25 Years Of Pardes EXCLUSIVE: “I put Mr Subhash Ghai ABOVE Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali etc. because he has always worked with newcomers” – Apurva Agnihotri

By Fenil Seta -

The much-loved film Pardes completed 25 years on August 8. The film is memorable not just for its music, plot and performances but also because it was the launch vehicle of Apurva Agnihotri. The actor charmed moviegoers with his acting talent and good looks. Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to Apurva Agnihotri about the film. And he, in his trademark warm and loving manner, spoke about his experience and a lot more.


25 Years Of Pardes EXCLUSIVE: “I put Mr Subhash Ghai ABOVE Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali etc. because he has always worked with newcomers” – Apurva Agnihotri


You completed 25 years in the industry on August 8. How do you feel?


Well, honestly, time just flew! Now that you reminded me that it’s been 25 years, I am just going down memory lane. The only feeling I have is gratitude. I am looking up and thanking God. This is the best gift that God could have given to anyone. I am very happy and proud to be a part of Pardes. People still talk about it and remember the film and its lines. For any actor, it’s a big deal.


How did you bag the part in Pardes?


It has nothing to do with my talent at all. I don’t know what Subhash ji saw in me. I have to thank Shatrughan Sinha’s wife, Punam didi. She got in touch with Mr Ghai. She told him ‘I am sending this guy. He’s my brother. Just see if (he can get a role in your film)’.


I met Mr Ghai when he was busy with Trimurti (1995). He told me to meet him after two months as he was busy with the film’s post-production and release. I lost hope as I thought I won’t get a chance. I dropped my pictures in the office. After Trimurti’s release, I got a call from his team, stating that he wants to meet me. When we met, he had completely forgotten about our first meeting. He had seen my pictures out of pictures of 100 other hopefuls, and he had asked his secretary to call me. He told me to give a screen test. Honestly, I don’t know what I did and what he saw in me. After the screen test, I bagged the role.


How did you know Punam Sinha? Was it through your father, Gyandev Agnihotri, who was a renowned writer?


Yes. Like me, he was also a recluse (smiles)!


Subhash Ghai published a video recently wherein he said that Salman Khan was interested in doing your part…


I haven’t seen the video. But that would have been awesome. Imagine Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan and a new girl as the star cast. I think Mr Ghai could still do it (laughs).


In fact, before Mahima, Madhuri Dixit was considered for Pardes


The casting of Shah Rukh, Salman and Madhuri would have taken the film to another level. Uff!



Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge had Parmeet Sethi as the antagonist who beats up Shah Rukh Khan in the climax. In Pardes, you played the negative part and your role was somewhat in a similar zone. Did you make an effort to ensure that your role doesn't give viewers a déjà vu of Parmeet Sethi’s character?


Not really. I admire Parmeet as an actor. He’s a dear friend. But there was no conscious effort. I was so young and in those days, there was no method acting or getting into the character! And when Mr Ghai is directing, you just want to completely surrender yourself to him. Woh jbolenge, wohi sahi hai. Apna dimaag nahi lagana hai. He told us that acting is just about reacting. So he told us to react accordingly. Kabhi kabhi reactions galat bhi hote hai. However, sometimes, something mind-blowing comes out of it. Hence, we were asked to be spontaneous.


You said in an interview that “The way Subhash Ghai presented me no one could have”. It was indeed a proper launch for you. You were like the second hero in Pardes


I’ll be honest with you. I put Mr Ghai above Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali etc. because he has always worked with newcomers. If you see his filmography, you’ll see that he has launched Jackie Shroff, Manisha Koirala etc. Now times have changed and people prefer newcomers. Those days, there were only 4-5 actors and actresses and moviegoers would not be receptive to a new guy. So, it was very, very difficult. Hence, I put him on top because working with newcomers and delivering super-hits is not possible for everybody.


How was it to work with Shah Rukh Khan?


If you really liked me in the film, it was because of Shah Rukh Khan and Subhash Ghai. Shah Rukh used to guide us if we would go wrong. Mahima and I would be completely mesmerized by it. He was like a magician and still is. He was very kind and very sweet. He could have thrown a tantrum but he was more like a friend. Despite being a huge star, he was so level-headed. It’s a rare quality. Hats off to him!


How was it to work with Mahima Chaudhry? She was also a debutant like you. Did you guys bond over this aspect?


This was Mahima’s film, but she had done a lot of ads, unlike me. But she was indeed very, very helpful. Also, she was the main lead of the film.


I don’t know why and how people liked the character. Mr Ghai told me, ‘Yeh character bandh mutthi hai. If people like me, you can emerge as the surprise of the film’. Ideally, it was envisaged as a Shah Rukh Khan-Mahima Chaudhry film. And he happens to be an antagonist.


Where did you learn acting?


I learnt acting at Kishore Namit Kapoor’s institute. He was very kind. I remember I had gone to pay my fees. He declined to accept it as he knew my dad. Dad was not around at that time. You know how the industry is and they often forget people. But he was kind enough not to charge me. So after completing the course, I bagged Pardes. Hence, it was a transition from a video camera to a movie camera! It was a massive leap for me.


Did you go to the cinema halls to check the audience's reaction?


Yes, we were taken to Minerva theatre in Mumbai, if I remember correctly. Those days, things were so different. Viewers were shouting and hooting. People also clapped, especially in the climax. It was an experience. I am getting goosebumps as I talk about it.


Moreover, it was released just a week before India’s 50th Independence Day. Subhash Ghai told us in an exclusive interview that “During Pardes, I was so thrilled to see people clapping during the song ‘I Love My India’”…


Yes. The film came at such an apt time.



How did life change post Pardes?


The first thing that happened is that people started recognizing me. I got a lot of love. People felt that I should have had more to do in the film. That was very sweet as it doesn’t happen very often. A lot of other changes happened. Aap ribbon cutting ke liye jaane lagte ho (laughs)! The kind of money being offered to you is much better. So from a moped, you straightaway sit on a superbike! Hence, it was kind of exciting.


Your last film was Lakeer (2008). You have been away from the big screen for 18 years. Don’t you think it’s high time that you should make a comeback to films?


Yes. However, I am not at all ambitious. My first reaction is to say ‘No’ to a project. I don’t know why. Not just for the big screen, but even for TV projects, I do the same. There’s so much more to life than just acting. I am interested in flying. I was trained to be a pilot. I am trying for a flight license. It’s hard and you have to fly around 60 hours. So that’s what I want to do. I also like to ride my bike. I’ve been to Leh Ladakh on my two-wheeler. When I look at the actors around me, I see that they are all running. People who are doing well are also unhappy and those who are not doing well are also unhappy! Hence, if something excites me, I’ll do it. Or else, I’ll turn it down. And as I said, the first reaction is to always say, ‘Nahin’!


You were seen for a limited period in the popular TV show ‘Anupamaa’ in which you played a unique character. What kind of feedback did you get from the audience?


The reactions were amazing. As you said, it was a very unique character. People hadn’t seen something like this on TV. It’s all thanks to Rajan Shahi. He’s someone who I love and admire. I can do anything for him with my eyes closed. Even if it’s a passing shot, I’ll be game.


You appeared in the much-loved TV show 'Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin'. Amid the saas-bahu serials at that time, this daily soap stood out…It spoke about office culture and your bromance with Parmeet Sethi was also quite memorable…


Yes, and the serial also brought stylised acting to television. We also wore amazing clothes. Designers used to be more than happy to give their clothes to us! So it became kind of a trendsetter.


Your father Gyandev Agnihotri wrote films like Mr. Natwarlal, Do Aur Do Paanch, Yaarana, New Delhi, Beta etc. You have written a script and want to direct it. Did your father influence you while growing up?


I never wanted to enter this profession as an actor or writer because this was not my idea of fun. My idea of fun was to fly planes. Acting was my second option. Hence, I am not truly, madly and deeply in love with the craft. But I do love to write. And I’d love to direct.


What are your other interests?


There was a time when I brought a camera for myself. I know one thing about myself and that is, that I have a unique way of looking at things. Achha hai ya bura, woh mujhe nahi pata. I received a message from a renowned photographer on Facebook that you’ve cracked the skill in 2-3 years. So, that really got my adrenaline going. After all, when somebody you look upto tells you that you are doing a good job, toh bahut accha lagta hai. So, let’s see where life takes me.


More than me, Shilpa (Saklani, wife) wants me to write and direct. She also wants to float a production house. Fingers crossed!


You love to ride your bike. When is your next bike trip?


It happens every Sunday. On Saturday, I can’t sleep as I am so excited! So at 4:30 am on Sunday, I wake up and by 5:30 or 5:45 am, I am out. We head to nearby places like Igatpuri and Lonavala.

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