Actor Jaideep Ahlawat is winning accolades for his portrayal of a down-and-out cop in the web series Paatal Lok, a neo-noir crime thriller. The 42-year-old actor talks to Giridhar Jha about the web series and his journey in Bollywood so far. Excerpts:
What is the USP of Paatal Lok?
It is one of the finest written shows I have seen in recent times. You get to see a social structure made of different strata of society—Swarg Lok, Dharti Lok and Paatal Lok—where people from different classes lead their lives in their own way. As far as my character is concerned, Hathiram is from Dharti Lok. He is torn between his personal and professional lives. How he lands in such a situation and how he fights his battle on both fronts to forge ahead is what this show is all about. It is the story of every individual
Content has been a buzzword in the entertainment industry for about a decade now. Do you think web series will take it to the next level?
Absolutely. It is an audio-visual medium that enables you to tell your story on a huge platform with a worldwide reach. You can showcase your work through it and also watch the work of others from across the world. It helps you widen your horizons when you get to see such work. You get a better vision and perspective as an actor and feel challenged to try new things. It also allows you to show certain content that cannot be shown under the present Indian censorship laws. Of course, web content is classified in different categories, such as 13+, 16+ or 18+ depending on their suitability, but this is discretionary.
You have worked in different media, from theatre to web series. As an actor, do you have to change for different formats?
When the camera rolls, it is all the same for an actor. How your work is taken to the audience after that varies from one medium to another. The mode of work as well the reach of all media are different. You have to play your part as an actor at the end of the day, regardless of the medium. It does not bother me whether my work is reaching the audience through cinema, TV or a web series.
With the advent of global OTT platforms, do you foresee a time when they will replace cinema?
Twenty years ago, you had to pay for incoming calls on your mobile phone. Who had then thought of using smartphones on which you could watch all kinds of audio-visual content? In the coming years, OTT platforms will certainly grow bigger, but cinema has its own impact. Movies that were made at the start of this millennium are still considered classics. Even today, films are being made in and outside the country. Cinema, therefore, cannot be replaced, but OTT platforms have immense scope, especially in the East, where many people are still not connected to them.
Gangs of Wasseypur.
There has been a rush lately to make web series, which has raised concerns regarding the quality of content.
It has always been like that in every medium. It is the responsibility of filmmakers, actors and writers, who have the freedom to do the kind of work they want to do irrespective of whether it is good or not. If I feel I have to do a certain kind of work, I would like to do it.
Are you happy with the way your career has evolved so far?
It is not that I am happy or unhappy, thinking how it could have been better. And who will decide how it could have been any different? If you look at it, there has been some good work. I am happy that I am not in any blind race. I prefer to be selective in my work. I am never depressed nor do I ever feel suffocated. Ups and downs are part of life. One has to try their best and march ahead.
How do you remember your character Shahid Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)?
Films such as Gangs of Wasseypur and Raazi (2018) are milestones in my career. Whenever I look back, I realise I was lucky to be part of such projects. By the grace of God, I got such opportunities. I hope that I will keep getting one such project every year for the rest of my life.
Will the rise of content-driven movies lead to the end of the star system in Bollywood?
I don’t think so. The hero keeps changing in every era. Every 10-15 years, society undergoes a change. The thinking of a 10-year-old kid changes when he turns 20. Such changes can be seen in every aspect of life. People’s preferences also change with time. Stars, for one, will always be there; only their face will change. Old stars will make way for new ones. For example, there were stars like Balraj Sahni and Dev Anand earlier. Today, we have Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. For actors, more options have come up due to the advent of new platforms.
What are your forthcoming projects?
I had completed some work just before the lockdown. I cannot say at the moment when those will be released. Baaghi 3 was released only two weeks before the lockdown and was doing well. Right now, I am reading scripts to make the most of my time at home.