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The Artist

One of Bollywood’s most sought-after character actors,Paresh Rawal,talks about surviving in a star-driven industry.

Written by PriyankaPereira |
September 8, 2012 3:48:16 am

One of Bollywood’s most sought-after character actors,Paresh Rawal,talks about surviving in a star-driven industry.

Paresh Rawal may not be able to boast of a star-like stature or a crazy fan following,but movie buffs will vouch for his versatility as an actor. He doesn’t have a film lineage,nor is he known to be part of any clique in the industry,yet every time a director signs him on,a good performance is guaranteed. From playing small-time villain Annu Bhai in Arjun (1984),to playing a eunuch with the heart of gold in Tamanna (1996),the wily but lovable Teja and his twin Ram Gopal Bajaj in Andaaz Apna Apna (1994) to the boisterous Marathi landlord Baburao Ganpatrao Apte in Hera Pheri (2000) — Rawal’s antics as a villain,comedian or father figure have been a lesson in acting for many.

Rawal puts his success formula simply,when he says,“I take my work seriously,not myself.”

Being an actor is never easy in an industry ruled by star power. “There were times I did a role for the script,sometimes for the director and sometimes for the money. That’s how I maintained the balance throughout my career. After all,you cannot always stick to your principles,ghar bhi toh chalana hai (I have to run my house as well) ,” he states.

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Today,however,Rawal has chanced upon the most challenging and satisfying role of his career,that of Kanjilal Mehta — a man who doesn’t believe in God,but circumstances force him to encounter God himself. His new movie,titled Oh My God,is an adaptation of his Gujarati play Kanji Viruddh Kanji,which has been running successfully for years now. He is co-producing the movie with Akshay Kumar and Ashwini Yardi. Next up,he will also be seen in Priyadarshan’s Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal (a sequel to Malamaal Weekly),Khiladi 786,Zilla Ghaziabad and the remake of Himmatwala by Sajid Khan.

Rawal’s career can be divided into two parts — theatre and films. As an actor,his first break came on the Gujarati stage. “It trained me for the bigger stage. It is one place that allows me to experiment as an actor,” says the 62-year-old. Theatre has also made him more confident as an actor. Tanuja Chandra,who directed him in Tamanna,says,“Paresh is a raw,passionate and thrilling actor. What I like about him is his ability to portray the infinite,minute calibrations of the human experience and to also bare his soul.” This,Rawal believes,comes from his passion for the craft.

When Rawal first came into the industry in 1984,like most acting aspirants,he was keen to be part of films which would redefine Hindi cinema in some way. “There were some very good filmmakers even then. Films such as Arjun,Dacait and Naam really helped me establish myself,” he says. Ketan Mehta’s Sardar (1994) ,where he played the title role of Sardar Vallabhai Patel,was a turning point for him. It brought him international recognition. It also made Bollywood filmmakers look beyond Rawal’s villainous acts and became his ticket to character roles.

Over the years,Rawal has realised that in Bollywood,apart from resilience,patience is a virtue. There were films he did to survive in the industry,which were “unnerving” at times. Yet,he is not angry with the ways of the industry. “There is scope within it to succeed,” he says.

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