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'Cinemas is bigger than stars'


THE NAME IS MAMU: Pavan (centre) in a still from Bhindi Bazaar Inc

Versatility best describes Pavan Malhotra, who is still remembered for his role of an endearing cycle mechanic in Nukkad, the popular DD serial of the 1980s. An arts graduate from Delhi's Hansraj College, Malhotra doesn't boast of a degree from the National School of Drama or FTII, Pune. But his portrayals of Tiger Memon in Black Friday, the young and restless underclass youth in Salim Langde Pe Mat Roor even a folk dancer in Bagh Bahadurbefit a trained actor. Malhotra speaks exclusively to TOI Crest on his role in the just-released Bhindi Baazaar Inc, his graph as an actor and more

Tell us about your role in Bhindi Baazaar Inc.

I'm playing a pickpocket, Mamu, who controls a gang of pickpockets. He's like the local don who has become what he is through sheer grit and ruthlessness. He comes from a world that is sleazy, ruthless and full of parasites. It's a world where only the fittest survive, where a pawn can become a king or a queen by clearing all those who come in his way.

When you approach characters such as Tiger Memon in Black Friday, what techniques do you bring in to portray them on screen?

In all my films, Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (SLPMR), Don, My Name is Anthony Gonzalves, Black Friday - the characters I play are different from each other. Their body language, speech, the look in their eyes and getup - is all different. The only common thing is violence because they're all linked to the underworld. I portray them as distinct individuals. I work mostly through my instinct. Many a time, when I read the script the nuances come to me instinctively. As an actor, I think it is my job to bring in the nuances typical of a character that are influenced by his background. There has to be an obvious difference between a Salim and a Tiger Memon of Black Friday. Salim is vulnerable and dreams of becoming a biggie as he says, Yeh banna hai apne ko, ek time apna bhi ayega, whereas Memon is obsessed when he says, Akha Mumbai ko aag lagayega or when he says, Dange mein kahan thaa? Kitne Hindu mare? or Namaaz padhta hai ki nahi? Also, as an actor we sometimes do two diverse characters back to back - like when I finished SLPMR, I started Bagh Bahadur. Salim, a guy from Dongri, is a cocky guy with great attitude and Bagh Bahadur, a folk dancer, is a very soft chap.

You've been in this industry for over 20 years doing television and films and yet you've been very selective about your roles, almost a recluse shying from the limelight.

No, I've always wanted limelight. But I've felt that an actor like me should have been supported more by the press. They should have written about the fact that despite doing so many underworld characters, each is different from the other. Also, I'd rather have somebody who understands cinema, the industry and my performance than those who're interested in who fought with whom and who's living with whom talk to me about my work.

What would you say to those who're obsessed with the star syndrome?

Cinema is much more than that. Of course the star system is there and I do consider that at a certain level, I am a star too. But, according to me, Mr Bachchan is a true star. He is a great combination of a big star and a very fine actor. That's why he could come back and do a film like Paa. How many of his contemporaries could even make a comeback, forget about doing a film like that? Also, Mr Bachchan will be acting even when he's 100. Because he's an actor. From Hrishikesh Mukherjee to Manmohan Desai, he did movies with all kinds of directors. But after 20 years, one will pick up Anand and Paa. To me, that is most important.
I too want to be as successful, make money, have a big car. But not at the cost of the quality of work. I'd rather take a break and wait for that role. I keep saying, Main to shikari hoon bhai, machaan pe baitha hoon. Koi shikar aata hai to main pounce karta hoon. (I keep saying I'm always on the lookout for good roles and pounce at one like a hunter the moment it comes my way). That's why I did Bagh Bahadur, an offbeat film, although I was on a high after SLPMR.

Where do you see yourself fit into an industry that still works through camps and family legacies?

These things will remain: stars' sons versus outsiders. But we must also notice that outsiders like Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar are the industry's biggest stars. Also there are so many stars' sons who've not made it. I believe in God and destiny in a big way. I'm a firm believer in the fact that what is my due cannot be taken away from me.

Are you happy now about the kind of roles you get and the money you get paid? Do you feel appreciated enough?

Anyone you ask such a question will say, I deserve more. I definitely yearn for good work and more money. Who wouldn't want to earn something like Rs 500 crore, travel business class, have staff? I don't want to struggle in my old age. As for the appreciation bit, it could have been better, but at the same time I'm not frustrated. I'm constantly on the lookout for good roles. Even when I do a small role of an inspector on television, (Laagi Tujh Se Lagan), I feel great when women come to me and say we love to hate you. Similarly, when SLPMR was released, one big name from the underworld called to ask, Chokra Dongri ka hai? Then someone told him, Nahi woh nukkad natak wala hai. I felt very good that they thought I was from Dongri. That's an actor's job.

What kind of cinema excites you?

I loved Salman's Dabangg as much as I like any serious cinema. Unlike stars, who have certain fixed moves, gestures, styles, an actor should be able to do different kinds of roles. And I believe I am an actor.

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