#KetchupTalks: From small-town dreams to silver screen success, Paresh Pahuja chats with us about it all!

Karishma Jangid
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Paresh Pahuja

In this revealing interview, Operation Valentine actor Paresh Pahuja reflects on his diverse roles, unique experiences on set, and his passion for both acting and music. 

Stepping into the world of acting typically begins with a simple dream. For Paresh Pahuja, like countless others, that dream was fueled by a desire for fame and fortune, with role models like Shah Rukh Khan lighting the path. Coming from Ahmedabad, a city bursting with life yet seemingly distant from the glitz of Bollywood, Paresh's journey to becoming an actor seemed doubtful. However, fate intervened, guiding him to the bustling streets of Mumbai, where dreams take shape amidst the chaos. Today, he has carved a space for himself in the Hindi film industry with titles like 'Tandav,' 'Kadak Singh,' and 'Operation Valentine' to his name. While his role in 'Bandish Bandits' is still a secret, his upcoming movie 'Lord Curzon Ki Haveli' is a guaranteed laugh riot. In a candid yet elaborate chat, Paresh shares with us, his remarkable journey from small-town aspirations to the silver screen, proving that with determination and a touch of serendipity, even the most unlikely dreams can blossom into reality.

Also Read: Lord Curzon Ki Haveli review: Brilliant cast delivers refreshing mystery and hilarity

Read the full interview here

Can you share a bit about your journey into the world of acting? What inspired you to pursue this career path?

For everyone who treads this path, the initial inspirations are fame and money. Growing up, boys in India want to be either Sachin Tendulkar or Shah Rukh Khan. Such is the influence of cricket and Bollywood in our country! I, too, dreamed of being like SRK. But when you come from a smaller city like Ahmedabad (it is massive now), you don't know how to go about things. So, I never thought that I would become an actor. Also, coming from a humble family, the idea was to uplift the family financially; do an MBA, and get a job. However, the dots just connected and here we are! I'm in Mumbai and I'm an actor. I think it's just the beginning. I wish I had started much earlier. But it's been beautiful so far. People have been very supportive. And this is the city of dreamers. I believe that if you have a dream, you eventually find a way just like I did!

You've showcased your talent in a variety of roles, from intense dramas to action-packed films. How do you prepare yourself to play such diverse characters?

The beauty of being an actor is that you get to experience multiple lifetimes in one. For example, I just lived the role of a fighter pilot. I was around real jets at a real airbase, wearing a real uniform. This inspires me to keep experimenting. I like to experience the character’s entire world. My style of preparation differs for each project. For some roles, you even have to face an emotion, fact, or truth about yourself that you might have been avoiding; it feels therapeutic. Each role demands something different. I also monitor how other actors prepare for their roles. I watch actors’ roundtables. Hopefully, I'm going to be on one very soon! I love understanding their preparation process. Some people use a different perfume or even different underwear for each role! I have started incorporating such practices because it's a multi-sensory experience. I also love learning new languages. Initially, learning Telugu for Operation Valentine was difficult but I really enjoyed it. I would often forget a line or two. But that's the whole point of doing a film differently, isn’t it? It taught me that acting is not merely about words.

Your recent project, Operation Valentine, involves portraying a fighter pilot. Did you have any experiences or challenges unique to filming in such an environment?

Many! Due to the stringent security measures, phones were prohibited from being carried aboard the aircraft. So, we would shoot for 10-12 hours without our phones. When free, you could either read a book or talk to people. Of course, initially, you can have a shallow conversation about what's going on, work and more. But you can't do that throughout the schedule. So, eventually, you open up, become vulnerable, and even form strong bonds. This felt challenging. We're so accustomed to being professionals who go out into the world, complete their tasks, and return. However, Operation Valentine forced us to be the most authentic versions of ourselves. I believe it's the most beautiful thing- leaving your phones aside and having real conversations.

What was it like for you to be involved in a horror/drama film like Lord Curzon Ki Haveli?

It's one of the craziest films I have done and watched! It's a brilliant and bizarre film; I can't wait for the world to watch it. You do one for the kitchen, one for the soul- this movie is for the soul. I got to work with Anshuman Jha, my adorable friend Arjun Mathur, the phenomenal talent and one of the best Indian actresses Rasika Duggal, and the brilliant Zoha Rahman. It was almost like going back to school and learning acting all over again! Also, we shot in London. It has been a childhood dream to visit London. In films, they always show London, New York or Paris. So, as soon as Anshuman told me that we were shooting this in London, I said, “Let's go. I don't want to read the script. Let's just go.” But when I read the script, it was brilliant. My whole experience with the film has been special. I really want people to watch it. I am eager to know what they think.

In addition to acting, you're also a singer-songwriter. How do you balance your pursuits in both fields of creativity?

‘Creativity’ is the answer. These days you can be creative with everything and you must be because that's the only way to stand out. For me, it happened very organically. I was gifted with music. I used to sing in school and college but I never really learned to sing professionally. But then, as I said, the dots connected. I met musicians and thought, maybe it's a sign. So, I started making music. That's how my first song, ‘Mascara’ happened with Vayu and Akasa. Then 'Dooron Dooron' happened. It was effortless. I have often heard that if something comes easily to you, then you're meant to do it. You should not take that gift for granted. So, music is that for me. It's spiritual and personal. While I can do music alone in my room, filmmaking is a collaborative medium- you need 80- 200 people to make a film. But I do and enjoy both. I also like to paint.

Bandish Bandits is one of your upcoming projects. Can you give us a glimpse into your character and what drew you to this role?

Bandish Bandits, oh my God, kya bataau aapko! When I saw Bandish season 1, I was fuming. I called up my manager and asked, “Why am I not a part of this?” My love for the show echoed in the universe, I guess. When season 2 was being made, I got a call. I was on a holiday in Berlin. They asked me for an urgent audition. At first, I was reluctant because I was on holiday. But as soon as I learned that it was for Bandish, I said, “Abhi bhejta hoon!” I asked my friend to shoot my audition and I sent my test, and within a few days, they said I was in and my training began. It's been such a beautiful journey. Anand Tiwari is a gem. Everyone on Bandish is distinguished. I can't tell you much about my character, makers are trying to keep it under wraps. It's a surprise which is going to take the show in a nice, different direction. I'm really looking forward to it, like a little child.

As you venture into international cinema, what differences do you find between working in the Indian film industry and abroad?

Both are similar and different at the same time. Big productions here are also following the right protocols and everybody is trying to be as ethical and organized as possible. And of course, certain loopholes need to be filled, which the big productions are trying to do. What I really like internationally, though, is that the whole process is fairly transparent. From auditioning to getting the part to payments to the royalty, you don't have to ask. These things are your prerogative. That’s impressive. I hope it happens here soon. The size of our industry is massive and we are getting there. Just a little more transparency and fairness would be great.

We've seen you tackle intense roles on screen, but what's one role you'd love to play that's completely out of your comfort zone?

There are so many roles that I would love to play but are out of my comfort zone. I would say something like ‘Animal’ or ‘Joker’ because it makes you so uncomfortable as a viewer. That's a dream role. Such roles can alter you in an unwanted way and coming out of that takes time. But that's the thing about being an artist - you want to step into territories that you haven't touched before. Earlier I used to judge characters based on dekhne ke baad log kya sochenge mere baare mein. That changed with Lakkadbaggha and Lord Curon Ki Haveli. In these independent films, I am playing grey characters. And it's okay because log hote hai waise. The human experience is not entirely black or white. So, yeah!

Lastly, what message or feeling do you hope audiences take away from your performances, particularly in your upcoming projects?

I want people to feel hopeful, optimistic and empowered. We often feel powerless as we are dependent on other people to give us work. There's a lot of waiting involved. And that's true for everything. That waiting period often gets you into doubt and makes you feel uncomfortable. I believe that the only way you can feel powerful is by empowering others and by giving them hope. That's what I'm trying to do with my acting and music. If somebody's having a bad day and if they consume my art, I want them to feel empowered. They should feel hopeful in some way. That's a very conscious decision when I'm choosing scripts. So, yeah - empowerment, hope, and optimism!

Have you watched him onscreen before? Tell us in the comments below!

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bandish bandits Paresh Pahuja Operation Valentine