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Jaane Jaan actor Jaideep Ahlawat: I don’t even care about these tags like OTT actor, I just don’t like this word

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For actors doing some exceptional work in the web space, getting labelled as an OTT actor seems to have become the norm now. But, not everyone frets about it or let it come in way of their work. Actor Jaideep Ahlawat, who became a household name and garnered immense praise for his role as Hathiram Chaudhary in web show Pataal Lok (2020), is definitely among this lot. “I just don’t like this word. Whenever someone says ‘OTT actor’, I ask, ‘What’s an OTT actor? Does it mean he can only act when he is working on OTT? Or will he work bad when he’s acting in a film meant for a theatrical release? I think that’s the word people started to use casually when they said so and so actor works a lot of digital platforms,” says the actor, adding , “Yeh OTT abhi aaya hai yaar, bas teen saal pehle [during the pandemic]. So, are you trying to say someone was not an actor before this or was he a bad actor or has he become a better actor because of OTT? Mera dimaag kaam hi nahi karta uss tareeke se. I don’t like this particular tag. For me, we are just actors, whether we work on OTT or in theatres. And, I don’t even struggle to shed these labels, I just don’t like it. Also, I don’t that much time to waste in my life that I should care about why are you calling me an OTT actor. I don’t just care. Mera jo mann kar raha hai, main wahi karta hoon.”

Actor Jaideep Ahlawat at The Himalayan Film Festival in Leh
Actor Jaideep Ahlawat at The Himalayan Film Festival in Leh

That being said, Ahlawat, who was last seen web original film Jaane Jaan, alongside actors Kareena Kapoor Khan and Vijay Varma, admits that people still view web and theatres in extremely different light. Asked if it would have made any difference to him as an actor if Jaane Jaan released on the big screen, he says, “I don’t so. But yes, if you see a film on the bigger screen, you would feel a different way. Cinema has a different impact when you watch it on the big screen, in that dark room… you understand and connect with the story slightly more, is what I feel. You get transported to that world, and become a part of that story in that moment. So, definitely it could have had that difference, but main kabhi sochta nahi uss tareeke se. I knew from the very beginning it was an OTT film. Also, it does not change the way you work on set. Having said that, cinema aur bade parde ka apna ek pyaar to hai.”

Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, Jaane Jaan got a mixed response for its storytelling, though one thing that consistent;y received praise from all quarters from Ahlawat’s performance and portrayal of Naren Vyas, a gifted math teacher. Recalling the time when he first heart the script, the actor tells us, “When dada (Ghosh) told me this story, the first line he said was, ‘I’m going to make a love story between the beauty and the beast’. And I was like, ‘What?’. He then started narrating, and I kept thinking why he’s calling Naren a beast. At that time I could see in his eyes that he was a bit skeptical that the moment he’d tell me the look of my character, I might flip. But when I was told this is how I am supposed to look in the film, I was like, ‘Wow, this is something very hard to pull off’. And that was the start of it,” shares the actor, who imbibed the nuances of his character including the way he walks, talks and the kind of person he is, an introvert.

While different actors have different factors like look of their character, length of their role, the co-stars and so on, that come into play while prepping for a film, for Ahlawat, it’s pretty simple. The first and foremost thing that matters the most in his craft and while portraying a character onscreen, is the honesty towards the script. “I feel, the more honesty you show towards your work, the more love it will get when it reaches people, and that’s a beautiful feeling,” says the actor, who is known for playing intense characters in web shows such as Bard of Blood, Broken News and Bloody Brothers.

It has just so happened that most of the projects he has been a part of have shown him in a grave and serious manner, but he feels fortunate when people accept him doing that, and he gets all the appreciation. “Yes, most of my onscreen roles have been heavy-intensity characters, but once you don’t do them with full honesty, you succeed in bringing the balance when it’s needed. Whether the role requires you to have full-on mischief, be brave, vulnerable, or complex, or be out-and-out daring and fearless, so you able to play all those shades with utmost honesty towards the script,” adds the actor, who is now craving an out-and-out comedy.

So if he is offered a mindless, slapstick comedy film, will he be on board? “Oh yes, 100%. I am waiting for something like that to come my way. Also, that will be a challenge for me that, ‘Let’s see what do such scripts have in them that they work so well.” Personally, I am very fond of these kind of films. They have no sense sometimes, but they still make you simply happy. Cult films from the past like Andaz Apna Apna, they are hard core comedy that you enjoy. I’m genuinely hoping I gets something like that. Whoever is reading this, filmmakers and writers, I want to say, ‘Try me, phail jayenge’,” quips the actor, talking to us on the sidelines of recently concluded The Himalayan Film Festival in Leh.

Attending this festival was extra special for Ahlawat for two of of his films — Jaane Jaan and (upcoming) Three of Us — were screened at the fest as opening and closing films respectively. “Oh yes, it was an absolutely great feeling. I didn’t know I had two films participating at THFF, but when, during the promotions of Jaane Jaan we were told that it’s the opening film, I wondered why I am not here, so that’s when I decided I will travel and be part of the festival,” says the actor, rubbishing the notion that attending too many film festivals make an actor belong to a niche category.

“I first attended Cannes in 2012 for Gangs of Wasseypur, so it’s been long now that I have been going to film festivals. As long as your work is reaching the right kind of audiences, they are understanding and appreciating it, that’s more than enough for me. And I don’t think it makes any difference that whether you’re going to festivals or not. Yes, it’s definitely a it’s always a happy feeling when a film travels to the festivals, as more and more [local] people are then able to watch it who might not get another chance to see it,” ends the actor.

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