Deepika Padukone, who is celebrating her birthday today (January 5), has become one of the top heroines in Bollywood and an icon for budding actors. Every move she makes is keenly observed and written about – be it about her link ups with colleagues or the ad she did few months ago. However, not much is known about Nihaar Pandya, Deepika’s first boyfriend when she shifted base from Bengaluru to Mumbai.
A mention of Nihaar Pandya on Google only throws up articles talking about his link ups with Deepika Padukone and model Gauahar Khan. Not many know that Nihaar was a state-level runner in his school days, a budding cricketer who played for under 16 and under 19 Mumbai teams, a trained Kathak dancer and co-owner of Zoo Bar which directs part of its profit to an animal welfare NGO.
Nihaar Pandya is a far cry from his earlier simpleton avatar. The hair, which used to be slicked back, has now given way to a nice styled one while his shoulders and biceps are very well-defined. Also on cards is a Bollywood debut in the near future. In this conversation with IndianExpress.com, Nihaar Pandya talks about his life.
Are you still in touch with Deepika? How would you define your equation with her today?
Yes, we are very much in touch. It’s nowhere close to the way it has been portrayed so far with reports suggesting that both of us are waiting to run each other down or anything. It’s all very much on a friendly note. But these days when you say friends people feel there is something more to it and we should check with the other person as well. Unfortunately with these relationships that I have been tagged, there is a wrong notion among people that I am wanting to be with an actress. That is not how we had planned it. And I would like to undo that, this year. I would now like my actions to speak louder than words.
It’s Deepika’s birthday today. Anything that you would like to say?
Like every year, I wish her a very happy birthday. May she keep delivering bigger hits with every passing year.
Tell us about your childhood?
I was born and raised in Mumbai in an upper middle class family. Life has always been great for me. I was the youngest in my family till about four years ago when my nephew arrived. I was always pampered and extremely naughty. I am remembered by all my teachers as the one who troubled them a lot. I couldn’t have asked for anything more while growing up. Academics, however, was never on my mind. The attitude towards studies was missing. The aptitude because of the attitude was also missing. Sports was something that excited me. I used to be a runner in school and have run for Maharashtra. My interest soon graduated towards cricket and I soon started playing for Mumbai under 16 and under 19. I played cricket for college and school as well as Khar gymkhana.
Why didn’t you take it up professionally?
Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to realise about the politics involved in selection. I could see how during selection, nets used to be divided separately, one for local boys and hundreds of others including me got clubbed in a separate net. I should have perhaps hung in. But the perseverance then was missing. Or else sports would have been it.
How did acting become your calling then?
My first stint to do anything with entertainment was at NM college where to escape attendance issues we used to do different things. I was the captain of my junior cricket team and that got me only 45 to 50 days of approved leaves. Then I realised that drama would allow me 60 days of leave. So, I went and got myself enrolled in drama in NM college. And that is when I felt I had an interest for acting. But there was still never an ardent desire to be an actor until I started assisting my uncle on shoots. My uncle is a doctor and he has worked with many Hollywood films that used to get shot in India. Hollywood films don’t work without a doctor on call and my uncle has been an onset doctor for many English films right from Ben Kingsley’s Gandhi. Once I went with him to a shoot in Rajasthan where ‘Marigold’ was being shot. There were lots of people who suffered from sunstrokes and from that suddenly a question came in whether you would want to fill in for a person who was taken ill due to sunstroke. I grabbed it. Here on the sets of Marigold, I got maximum exposure seeing the director and also got to train with the likes of Salman Khan and his team. There was Remo who was the choreographer. From learning dance and other things to finally seeing how this one man, Salman Khan would come on sets and do it all by just taking one look at it, the experience inspired me. After Rajasthan, I came back to Mumbai and got enrolled in Anupam Kher’s institute Actor Prepares and that is where it all started.
You mentioned about having learnt Kathak. How did that come about?
I used to struggle with rhythm. It was Priyanka Chopra who suggested I should try learning Kathak to correct my rhythm problems. I then joined Veeru Krishna and learnt dance under him. It was a fabulous one year of experience. It gave me a sense of rhythm. I also learnt Hindustani classical music for six months just to understand a sense of rhythm. Today I can dance to save my life.
So, is Bollywood next on cards?
Acting is where my heart is. I have signed a Hindi film and they are tying up with a studio before which I can’t reveal too many details.
The world knows you as Deepika Padukone and Gauahar Khan’s ex- boyfriend. Does that ever bother you?
There is not much I can do about it right now. I don’t think Deepika or Gauahar see it the way the world sees it or I see it the way the world sees it. It only makes for a story when it’s shown to the world the way it has been shown so far. If I am given a chance, I can show what I have to offer. For both me and Deepika, it all started at Actor Prepares. She got a chance and she is doing phenomenally well and improving with every film that she is doing which is great. On my front, it has taken long, rather long. But I have been told that a hopeless optimist is the right way to be. Good things come with time and better things take slightly longer time. So, I am just holding onto that thought and 2016 should be my year.
I have no complaints in life. Only lessons learnt.