He sold shirts in buses, distributed prospectus of educational institutions for commission and worked as an RJ-producer for a private radio channel. Even after choosing to take up acting as a career, which he had no plans for ever, he has kept reinventing himself to stay relevant to the times as well as to hone his craft. And now actor Shiv Panditt eagerly awaits the release of his next commercial venture, Khuda Haafiz, directed by Farukh Kabir, after a gap of seven years on Disney + Hotstar this August 14.
Not that Shiv was sitting home, doing nothing all this while as he was not getting substantial roles. “I did advertisements, short films, web series, music videos and even a Tamil movie in the meanwhile. The idea was and has always been to stay busy. When Boss (his last commercial film; 2013) didn’t do well at the box office and I was not offered any major roles, I didn’t sit back and cry. I kept working for had I not, I would not have got this opportunity in Khuda Haafiz,” says the Nagpur-born actor.
It was in 2006 that audiences sat up and took notice of the character of Chief Inspector Hanuman Prasad Pandey played by Shiv in FIR on SAB TV. “But people connect me more with Dushyant Sahu aka Dash of Shaitan than Hanuman Pandey of FIR. Cine-goers, who had seen me in FIR, were surprised when they watched Shaitan as this character had shades of grey while the one on small screen was a comic role. No one could imagine the transformation I underwent — from Hanuman Pandey to Dushyant Sahu. And now Faiz Abu Malik is completely different,” he says.
Cine-goers, who had seen me in FIR, were surprised when they watched Shaitan as this character of Dushyant Sahu aka Dash had shades of grey while the one on small screen was a comic role
In Khuda Haafiz, Shiv plays Arabic commando Faiz Abu Malik. “A no nonsense person, Abu Malik works with the internal security agency. As this character hails from the Middle East, I had to practice speaking in a deeper tone and work with a diction coach for over a month as the enunciations and stress on alphabets is much different from ours. Then there is a different body language I had to use,” shares the 36-year-old actor, adding the credit for all this goes to Farukh. “He had edited the entire movie in his head even before we had started shooting. The camera follows Abu Malik wherever he goes and the character leads the audience to the story as the camera, in the movie, has been placed behind his back,” puts in Shiv.
Talking about the challenges while making movies like Khuda Haafiz, Shiv has an interesting story to share. “The filmmakers had no plans for a digital release of Khuda Haafiz but have been forced to do so now as who knows how long will all this last?” says Shiv who was in Delhi to celebrate the birthday of his mother when lockdown happened. “A few days later, I got a call about the decision to release the movie on digital platform and asked me to dub my role. My reaction was ‘how does one reach Mumbai’? There were no travel options, the building supervisor of the house I live in informed me I would be home-quarantined for two weeks on arrival there. This meant no visits to dubbing studios as well. So, we were in a fix,” he says.
It was then the film’s sound engineer, himself stuck in Varanasi due to lockdown, came to the rescue. “He found a studio in Delhi along with a technology called Session Link Pro wherein the video and audio I was watching and listening to was seen at two other locations – in Varanasi as well as Mumbai – via Internet. Basically, three studios worked at the same time, connected in real time,” reminisces Shiv who studied at Doon School and later graduated in English Literature from Delhi University’s Hindu College.
You start doubting yourself, your talent, your craft. It is a normal human emotion but how you deal with it is what differentiates from person to person. Just consider it hypothetically that I try for something and don’t get it
“After graduation, I didn’t know what to do. Those were the days when private radio channels had just entered our lives. Luckily, I got a job as an RJ-producer with Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM albeit in Mumbai. So after college, I migrated to the City of Dreams and worked with them for around two years,” says Shiv, adding his parents were very supportive during this period.
“I come from a middle class family and my father, a Central Government employee, wanted me to do appear for CAT exams and do MBA. Though I went to CAT coaching classes, I realised within a week that I wasn’t cut out for this. I managed to convince the administrator there to refund my fees. Perhaps, my parents understood my creative calling and never stopped me ever thereafter,” he shares.
For actors who don’t hail from a filmi family, have no godfathers and feel dejected on not getting meatier roles or are not invited to parties, Shiv has a piece of advice. “One needs to keep himself relevant, without bothering about anything that happens around,” he says, quickly adding a feeling of insecurity does creep in if all this does not happen. “You start doubting yourself, your talent, your craft. It is a normal human emotion but how you deal with it is what differentiates from person to person. Just consider it hypothetically that I try for something and don’t get it,” he says.
Shiv adds, “Under normal conditions, one would say I will feel bad. I will think I should have got it. One can waste hours and days on it but till when will you keep feeling bad? The solution is to accept it and move on. If it is your destiny, no one can stop you. All you need to do is put in your best and stay positive. In life if you get into wasting time over negative spaces, you will never gain anything. Always remember, you have 24 hours in a day and you should make the most out of it, maximise it.”
In life if you get into wasting time over negative spaces, you will never gain anything. Always remember, you have 24 hours in a day and you should make the most out of it, maximise it
And what is Shiv Panditt’s mantra for life? “The trick is to keep breathing because if there is darkness now, there will always be the light at the end of the tunnel. You should be alive to experience it. Always stay positive and spend time happily so everyone remembers you forever,” he says philosophically.