“The film is a pure family drama,” says actor Shiv Panditt about his latest release Shastry Virudh Shastry which was released in cinemas on November 3. In the film directed by Nandita Roy and Shiboprasad Mukherjee, Shiv plays the dual role of a father and son. In an exclusive conversation with Cine Blitz, the actor talks about the film, acting with children, his journey so far, and his life decisions.
What made you say “Yes” to Shastry Virudh Shastry?
Shiv Panditt: I stepped into Shastry Virudh Shastry quite late. I got a call to do this film about literally 10-12 days before we rolled. Our Associate Producer Raghavendra Singh called me for the film and made me meet the directors Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee. They gave me the script and it was quite different from what I had done before. I had never done a family drama or played a father on screen. There’s no taamjhaam in this film. It’s a pure family drama. The biggest comparison of this film would be with Baghban (2003). It is in that space.
Every time somebody offers me something to do which I have not done before, it gets me really excited. The script of Shastry Virudh Shastry was so well written. Oftentimes, I get scripts that are so underwritten.
There’s a duality in my character. It is a father-and-son story. I am the son of the character played by Paresh Rawal. And at the same time, I am playing father to a child (Kabir Bawa). I had two aspects of my personality to show which I found very interesting.
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What were the key things to imbibe about the character you play?
Shiv Panditt: If you really want to know the truth, I literally had no idea what I was going to do. The only thing at my disposal was that this film is a Hindi remake of a hit Bengali film called Posto which was made by the same directors. Jisshu Sengupta played the role in the original that I play in the remake.
I could have watched the film but I decided not to. I did not want to get influenced by what Jisshu had done. I just read the script 4-5 times and tried to get into my bloodstream. And the other thing that I did was that I literally went to sets as an empty vessel. I always like to become a director’s actor and follow his vision. If I get praise for my performances, the credit is due to my directors.
What has been your experience with the themes explored in Shastry Virudh Shastry? To be specific, what was your childhood like?
Shiv Panditt: I am a very emotional person and I am very happy and proud of it. I am very comfortable with who I am. The emotional aspect of my personality is stronger than my practical side. I cried when I saw the rushes of the film. Certain aspects of this film really tug at your heartstrings.
My childhood was not like my parents and grandparents were fighting for my custody. Having said that, I can certainly relate to the emotional and innocent aspects of the film. I have to give credit to Kabir Bawa who plays my son in the film. He is a terrific actor and a very affable young boy.
What Selection Day (2018), taught me that, when you deal with children, never talk to children like children. You must talk to them as you talk to adults. The guys in Selection Day were half my age and my track was with them only. I spoke to them and behaved with them equally. I became one of them. I applied that practice with Kabir in this film. Even off-screen, I was always like his pal. That is the best way to go with children. You should never talk down to them. I had a great time with Kabir. There are some great things that have come out on screen because of that off-screen equation.
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Do you think your potential as an actor has been utilized well?
Shiv Panditt: If you had asked me the same question a couple of years ago, I would have said that my potential is untapped. But honestly, I had a metamorphosis in these two years. What I believe is that you should not dwell on the negative. What will I achieve by talking about spilled milk? You need to focus on the positive and attract more positive energy around yourself.
I am grateful and happy that I am still a working actor for 15-odd years – from FIR (TV show) to now and more projects releasing soon. I think that is such a great thing to rejoice about. Having said that, it’s not up to me to see whether my potential is being tapped or not.
I have had the privilege of working with some excellent directors like Vishnu Vardhan, Faruk Kabir, Bejoy Nambiar, Satish Rajwade, and now Shiboprasad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy. With director Sudhanshu Saria, I did a film called Loev where I played a closeted homosexual. I give credit to these directors that they saw something in me and were able to extract that performance.
To tell you the truth, I honestly don’t know how much potential I have. It is up to the directors to see whether an actor can do something or not. And I believe that you get what’s meant for you.
Like life, filmmaking is a series of decisions that you make over a period of a long time. Which decisions in your personal and professional life you are most proud of?
Shiv Panditt: Earlier, I used to ask other people what they thought about a script and whether I should be doing it. I used to feel very confused. Then somehow, organically, I have developed this instinct where I know whether something is right or wrong for me. I am not perfect but my instinct is 80-90 percentile correct. So, professionally, I have developed that instinct and I like to follow that. And it hasn’t hurt me so far in my life.
Having said that, I do understand that, professionally, I don’t sell myself properly. I do my films and disappear. I am very open about talking about my pluses and minuses. I have no qualms about it. I am very weak at marketing myself.
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Personally, the biggest decision that I have taken is to be part of a completely unstable industry. This industry changes with seasons. What keeps me going is my complete belief in myself and my work. I think that is one thing which I remember Akshay Kumar had told me when we were doing Boss, “What you young guys do is that you’re very picky and choosy. You should just keep working.” I find a lot of merit in it. I think sometimes the mind confuses you and tricks you. You should keep your head and nose down and focus on the work.
I am not from a film background. At the end of the day, it depends on when my phone rings and for which project to a huge degree. I should just keep working and whatever is to happen will happen. I can’t get too calculative. It becomes confusing.
After Shastry Virudh Shastry, what are we going to see you in next?
Shiv Panditt: I have got two independent films that are ready for release. I don’t know whether both will be released on OTT or in theatres. There’s a film titled Zindagi Kashmakash which is a relationship drama. The other film is a comedy.