Mr Chironji Lal, a soft spoken yet assertive character in the light comedy, Khosla Ka Ghosla, had the charming Parvin Dabas essaying many shades in the film with co-stars Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Navin Nishchal and Ranvir Sheory. The film did moderately well but it helped this suave Delhi-ite get a footing in Bollywood, where angels fear to tread and rank outsiders stand a thin chance.
Clearly positioning himself as a protagonist in alternate cinema, Parvin worked in a multitude of roles before directing his first film Sahi Dhande Galat Bande. Innately inspired by Anna Hazare, the movie met with critical acclaim and a slew of awards. Excerpts of the interview:
Q. What made you get into movies?
A. I had been involved in theatre from my younger days in Modern School, Vasant Vihar. After graduating from Hans Raj College, I had a rethink as I was playing the lead roles in plays and subsequently I applied to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York and HB Studios, studying drama. After an extensive stint of three years, I got back to New Delhi and started my own drama group called ‘Urban Theatre Society’ where we did a handful of plays. Moving on from theater, I went to Mumbai and after a few years of shooting for ad films, I auditioned for Sunny Deol’s film Dillagi. That was my debut into the world of celluloid where I played the main negative role, acting with stars like Urmila Matondkar. The film did not do well at the box office. Nonetheless, my next one was Monsoon Wedding, directed by Mira Nair. The film was my real launch pad.
Q. As a reserved and mild mannered person, was it difficult to get in front of the camera?
A. Terrified with acting onstage in school, I took courage and went on to play the lead role in Samrat Ashok. I was very introverted, and this role helped me break my shyness. I love getting into the character and exploring the depths of the role I am playing. This helps me peel off my mask and reveal my hidden persona. Acting makes my inner thought process get definitive.
Q. Which has been the best movie you have worked in till date?
A. I loved acting in Monsoon Wedding as the bridegroom in a typically Punjabi wedding scenario. Being on the sets with noteworthy actors such as Naseeruddin Shah and Lillete Dubey, it was a huge learning experience for me and of course being directed by the celebrated Mira Nair. I have many memories attached to this film and I hold this experience very close to my heart. It was slated as the coolest rom com of that time.
Q. What do you think will happen to the film industry post-Covid?
A. I think it will start working again; it’s one of the few industries which are recession-proof. With the OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Video, there is a large amount of work available for the actors and technicians, plus people are always hungry for entertainment. It will take some time for the cinema theatres to open, but I don’t think the lockdown will affect the film industry in such a big way. Films are already releasing on OTT platforms. Shootings have already begun, across the country, with bigger films being produced in pre-emptive preparations for the theatres to open up.
Q. Tell us more about the MMA India TV contests.
A. Mixed Martial Arts has become really big in India. There is a huge following for this particular brand of sport. I have a driving passion for combat sports, which is why I try to promote this through my media contests. When I was young, I practised kickboxing and Taekwondo. I have also started a website called Sportsindia.com. And an arm wrestling company called Pro-Panja.
Q. Where do you usually go for scuba diving?
A. I like going to places with temperate climates like Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Egypt. The sea was cold though in South Africa and we did cage and open water diving with tiger sharks. Scuba is a passion for me as I go in pretty deep and photograph the marine world in its undersea serenity. It’s an expensive sport and if you are claustrophobic, I would not advise it. After every film shoot, I take off for my diving holidays to ease up. This adventure sport gives me actual satisfaction and comfort.
Q. What are some challenges you think the next generation will face?
A. With tech invasion worldwide, everything is at their fingertips, be it smart phones, ipads, etc. Today’s young generations seem to have no worries as such, it’s all about fun. They are so connected to the globe and their scope of learning is vast, with the Internet providing access to literally anything. We had it much tougher. The way of the world is headed towards virtual reality. The young gen has it easy… Combating this will be the biggest challenge.
Q. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
A. I thank the Almighty for my parents, caring, kind, and for my wife Preeti, who is such a wonderful woman, a total home maker, looking after my family. My kids are still growing up, they are good kids. I make them earn their time out from studies and sports. I am thankful for all that I have.
Q. If you could have lunch with one person alive or dead, who would it be?
A. Princess Diana. An awe-inspiring lady, full of life, a fellow Cancerian. She was intensely humane, helping people out, and so detached from her royal status.
Q. Your favorite actor and actress…
A. Sanjeev Kumar, unquestionably. The variety of roles he could play was immeasurable. I wish he hadn’t gone away so soon. And I look up to Waheeda Rahman. She has to be singularly the most brilliant actresses ever. I have watched every single film of hers, especially Pyaasa. She is beautiful, and timeless.