‘Bheem’ waiting for a special role

Actor Praveen Kumar in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

Years after B.R. Chopra’s ‘Mahabharat’, actor Praveen Kumar is still famous as ‘Bheem’. The gentle giant talks with Madhur Tankha about his professional journey and much more…

His portrayal of Bheem in a popular mythological serial on television made him a household name. Eighteen years on, Praveen Kumar is still recognised for his role as one of the Pandava brothers in B.R. Chopra’s epic “Mahabharat” and is still in search of that one elusive role in Bollywood.

The tall and well-built television and film actor says playing Bheem was a dream-come-true for him. “The serial made me famous across the country. Even now when I pass-by, everyone identifies me with that mythological character. Directors keep approaching me for serials but unless something interesting comes up I am not in a hurry to take up any new acting assignment.”

“It was Manoj Deepak, a Patiala-based filmmaker, who told me that B.R. Chopra was looking for an actor who could play the role of Bheem. While I was on my way to Mr. Chopra’s office, a black cat crossed my path and I thought even if Mr. Chopra doesn’t accept me I have nothing to lose. Luckily he wanted someone who could look the robust mythological character. He told me that I fit the bill and I was immediately signed.”

Stating that he had never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would one day be recognised across the country, Praveen says an interesting fact about ‘Mahabharat’ was that its main characters, the Pandavas, appeared in every episode in an interesting manner. “The whole thing had a feel good factor to it. Even after 20 years people recognise me as if the serial is still continuing. I used to get along with all the characters, especially Puneet Isaar who essayed Duryodhan. He later made a film with Salman Khan.”

Speaking about his ongoing television assignment, Praveen says he will take up new roles in soap operas only if they excite the actor in him. “I am not going to take up something just to keep myself preoccupied. I acted in Ketan Mehta’s serial ‘Chacha Chowdhary’. But the person making the serial started using cheap gimmicks instead of special effects so I left it. Then there was another serial that shared the name with Ramesh Sippy’s ‘Buniyaad’ but it ran into rough weather because the name has been patented.”

Speaking about his agrarian background, Praveen says he is fondly remembered even today as a gentle giant from Sarhali in Punjab. “In our village, my mom used to cook mutton, fish and chicken in desi ghee for me. As I was a naughty boy, I used to skip eating chapattis and hide them in my pocket. I wanted my parents to be proud of my achievements and represented the country in hammer and discus throws in Asian Games and Olympics. “I won the discus throw gold medal in the 1966 and 1970 Asian Games. I picked up a silver medal in the 1974 Asian Games at Teheran.”

Sharing some of his experiences as a sportsman representing India in various countries, Praveen says in those days sportsperson and tourists used to travel together. “There was so much of bonhomie and no threat of terrorists. However, all that changed in the Munich Olympics in 1972. I remember quite clearly I was going to the dining room to eat my breakfast when I heard some gun shots. Later my coach told me that some terrorists had sneaked in.”

Praveen says he is thankful to his parents, teachers and Ashwini Kumar for recruiting him in the Border Security Force. “Nowadays youngsters are taking a lot of interest in World Wrestling Entertainment. Although Khalli has become quite a rage among the younger generation in the country, people should realise that these wrestlers are only interested in providing entertainment. Their fights are as fake as the ones in our Hindi cinema.”