Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

With a number of varied performances and a certain ‘cool’ quotient, PurabKohli enjoys his niche popularity and certainly impresses at all times. In his latest release, ‘Noor’, he plays a photo-journalist, and Kohli speaks to us about the film, his television show ‘P.O.W’ and more…

“I do enjoy a certain popularity in a certain kind of bracket which is more urban centric”

How was it coming to ‘Noor’ after ‘Rock On 2’ and ‘P.O.W’?
It’s been quite contrasting, all the characters. ‘Rock On’ and ‘POW’. In ‘Rock On’ I was this urban boy, drummer with a huge city influence. In ‘P.O.W, he is very rural boy from Punjab. The flow between both of them was difficult, because some of ‘Rock On’ was shot was when we were shooting for ‘P.O.W’ so jumping from KD to Sartaj was really difficult. And in the fag end of Sartaj came Ayan which is the character I play in ‘Noor’. Interestingly, I feel that at some level, Ayan is a combination of KD and Sartaj, because Ayan is the boy of the world. He has similar influences which KD has while growing up, but he’s a war photo-journalist, he’s been at the war front and takes photographs for a living. That gives him some sort of similar emotion towards what Sartaj has. But having said that, these are the only two qualities he possibly has from these two. I think he’s got his own under-belly of darkness which is different from KD as well as Sartaj.

Now when a film comes to you, for instance, ‘Noor’, does the quality of your own performance come into picture?
As an actor when you read a part, you’re considering what the film is or who’s making it, but the last consideration for me is, what can I bring to the table or what can I do with this character? There’s been one or two times when I’ve refused interesting films which didn’t have very interesting characters because I couldn’t bring anything on the table for that character. Of course, a character like Ayan in ‘Noor’, started with T-series coming back with a film to me post ‘Airlift’, which further motivated me to read the script. When you have writers creating a character, and give you food for thought, it definitely helps an actor. I loved the part, it’s quite different from what I’ve done before. He’s an older guy, I had to put on some age for this film. He’s also very charming and a very attractive character. There’s a whole different story regarding him. Also, Sunhil Sippy (director) and me were on the same page during the film, which also helps while making a choice – the director and people who are writing the film. It’s amazing when they share your idea and insecurities about the character.

How do you feel about being a part of ‘P.O.W’ – something of that quality on television?
Most people say TV is forgotten very quickly, but I’ve been a part of two TV shows which have been extremely popular and I think will be remembered forever. One was ‘Hip Hip Hurray’, and with ‘P.O.W’, it didn’t get as many TRPs which popular TV shows get but at the same it’s a show that the cult audience watched, and they’ll remember it forever. They won’t forget it because it was a clutter-breaker and left an important mark. Anyone who’s caught on to see it, has been hooked on to it. The proud feeling is that so many people from the armed forces were watching ‘P.O.W’. Just a few days later after ‘P.O.W’ started, I went for a music festival in Jodhpur and I was mobbed by a whole bunch of army wives. The kind of things they told me made me feel that for them this is so real, and the kind of impact ‘P.O.W’ made me feel proud. Certainly Nikhil Advani and the writers have been influenced by so many real stories. So, it’s an honour to be a part of a show like that.

Despite that do you sometimes feel that there’s a lot which needs to be tapped? Actors sometimes feel that they don’t get the parts which match up to their potential as performers….
The question you’ve asked is very relative to time. There have been times when I’ve felt that I’ve been under-utilised and I’m not been able to actually get those kind of parts. As an actor you want to be the centre of every film, you want to be the main protagonist, any actor would want the story to revolve around his part. But you don’t get that always, especially in our industry where central characters are very limited, they’re quite heroic and they have to be quite heroic. But times are changing. A lot of new cinema is made and many interesting characters are put in as protagonists. For me, after doing ‘P.O.W’ for the last nine months, I must say, it has been quite a fulfilling experience. It’s fulfilled the actor within me, it really has juiced me, made me work long hours and give out emotions for long periods of time. As an actor, that’s what you ask for. Actors ask for that cathartic process where you can actually vent out emotion that you’ve felt and understood. That’s your job as an actor. When you do a series like ‘P.O.W’, you have an entire range to perform. At one point I was complaining to Nikhil saying that ‘Come On! Make Sartaj happy now.’ I remember there was one scene he wrote where Arjan my nephew is teaching me a dance sequence. I had so much fun doing it, and even the DOP was so happy that finally I’m seeing some happy moments in the family. When you’re doing too much Bollywood work, you sometimes forget the drama that television beckons.

There’s a certain niche popularity that you’ve been enjoying ever since ‘Hip Hip Hurray’. How do you feel about that?
I must say, I do enjoy a certain popularity in a certain kind of bracket which is more urban centric. But there are also certain characters that I’ve played which people have really enjoyed despite not being glamourous or urban or cool. Characters like Sartaj, I don’t think the audience really liked him in the first few episodes. Then there’s been Munna from ‘Awarapan’ which has been a negative character, or a Sam from ‘Who Lamhe’, or Ibrahim from ‘Airlift’ – these are characters not glamourous or quirky. The biggest compliment I got out of ‘Airlift’ is my nariyalpani guy who I have been going to, for 20 years, asked me ‘sir, abhikaunsa picture meinaarahe ho’, and I said, ‘abhiaayathana‘Airlift’. And he was shocked. He didn’t recognise me in the film. That makes me happy, it is an achievement. But at the same time, I would want people to know me for those parts also. I feel that’s the side not fully exercised or tapped right.

What’s next for you?
There’ll be ‘Sense 8’, this show I do for Netflix. The second season of that will come out in May.

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