Posted by barkha on August 13, 2012 | No Comments

Paan Singh Tomar, the surprise hit of 2012, opened with a scene of Brijendra Kala. Brijendra has often been a scene-stealer in films, with his distinct style of acting and dialogue delivery. Here we take the “journalist” of Paan Singh, out to be interviewed, without the beers and the mouth-watering gulab jamuns.

Mathura se Mumbai?
More than acting, growing up, it was singing that I enjoyed and more than cinema; it was theater and nautanki that grew on to me. Spent fifteen years doing that, growing up. I worked with a Radio station and then went to Delhi to apply for NSD (National School of Drama). But friends encouraged me to pursue freelance theater in Delhi, more than NSD. I was naïve, about even what “freelance theater,” meant. But it dawned on me, that, that would enhance my existing skillset more and give me more opportunities. So real life theater is what I plunged into. Then through a theater colleague, who was doing a film in Mumbai, I got my first film break and moved to Mumbai.  Although a keen audience at times, growing up, never once did I think I would be doing films for a living.

Paan Singh Tomar, open with your character. Tell us about that whole experience and how things have changed subsequently for you?
The recee for PST was going on in the Chambal area, when Tigu (Tigmanshu Dhulia) called me, “yaar aaj kal tera weight kya hain?”  I was kind of taken back by the question. My response was, “you met me a couple of days back, and how much could I have changed since then?” Tigu said that put on some weight there is a “theek thak” character that I have for you, and you might enjoy playing that. Tigu further added that he thought I was the right actor for that character, but in his mind, the character was slightly plump. So I added that by the time you begin filming, I would try and put on some weight. So Tigu instructed me to have “multiple beers a day,” which I laughed off. We showed up on the set, and I was still not “plump enough,” but we decided that I would act my way through that. The shooting then got held up, we shifted to Roorkie and there again bad weather held up things. Finally we moved to Chandivali in Mumbai and on the set, we wrapped up the first scene. So what is Chambal on screen is actually right here in Mumbai. Post PST, the press and media reached out to me in a big way, be it PTI, folks such as you from the US, so that felt good. The phone for offers has started ringing more now. There are 3-4 films, now I have to evaluate which one’s I will take on. The recognition that it brings, definitely feels good.

Has the recognition come too late?
I analyze it objectively. When I first wanted to do films, I was told that, for even the character roles, the expectation is someone fair, tall and the traditional aspirations of the audience. Then I got television, did good work, got good recognition, but it brought its own fears…’would I become so popular in television that it would be hard to transition to films?’ So I would pick up only a max of two serials at a time, more to pay the bills and be able to provide for my wife and daughter. I also started writing. I wrote a film, some serials for Balaji, so the recognition, per se, had come. Yes, cinema has a larger scope, so PST took that recognition to a different level.  So I did not feel it was late, cause recognition, even TV offered, but I chose to go easy in that phase, to ready myself for the film opportunities. I feel that I still have a lot to offer.

Is cinema really changing in India?
With Multiplexes mushrooming and camera like the 5D, 7D, Alexa, is making things easier for sure. Now everyone is stepping forward to make cinema and many proclaiming, in their mind that they are doing different things. I have been approached by people from Delhi, Amritsar, Chandigarh, etc, all enthusiastic about making their cinema. By the same token the traditional cinema powers are also observing this trend, but the two schools, while aspiring to get into the shoes of the other, are finding that journey hard to accomplish. What is also changing is the awareness and depth of knowledge. Schools, institutions, etc are opening up on media. Eventually the more that is made will increase the odds of classy films coming out of this, so it is a healthy trend.

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