Negative or Positive Role, I just need to believe in a character – Jaideep Ahlawat
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith his spectacular performance in Gangs of Wasseypur followed by Kamal’s Hassan’s Vishwaroop, Jaideep Ahlawat is all set for his next release, Commando. He plays a negative character AK74 and the dangerous look in the film is just the beginning! An actor at heart , Pandolin catches up with Jaideep Ahlawat to learn more about negative characters and his experience in FTII and his passion for cinema .
Tell us a little about your character AK 74 in your upcoming film Commando?
Commando is an action packed film. It has all the elements of a typical action film. There is drama, characterization and a love story. AK74 is not your normal guy; in fact he is not your normal so called “villain”. He tends to portray weird quirks and traits and has an extremely unpredictable behaviour. For example, his reaction to a completely normal situation would be bizarre and abnormal and he would treat an abnormal situation in a very light hearted manner, almost like an everyday situation.
AK74 also has a very typical look but there is a reasoning to this which is revealed in the story at a latter stage. In all, he is the bad guy of the film however, he is certainly not your normal bad guy. The character full of style and has extremely unique traits.
Was your approach for developing a character like AK 74 more methodical as opposed to your character in Wasseypur which was more realistic?
Though this is a commercial film, I actually feel that the base approach for any character is the same. Whether it is a realistic film or an animated character, what matters is if you believe in the character. Obviously when you believe in a character, you will make him believable. I think the first and foremost important aspect that I look for is whether I believe in a character. For example, if I believe that Shahid Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur would be this leader of a gang and at the same time he could simply run away when attacked. You understand the logic behind why a certain character would behave like this in a situation or his relationships with other characters, that is where the main homework lies.
What is the kind of research and thinking process involved in your preparation for a character?
Honestly, when the script is well written, then half your homework is done. There is a huge amount of input that comes from an actor too. This is in terms of behaviour, mannerism, diction, look and many other factors. Research for me is also an improvisation process as well as probably connecting to old memories where you might have encountered certain interesting characters. For example, you research about the location where the character belongs to and his economic and family background. In case of AK 74, since the character is a flamboyant, egoistic man from Punjab, here, it was much easier for me to adapt to the whole Punjabi element since I am born and brought up in Haryana. So, it is actually a mix of a lot of elements, sometimes you already have some, this makes it slightly better and sometimes you learn new ones .
Can you tell us about your acting style and approach for Commando as compared to a realistic film like GoW?
Every character has a different requirement and a lot depends on the filmmaker too. For example, I had the opportunity to visit the coal mines before shooting for Wasseypur. So I had a better understanding of the work and what is their lifestyle. As long as my approach is concerned, of course I need to keep a few things in mind too. Like, my character in Wasseypur does not abuse as much as others, since this was my and the director’s understanding that probably people in 1940s would not abuse as easily as people do now. So, more than different, I think the approach for something like Gangs of Wasseypur depends mostly on a character than the genre of the film.
You have studied at FTII, how has the training helped you? Do you think acting schools help in an actor’s growth?
Of course training definitely helps and most importantly, it helps you focus without any distractions. So, what you could learn through experience in 5 years, you learn here at schools within two years because obviously your focus is completely on learning. Every person who wants to be an actor has watched so many films and the same goes for me. However, when I entered the institute, I was just like anybody who treated acting like a hobby. But here, I became a receiver and I realized there is so much more that you have to take care of. From your sound level to your look, I think the institute taught me that acting is an art , a craft.
This will be your fourth film in a negative role. Is it a conscious choice to do negative roles or you’re hoping to do certain kind of films? If yes, what kind of films are you looking forward to?
No, this was definitely not a conscious choice. Also it was not a personal choice that I want to do negative roles. I would love to do a comic role or romantic, positive roles. As an actor, I guess I would love to perform a well written character and I would love to try every type of role .
Shahrukh Khan was probably the last actor who did a negative role and was then also accepted as a mainstream hero. Do you think the Hindi film industry is open to new and offbeat looks and personalities? What has been your experience so far?
The industry has always been open to good performances and good characters.I don’t think there is really an insecurity that one will get stuck as a certain character artist. I think even actors like Om Puri and Pankaj Kapoor have managed to pull both kinds of roles during their times and still do. I guess, it is all in the logistics. For example, if you have a requirement for a certain look or physicality, you might compromise there. However, I think this is more to do with whether a director believes you can pull off a role or not. For example, Anurag believed in me however, even he is aware that he would have to inform me at least 3 months in advance if I am required to grow long hair or have a long beard to make the character look more believable.
Tell us about your favorite performances in a negative role.
I have two favorites – Joker by Heath Ledger in Batman – The Dark Knight and Big Boy Caprice by Al Pacino in Dick Tracy. Irrfan Khan in Haasil is simply brilliant. Pankaj Kapoor and Om Puri ,again have played most of their negative roles with such elegance and confidence.
Actors like Irrfan Khan and Manoj Bajpai are finally getting their due. What are your views on the emergence of this new age cinema? Who is your recent favorite?
It’s great. They are actors who followed their path and honed their skills. Stardom and success is just a part and parcel of their hard work but most importantly they have a different level of respect and dignity and that’s remarkable. New Age Cinema is evolving and it is the audience which is getting such good cinema into mainstream. My favorite has always been Irrfan Khan. Manoj Bajpai and Nawazzudin Siddique are my recent favourites too .
What are your future projects and what kind of work are your looking forward to be a part of? Any particular wishes!
Right now there is only Vishwaroop 2 .
What message would you like to give upcoming actors?
Believe in yourself and I know everyone says this. But it is extremely important to believe in yourself and your potential. Whether it is a negative role or positive, whether you have a hard looking face or whatever, you have to believe in yourself. Work on your weak points and give your best shot !
– As told to Anuradha Turner