From his childhood memories of when he first went to the cinemas and fell in love with movies to everything that attracted him to the story of Gulmohar, Gandharv Dewan gives us all the prep it took him behind the scenes and why he loved working for this film!
A new up and coming talent in the world of OTT and the big screens, Gandharv Dewan is an NSD graduate and is currently also learning Hindustani classical music simply so that he can maintain a discipline and cultivate the art of being able to focus on one thing. Glancing over his filmography will make you realise the versatility in his work and the various different characters he chooses to play and how he becomes one with them. He is also a sports enthusiast through and through. He is very dedicated to his craft and through this conversation you can see the love that he has for acting, for his crew, and how he is always ready to give his best in every role that he embodies.
He also shares screen space with Manoj Bajpayee, Sharmila Tagore, Suraj Sharma and Shanti in Gulmohar and talks about his first impression of them and what it was like working with them. This film has been special to him for many reasons. Firstly because his character from the film ‘Irrfan’ feels like a small tribute to the legend Irrfan Khan and on a personal front, he also got married while filming for this movie.
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Here’s how the conversation went!
Can you tell us a little bit about your film, Gulmohar?
Basically, it’s a family drama. And it’s set in Delhi. It’s about an ancestral house, and a family, which is now planning to move away from the ancestral property in a fairly well to do colony in Delhi, and they’re now moving away from the house. That’s it. That’s the story.
It’s the story of the nitty gritties that happen in a family. If you’ve seen a film like monsoon wedding, it’s like that kind of world. There’s no big thriller, but like, you know, it’s more about the smaller things that happen within the family. It’s about a father- son relationship, husband, wife, the feeling of leaving a house, and within that framework, the process of shifting and I am supervising the entire shifting of the household.
Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
I play Irrfan. So they’re moving houses. So the company that I work for is figuring out their shifting, and I’m the supervisor of this entire shifting process. And during this time, I meet someone that I’ve known from before. And there’s a love triangle, which I don’t want to talk too much in detail about. But yeah, I mean, I play a primary role in the film.
What made you pick this role? What attracted you towards it and how did you prep for it?
The name of the character being ‘Irrfan’, like it was my small little tribute to Irrfan Khan Saab as I’m a big fan. And apart from that, what attracted me to the role was, I think, the character has a very positive outlook to his life. You know, he’s a very positive personality, despite circumstances not favouring him, a very ambitious guy, you know, comes from not a very privileged background. But despite that is ready to fight all odds, to be successful in life. Like very early in the film, it gets established that he’s recently been divorced. So despite that matlab uska outlook life mein mayoos, afsoos mein nahi hai. He’s very, very positive about his life and what attracted me and what made me do this film was the people involved like it was Rahul Chittela, the director, he’s been involved with Mira Nair, for the longest time and the DOP of the film was Ishit Narayan, who again, is a brilliant cinematographer. And I’d heard great things about him from my friends. And it was an absolutely phenomenal cast, you know, getting to work with people like Sharmila Ji, Manoj Bajpayee sir, Suraj Sharma, Jatin Goswami, Shanti, Kaveri and everyone was, I mean, it was a very exciting ensemble.
You speak about the ensemble of the film and I completely agree. There’s so many veteran actors, such talented actors that we’ve seen so many times on our screens. What was it like working with them?
Amongst even the younger lot, they were people like Suraj Sharma who basically works in America mostly, But he’s a boy born and raised in Delhi and so am I. We’re similar in age and I had known of him from common friends we have in Delhi. So I was very positively surprised to see his behaviour because I had a preconceived notion of what he may be like but he was the most chilled out guy on set. We all became like an extended family and we all had a great time.I got the opportunity and the absolute honour to see Manoj Bajpayee work very closely. You know, I used to see and observe his behaviour on set and the production was absolutely of top notch international quality.
There weren’t delays on set, frivolous hours nahi the so there were never any irritable moments on set. So everyone was in a very, very good space. Manoj sir, in the beginning took a workshop with us as well, which was the head start with the primary cast. And it was great working with him there. And then seeing him closely in the scene that I had with him uss scene mein bhi, I mean, Sir kept a hand over my shoulder and asked his boy to give me a Diet Coke as well. And we both had a good time. And he asked me about my journey, what I’ve done, and he appreciated my work and I was very happy to be with him and work with him. Just seeing him at work was great, like even at the table readings we had, he added meaning to the script in ways that I’d never imagined. And when you get to see the film, I think both Manoj sir and Suraj, in fact everyone actually in the film has done really, really fine quality of acting of matlab jiss tareeke se trailer mein diya hai itne award winners hai. So even I had to bring my best A game to the table.
Speaking of your behind the scenes journey, is there any anecdote while filming for this movie that you’d like to share with us?
To prepare for this role, I literally spent a day with Packers and Movers and was seeing how the workers there go about with their daily work. And I’ve had Zoom calls with the person who owns that company. And that’s what I think my character wants to become eventually, like, you know, that’s what he sees himself becoming. I also shot at iconic locations, like, Amrita Shergill marg in Delhi and all these top notch places and houses that otherwise you know, I don’t think I would have gotten an entry to in my life and I was very happy to be shooting in these locations. There were roads blocked for us and I was driving in locations which are so very precious in Delhi and I had a very, very good time like that and many memorable moments and conversations in and around acting with people like Jatin and Shanti who comes from south and is a very prolific actor, I got to work with her.
Aur mujhe lagta hai Manoj Bajpayee ke sath aisa laga ki mere acting notes fresh hogaye hai, unko kaam karta dekh ke like he’d always stand for giving cues to people. He’d always be sitting on set. I didn’t see him too much, you know, running around in the vanity and even though these days actors have a habit of looking at the monitor quite a bit, how are they looking? I still never saw him go to the monitor. And I picked that up from him as well. And I learned that it’s not so important to be very obsessed about how you’re looking, how’s that going? Or whatever. I mean, he trusts every department on the team to do their job and which was a great learning for me.
This set was also so smoothly running because this was one of the very few crews that I’ve been a part of where there were more women than men. There were a lot of women even in the camera team, the production team EP was a woman and the AD team was maximum women. We had only one or two male ADs, and the rest were all women. And I think that went a long way in the smooth functioning of the entire thing because they were the real backbones of the film. Also amidst shooting of this film, I got married and I shot the next day. The day after that I had a reception so I mean, these guys were very kind to me that way, you know. They accommodated everything for me and everything went on happily. In fact, after our reception in Delhi, it was at the India habitat centre, after that my wife and I went to the wrap party for Gulmohar, which was happening in CP. So it was quite special where we were in proper reception outfits, but we still made an effort to go there.
Coming to some of your previous work that I was going through, you’ve been a part of The Zoya Factor, Office vs Office, Life Sahi Hai 2. You’ve played so many characters, so which is that one character who you connected to the most?
You know honestly I come from theater and I think I can come across as a very typical geek like looking guy, you know, exceptionally good looking boys conventionally that are considered. I think I can also come across as a very regular looking guy, if I dress well. I’ve been cast in films where I’ve played a prince of Bhopal, and I’ve been playing all kinds of characters. So I think somehow I am like a chameleon, I can put on different roles in parts. You know, like, for example, in The Railwaymen, a series that I’m doing for YashRaj, I’m doing something which is absolutely diametrically opposite in terms of behavior compared to what I played in Gulmohar. I’m playing a boxer in another film. So I feel very fortunate that I don’t commit my personality to anything. I mean, everything I play is a part of my personality and an extension of myself. But I really, truly believe that I so far have gotten very different roles.
In fact, when I was offered Irrfan, and I was the last person cast for this film in the sense that everyone else had gotten locked in, but they were not finding their Irrfan. And when I was offered this role, I thought, why are they coming to me? I don’t fit this at all. And every other person I spoke to after I got the film, I told them I might be doing this film called Gulmohar and the actors in our community were asking, “Did you audition for Irrfan?”. Mujhe pata hai matlab kaafi actors ne Irrfan ka audition diya tha. So I never thought that I was suited for the part. Mine was a Zoom audition. I remember the casting assistant really worked hard with me. We took seven-eight takes of three different scenes. And then I flew down to Bombay for a day. Then Rahul gave me the script. I sat in a cafe for a couple of hours, went through it and came back and said, yes to him, and that’s how it flew. So yeah, I mean, I don’t feel necessarily closer to one part than the other. I feel close to every part that I play because I give my 100% and I become that person each time. I genuinely don’t know, it’s like asking to choose between your babies. You can’t, right?
You’ve done a lot of content on OTT, but then you’ve also done movies that have been released in the theatre so like, do you see any difference in the process of both of them? Do you prefer OTT over theatre or the other way round?
I honestly think that it depends on the film and what the makers have in mind for it. I genuinely feel there are films now that are better suited for OTT. Films that have low budget but big ambitions get a platform on OTT but I obviously feel like a film like Pathaan is not meant for the OTT it is meant to be experienced in the theater and so is an Avatar, so the experience is absolutely relevant. You know when a person makes art or a film, to reach a wide variety of people and Disney+ Hotstar, the amount of viewership that they have aap saare theatres mila lo aur har baar fill kar de, usse zyada aaj kal subscription hai Disney+Hotstar pe toh like anything releasing on Disney+Hotstar, be it the cricket they play or other things they play their window is so huge. So like, it really opens up the freedom to be watched by so many people in our country. And what else can you want so, I’m very happy that this is releasing on Disney+ Hotstar and I am very excited about people’s response.
While you were younger, who inspired you the most as an aspiring actor?
When it comes to my real childhood memories, of course, the first film I saw in the theatre, and I still remember telling my parents, “Ye kitna bada TV hai”, that’s how young and naive I was. I remember watching a film called Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. And I mean, I was always rooting for Shahrukh ever since and, like a lot of us even I have grown up watching almost every film of his in the theatre, but not necessarily to become an actor like him or to see a journey of mine as same as his, but he’s been someone that I have really looked up to. My dad used to adore Dev Saab, vo Dev Anand bhi nahi bolte the, he used to say Dev Saab. So that kind of admiration I have for Shahrukh sir as well because I thought I’d never be starstruck in my life. I’ve done an ad with Amitabh sir, I was there around mujhe kuch itna, you know, aise nahi hua. But then one day I was shooting for The Zoya Factor’s poster shoot, I remember and I saw a few cars with the same number plate, and then I saw a very big vanity and then I realised it’s Shahrukh and I remember standing there waiting so anxiously for him to come out and I saw him and I almost saw that there’s a halo around him and I felt, which of course there wasn’t really perhaps but it is what you attribute to the personality right?
And I’d never felt like that before and I saw him and I was like I thought I’ve seen some, I don’t know for the lack of a better word, some saint or some extra worldly personality so yeah, I mean, that happened to me. I thought it would never be possible. And also you know, because abhi toh Pathaan aayi hai, tabhi toh kuch unki filmein bhi nahi chal rahi thi, kuch nahi tha, He was just shooting for an ad, he was just chilling around, but I saw him and the amount of value that we’ve put to him in his life and, who he is and how integral he has been as a part of my childhood so I was very happy to just see him. But I also get inspired by Manoj sir, by Tabu Ma’am, by people like Irrfan saab. That’s the kind of work that I really love to watch and enjoy.
So you did mention you have a YRF series coming up and you said that you’re playing a boxer soon? Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Yeah, I’m doing a YRF show called The Railway Men. It’s directed by Shiv Rawail and that’s all I can say about it. It’s based on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which I think everyone knows about. It’s their first big web show. And then I’m doing a film called Mein Ladega, where I’m playing a boxer and it is directed by Gaurav Rana.
Any last words to your audience in terms of what we can expect from this film? Can you describe Gulmohar in one word or in one sentence? How would you lure us into pressing play on this movie?
I think Gulmohar is a warm hug. I think there are very few well made family dramas which lie in reality. This comes from a very real space, it’s very easily relatable, you will cry, you laugh, and you can watch this film with your family. And I think it will touch everyone’s heart. Because there’s so many stories, and there’s so many multiple narratives flowing, there’s something honestly, for everyone in it. And it’s a very heartwarming family story. Working on it felt like a warm hug. I don’t think there’s been a buffet of a better set of actors to watch.
Gulmohar is currently streaming on Disney+Hotstar!
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