This story is about engineers and am playing the role of TP Bindal, who is called the capsule man. The capsule man has to dig a hole through which a capsule is inserted and through this, the trapped miners are rescued. I am delighted to be a part of this film based on a real-life incident. I have acted in a variety of different films and played significant roles but I have never played a role like this. The part I have played in Mission Raniganj is entirely different from the ones I have played earlier. Before stepping into this role, I had no idea about the jobs of coal miners or their risks in life.
Q: Can you throw some light on your fellow actors in Mission Raniganj?
A: In Mission Raniganj, I have worked with a bunch of talented actors such as Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra, Kumud Mishra, Ravi Kishan, Lankesh Bhardwaj, Anant Mahadeven, Rajesh Sharma, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Khusboo Atre, Varun Badola, Gaurav Prateek and Virender Saxena. I have worked with Akshay Kumar earlier in Oh My God, Rustum before Mission Raniganj. He is very down to earth and always entertains me. I wish to work with him again on some good projects.
Q: How are you taking your Bollywood journey forward?
A: I have played different kinds of roles, such as that of a sardar and a coach in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. My work in Black Friday was also appreciated. All my roles have been quite different and I am always keen to play different characters. I am very happy that God is giving me work. The first time I acted in films was in Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro and I got very little money for it. I never thought that my journey would be so interesting. I am really enjoying my work. I am always working hard with sincerity. I still want to do more characters and entertain my audience. As an actor, I have to prepare myself and I have to perform better according to my role.
Q: How do you choose films?
A: I am an actor and always try to give my best in whatever role I get. I cannot create a role because I am an actor but I work hard on the role I am given by the directors. It is up to the audience to decide whether they like my work or not. I will continue to work and act in films so long as I am physically fit and active. I want to say that everyone must watch Mission Raniganj because it is a true story and all my audience and fans would love to watch me. I have worked hard in the film.
Q: Do you think digital or online platforms are good option for actors?
A: Absolutely. Online platforms such as Amazon, Netflix and Hotstar are good. There was nothing like this earlier. Now, there are a lot of websites and portals and you can now see my films on Netflix. Thanks to these platforms, films can be made about life in small villages which focus on families. But I would say that people still prefer watching films in theatres rather than online. That’s a wonderful experience. People say that cinema tickets are getting expensive, but they still go out for a film which is good to watch. Personally, I also enjoy watching a Bollywood film in a packed cinema hall, sitting next to my audience.
Q: Tell us about your growing up years?
A: My parents came to Delhi from what is now Pakistan after Partition. It was difficult for them in the beginning, but luckily, I did not see any hardship. I was the youngest with three brothers and two sisters — one sister passed away. By the time I was born, my father had already established his business of making machine tools. I still remember living in Delhi. After I became an actor, I went to Delhi to meet my father and saw a lot of people gathered to see me. They called me Hari [on the character he played in Nukkad]. That was wonderful. My father felt proud. I worked for theatre and did odd jobs to survive in Mumbai. I had not seen a film shoot before shooting for one. Shooting in Raj Kamal Studio and staying in Sea Rock Hotel was a great experience.
Q: How was the experience of working with Shah Rukh Khan?
A: It was a fantastic experience working with Shah Rukh Khan in Don and Pardes. I also enjoyed working in My Name is Anthony Gonsalves which was produced by Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment. I played the role of Sikandar Bhai, Anthony’s benefactor and protector, who takes care of him since childhood. In Pardes, I played Shah Rukh Khan’s confidant.