Jaideep Ahlawat: This is the last era of stardom; I don’t think there could be another Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan – Exclusive – Times of India

Be it Shahid Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur, Nawab in Raees, or Khalid Mir in Raazi, actor Jaideep Ahlawat has left an indelible mark with his performances each time. But the tables turned drastically for Ahlawat only after Paatal Lok where he played the cynical cop Hathiram Chowdhary that everyone stood up and took notice of. As his latest flick An Action Hero starring Ayushmann Khurrana hit the screens today, Jaideep Ahlawat got candid with ETimes and spoke about his journey in showbiz, prospects of doing a not so exciting role for money, doing a masala film, stardom of the Khans, and a lot more…

You got a lot of appreciation for Raazi, but did not get the work that you would have expected till Paatal Lok. Tell us something about that phase.

Yes, you are right that I did not get much work after Raazi. And the roles that were offered to me were similar to the character I played in Raazi. I had to turn down a lot of work because there was no fun in doing that. And that phase came even after Gangs of Wasseypur, Commando as well as Vishwaroopam. After every good performance, these pauses kept happening. But that paved the way for Paatal Lok. People believed in me to play such a big role not just in a two-hour film but in a seven-hour series. When Paatal Lok was offered to me I thought even if I deliver it to the audience just the way it is written on paper, it would work. But I also thought that if I fail as an actor to deliver this performance it will take another few years for someone to trust me with a big role. But after Paatal Lok people started trusting me with important characters.

Ayushmann Khurrana said at the trailer launch of An Action Hero that he was ready to adjust his dates to match yours.

Yes, this belief in me and my work is a good feeling. It’s their greatness and love too that they could have cast any actor but they insisted on me doing the role. It’s a good feeling that my work is being accepted and valued.

So, if a role is not that exciting but the money offered to you is big, would you do it?

Yes, I would do it if the money is good. But I won’t continue doing such roles only for money.
Do kaam paise ke liye kar lo, chaar kaam apne mann ke liye kar lo. You need to create that balance.

And are you balancing it well?

Yes, so far. It’s not like I won’t do a bad film no matter how big an amount is offered to me. I would do it. But at least the money should be enough so that I don’t have to think about what I am doing.

Do you think only event films will run in theatres and realistic cinema will have to go to OTT?

I don’t think so. There’s so much content on OTT which is not realistic. It’s entertaining. You can watch it. It’s not necessary that everything is realistic. If your cinema is engaging it will work.

Why do you think that Hindi films are not working at the box office?

I think it’s a phase. Because we’re ignoring the fact that all of us have come out of a pandemic. Things haven’t got normalised completely yet. People are still scared about going to crowded places.

What about the South versus Hindi debate?

I don’t believe in these things. These things are created. One person asks a question and then everybody starts asking the same question. Then it’s posted on social media and people start debating about it without even thinking. These phases come every four years when films don’t work in a given year. Yes, it’s true that with the invention of OTT our time has got divided. Everyone has got a phone in their hands where they’re watching content.

How did your pandemic pan out?

The first year was very busy. The first month was very scary for all of us. But then things started to loosen up. The lockdown happened in March 2020. Paatal Lok came out in May 2020. I spent a month and a half talking about the show. I was very busy. I used to talk to people about the show for 15 hours a day while sitting at home.

But yes, we realised during the pandemic that we take a lot of things for granted. We have a house, running water, electricity, internet, and food. But a lot of people didn’t have the basics during the pandemic.

How do you look at your journey so far? Your career has happened in phases.

Yes. But I think it has happened with everyone like Manoj Bajpayee, Irrfan, and Naseeruddin Shah. Life happens in phases. Contemplating the decisions that you took or you could have taken back in time is of no use. I was always happy. I must have gotten frustrated or angry but I was never negative in all these phases. I never thought of leaving it all. I always knew that it will happen one day because I was working on myself. When an actor doesn’t have any work, he’s working the hardest. Because when you’re acting, you’re delivering the hard work that you have done all these years. Now you have back-to-back projects. You don’t have time to prepare for it now. But you have done your preparations in all those years when you were struggling but nobody bothered to see you.

Do you think cinema is changing, and the stardom is fading out?

I think things change every ten years. I think all types of films should be made. There was a time when if a film runs for 25 weeks i.e. Silver Jubilee, it would be considered a success. Today, if a film runs for a week, it’s considered a success. That’s how life is now. I am sure this is the last era of stardom. I don’t think anyone could be another Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan. Now you will be judged for every work. Now there will be very few faces that you will give leverage even if they do some bad films.

How do you deal with being part of a film versus shouldering a film?

I work with equal genuity in both roles. But there’s a slightly bigger responsibility while shouldering a film/series because the story is being told through your character. You have to be more aware and in sync with the project. But I haven’t felt the pressure yet. And that confidence is not just in me but in my makers as well.

Are you happy with where you have reached or do you want to climb even further?

I don’t think that the desire for progress ever stops. You want to do something new, different, and big every day. After Raazi, I have been wanting to direct a film too. I want to grow not just as an actor but as a film student. The hunger of that film student in me is increasing.

Will you do an out-and-out masala film?

Hundred percent. Why not? I have got a couple of scripts where I will have to do song and dance. I am also rediscovering myself. We can try everything at least once.

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