An actor has to live what the character has lived through – Purab
Purab Kohli has come a long way in his career – from the TV show Hip Hip Hurray to being a VJ on Channel V to being part of reality shows and now films, the actor has had quite an adventurous journey, one that still continues. After recently returning as the beloved KD in Rock On 2, Kohli has made a comeback to television with P.O.W. – Bandi Yuddh Ke, helmed by a director Nikkhil Advani.
The series is a political thriller that traces the story of Naib Subedar Sartaaj Singh (played by Kohli) who returns home after being held captive as a P.O.W for 17 years. To know more about his role and the show, we caught up with the actor in a candid chat where he talks about his movies, return to television and more.
Rock On 2 saw you return as KD after a gap of eight years. How was your character received this time round?
I think people have really enjoyed KD. This time he is the sutradhar (narrator) of the film. I have grown up seeing movies like The Shawshank Redemption and I wanted to be like Morgan Freeman, so getting this opportunity was great. It’s an honor to be part of a sequel to such a big and anticipated film.
Adding to that was the fact that I got to be the narrator and people have enjoyed that. Apart from that, I think as much as people were waiting for the sequel, we – the cast of the film – were also awaiting it because we had so much fun with the first film and wanted an extension of that.
You started your career with a TV show and have done stints on reality shows too. What was it about P.O.W. – Bandi Yuddh Ke that convinced you to be part of the fiction format again?
A number of things; I think it first started with my own search of wanting something interesting on television in a series format. I honestly didn’t expect television to air a show like this, I was expecting it to come out on the Internet. I am also part of a show called Sense8 on Netflix and when I shot the first season, which was nearly two years ago, I saw what kind of content was being made on an international level. I knew it was just a matter of time before similar content was created in India.
Now, Netflix is here, so is Amazon and then there is Balaji, Hotstar, VOOT and more (platforms) that are coming up; everyone has gone into the digital space. But I was waiting to see who is doing something interesting on television. I met some people, but either I didn’t like the role or didn’t have dates, so it never worked out.
After shooting Airlift, I was driving back with Nikkhil (Advani) from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur when I asked him about his next project and he mentioned this show, which was based on the Israeli drama Hatufim. He told me about the cast and I really liked the whole idea and came on board. I am proud to be associated with P.O.W.- Bandi Yuddh Ke.
The most emotional aspect for me was to explore the feelings that the character is going through when he comes home after 17 years
You play a prisoner of war who returns home after 17 years. It must have been emotionally draining to play such a role.
He is a very intense character and has undergone a traumatic experience. He has several layers to him and there are emotions and issues that he has not yet shown. They will be revealed as the show progresses. You also see that he is a difficult character to play. The torture, some of the action and emotional scenes are quite heavy, but it does get lighter. As the show goes on, you get to see the interesting parts of his life and he eases out a bit.
How did you get into the skin of such an intense character?
You try and find a point of honesty within yourself, where you feel what the character is feeling. I believe what comes out honestly from you is what you portray as an actor. But to find that space of honesty, you have to live what the character has lived through. So whether it is growing up in a pind in Punjab to joining a Sikh regiment to being captive for 17 years, you have to explore these feelings within yourself.
In the series the most emotional aspect for me was to explore the feelings that the character is going through when he comes home after 17 years. He has all these emotions that have been held up and slowly he starts releasing them and you get a glimpse of what he has been through, which is interesting to see.
In terms of getting the persona of the character, I learnt Punjabi and tried to get the accent right. Understanding what it’s like to be from a pind, meeting the Sikh regiment and chatting with them, understanding what it means to be a part of the decorated army, watching videos and talking to psychologists about what the mind and the body can go through was all part of the approach that I adopted.
For me, the most important thing is the conflict that the character is going through
How important are shows like P.O.W. and what impact can they have on TV content in India?
If P.O.W. does well then, yes, it will change the content. The general reaction from people and critics who have seen the show has been positive. I have not received a single bad reaction till now. I don’t think any of us started the show thinking about how it could change or impact television. All of us involved in the show, the actors and director, are just looking at doing something that we would like to watch. We are doing it with all our heart and we are putting it out there for people to see, so I hope it does change (TV content).
Coming to your movie Noor, tell us something about your character?
I can’t tell you anything about the movie as it is too early in the day. But I play the role of a war photojournalist. He is a very charismatic man, unlike me (laughs). He is a very interesting character and I have immensely enjoyed playing him. I think we have an extremely capable director in Sunhil Sippy and it was sheer joy to work with him.
How was the experience of working opposite Sonakshi Sinha for the first time?
It was lovely to work with her; she is a fine lady and a lovely actor. I really love what she is doing with her character; I think she has done an outstanding job playing her part. She is not insecure and is very comfortable in her own shoes, and it is nice to work with confident people. She gives you space to do what you have to do, so the experience was great.
I honestly didn’t expect television to air a show like this, I was expecting it to come out on the Internet
Be it TV or films, what do you look for in a role to play?
For me, the most important thing is the conflict that the character is going through. If the conflict is interesting enough, if the role is challenging, and it makes me want to push myself into becoming the character, that is something I look for. I have to become these characters; I have to like them regardless of the character being negative or positive. More often than not, I like characters that not too many people like even in the real world. I find some strange thing interesting in a character and try to bring that out while I play him.