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Journalism of Courage

Jaideep Ahlawat: A project like Paatal Lok could have been offered to me earlier

Actor Jaideep Ahlawat on getting into his character in Amazon Prime Video's Paatal Lok, and his journey in Bollywood so far.

jaideep ahlawat paatal lok Jaideep Ahlawat plays the lead role in Amazon Prime Video’s Paatal Lok.

Jaideep Ahlawat has played several characters that have brought him critical acclaim (Gangs of Wasseypur, Command, Gabbar Is Back). But, it was his performance as RAW agent Khalid Mir in Meghna Gulzar directorial Raazi which compelled filmmakers and audience to take note of his talent.

Now, after almost twelve years in the industry, Ahlawat is set to play a hero in Amazon Prime Video’s original Paatal Lok. Though he believes he could have been cast in a lead role much before, he is immensely grateful to writer Sudip Sharma for this opportunity.

In a recent chat with indianexpress.com, Jaideep Ahlawat got candid about getting into the skin of Haathi Ram, and his journey in Bollywood so far.

What is it about Paatal Lok that convinced you?

It’s a very interesting and well-written story. Then, Sudip (Sharma) sir gave me the lead role. There were no ways I could have said no to it. Moreover, this project had good, hard-working people associated with it.

From the trailer, it seems your character has several layers to it. How did you prepare for it?

For an actor, his job becomes easy, when his character is described well on the paper. With a well-written role, it becomes simpler to design and understand your character. So, Sudip sir had written a well-defined character and my job was just to sketch why this man Haathi Ram (his character in the show) is the way he is. I just had to create a background on why he talks, walks and behaves in a certain way. While some of these things I picked from the script itself, some I just researched and discussed with the team.

Recently in a chat with Neeraj Kabi, he said its important for an actor to get entirely into the shoes of the character you are playing. And, Abhishek Banerjee said an actor should stay separate from the role he is playing. What is your take on it?

Every actor has his own approach towards acting. I believe you do not become the character you are playing. You may get closer to it but you do not lose yourself. There’s just a reflection of the character in you. Becoming the character you are playing might work for some, but for me, it doesn’t. I always maintain a gap between myself and my character because if I will go so deep into it, it will get difficult for me to come back. You should work towards understanding the psyche of your character and then play it. In my case, you will see Haathi Ram through Jaideep. In my understanding, merging an actor and character completely is not right. To do that, you need to live that character for a longer duration.

What did you take away from your character in Paatal Lok?

If I will mention everything, you will call me weird. (laughs). Haathi Ram has a different kind of romance with his wife. It is subdued and has an undercurrent to it. You might feel it’s not there, but it is. Some emotions I explored here were new to me. Sometimes I felt them so deeply that I started taking the guy who plays my son Siddharth as my real son. I felt angry when he did something wrong. It took me a moment to tell myself, ‘he is your co-actor, you can’t do that.’


You have got to work with some of the finest talents in your films. Did it help you in enhancing your craft?

More than good co-actors, if you have understanding co-actors, it becomes easier to relate with them. Many actors become insecure and get personal, which is not right. Abhishek (Banerjee) and I know each other for quite some time now. Off the set, we have a good equation and this bonding between us, helped us to develop a scene in a better way. That is the beauty of an actor who surrenders to the situation. Sometimes just looking at him was working for me because he was so truthful towards Hathoda Tyagi.

Abhishek Banerjee and Jaideep Ahlawat in a still from Paatal Lok. (Photo: Amazon Prime Video)

If we look at your filmography, your roles are quite villainous. Is it that these roles came to you or do you have some fondness towards playing characters with a darker shade?

I think I didn’t get anyone like Sudip sir who believed that I can be a hero too (laughs). Sometimes you are too desperate for work that you cannot decide if you should do a role or not. In the initial days, you only want to put across the word that you can act and you can do it well. And, when you are from the outside of the industry, it becomes a little difficult to put the word across. So, I think this is what happened with me. My first two characters had negative shades and the industry noticed me in those only. But, eventually, it changed with Commando, Gabbar Is Back, Raazi and Lust Stories as the writers and directors gained faith in me.

In what way did Gangs of Wasseypur impact your career?

I would say, with Gangs of Wasseypur I knocked the correct door of Bollywood. I left a footprint with it. And with Raazi, I entered that door. Sometimes I feel Raazi is a more important film in my career because it opened all the doors for me.


Also read | Paatal Lok actor Abhishek Banerjee: Was unsure of pulling off Hathoda Tyagi

How has your journey been in the industry till now? Do you think you have got the kind of recognition you deserve for your work?

I am happy with the journey but some things could have happened sooner. A work like Paatal Lok could have been offered to me earlier because I had established I can act well long ago. I am not ready to accept that people could not have faith in my acting. I am not saying I could have done romantic roles like Shah Rukh Khan, but, I was perfectly fit for my kind of stories. What is happening with Paatal Lok, could have happened earlier.

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What’s your next project?

There’s a film called Khaali Peeli, and a short film for Netflix which I have done with Karan Johar and Shashank Khaitan.

First published on: 15-05-2020 at 09:03 IST
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