Pavan Malhotra on his role in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and striking a balance between art and commercial cinema

In spite of the conjecture that he hasn’t really got his due, Pavan Malhotra is a happy actor. “God’s been kind to me,” he says, as we meet up in director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s office for a tete-a-tete prior to his second release this year Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (the first being Ek Thi Daayan). Pavan is hoping to score yet another bulls’ eye with his portrayal of late Gurudev Singh, Milkha Singh’s first coach, mentor and ‘almost’ elder brother. “I’ve got ample opportunity to play diverse roles in my career. And, would you believe, every single role that you see has come to me of its own accord. The ones I have tried to reach out for have never happened!” he says with a smile.

“I loved the story of Milkha Singh. It’s a rag-to-riches tale in the post-Partition scenario. It’s about the passion of a 12-year-old boy who arrives in Delhi from Pakistan after his entire family is slaughtered and meets his sister. He joins the army where the only incentive to run is the food! Then, he goes on to become the ‘Flying Sikh’. It was very inspiring,” says Pavan, adding that it was with great pride that he played the role of Gurudev Singh. “I was really humbled when I met Milkha and his wife. Gurudev was about 10-12 years his senior and the couple kept repeating how it was he who shaped Milkha’s career. Milkha used to revere him and would consult him on all matters, including personal.” Pavan and Rakeysh share a good relationship since the days of Delhi 6 in which the actor played a feuding brother. “ Rakeysh had in fact given me the option of playing one of the two brothers. I appreciate his talent. In Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, you will not feel as though you are watching actors acting out a race. You can experience their passion.” Pavan, who has acted in some of the choicest and award-winning television shows and movies says, “If someone calls me a character artiste, I ask them aren’t all actors characters? I played the ‘lead’ in Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, Bagh Bahadur, Brothers In Trouble. I have played an underworld goon in Salim…, My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves, Bhendi Bazaar and Black Friday — but I doubt anyone can say that any of them resembled the other. That’s the beauty of acting and understanding a film and its requirements. I invest in a character. And I love doing that.”

Pavan will next be seen in Sanjay Chauhan’s upcoming film on the creation of Bangladesh tentatively titled Bastard Child. He has also an important role of a cop in Hrithik-Katrina starrer Bang Bang. Art house or commercial cinema, he seems to handle both with equanimity. He laughs and replies, “As I had once told someone who was apprehensive about casting me in a loud kind of role , ‘You can even make me hang upside down and act. I will do that too with realism’!”