HITEN TEJWANI became a household name with the TV series, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Born to a cloth merchant father and a homemaker mother in Mumbai, Hiten is the eldest of three brothers who are directors. After schooling from St Francis D’Assisi High School, Hiten graduated from Jai Hind College and thereafter, started working as an assistant director. In a freewheeling chat with SAURABH TANKHA, the talented actor talks about his first break on television, changes in the entertainment industry over the years, content being aired on OTT platforms, his life and more…
Why is that we don’t get to see Hiten Tejwani as much as we (read audiences) want him to?
I prefer doing limited but good work. I try not to repeat myself so I refuse a number of offers. As of now, I’m doing Gupta Brothers on Star Bharat where I play the elder brother and the male protagonist of the show. There are a few web shows waiting to release, one of which is Tandav on Amazon Prime that gets to the audiences on January 15.
Tell us about your role in Nobel Peace.
I play Professor Shlok Manhas in this feature film which explores the dangerous social tensions arisen from religious differences and simple differences of opinion which lead to cruel, senseless violence and oppression which, in turn, leads to further injustices and creates a never-ending cycle of exploitation from both legal authorities as well as illegal groups.
When did you decide to take up acting as a career?
After finishing college, I began working as an editor and an assistant director. Apart from modelling for brands like TVS Scooty, Breeze soap and Closeup Renew, I also did ramp walks at fashion shows. But I wanted to act. There was a period of struggle where I gave a lot of auditions. Though I wanted to do films, a television offer, Ghar Ek Mandir, came my way around 2000-01, and the rest, as they say, is history. But it was the character of Karan Mihir Virani in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi that got me closer to the audiences.
What was the reaction back home when you shared the news of the decision to join the entertainment industry?
I come from a middle class family where the boy is expected to start earning after completing graduation. In my case, I was the eldest in the family so the expectations were higher. My parents were a little worried to begin with as I was doing theatre which didn’t pay much but then they understood acting was what I wanted to do and supported me unconditionally.
How has the face of entertainment industry changed over the years?
It has been changing constantly and changing for the better. The subjects were different when I started working. There was a period of saas-bahu shows, then there were paranormal series, then came reality television and we saw a lot of fictional serials too. Now, audiences prefer watching real subjects. Also, there is a lot of choice on offer now than back then.
How challenging is it when you replace an actor who has been playing a role like it happened when you replaced Cezanne Khan in Kasauti Zindagi Kii?
It surely is challenging. When I replaced Cezanne who had been playing the role of Anurag Basu in Kasauti…, it was difficult but I did what I felt the character would do. The same happened when I replaced Sushant Singh Rajput in Pavitra Rishta. I never tried to imitate them and instead depended on my own style. By god’s grace and the trust showed by Balaji Films and Ekta Kapoor in my talent to hand me the challenge of getting audiences’ acceptance clicked as I worked really hard on the characters.
How happy or satisfied are you with the content being aired these days?
We are getting to watch some unique stories great concepts on air.
You have done reality shows, television serials, films and OTT. Your favourite medium and why?
I love acting, be it any medium. In TV serials, you don’t know what you will be shooting for the day. You get to know of the scenes and scripts when you reach the sets. In web series and films, you have the time to prepare. You know how many days you are going to shoot, what dialogues you have. You can plan your next move, next show, next series. These give you time to be in that character for a while. TV is a riyaaz for an actor because it prepares you for the other mediums. I’m happy that the once-existing gap between films and television is fast diminishing. You are no more termed as a small screen actor or an OTT actor or a movie star. You are just as an actor. And this avers well for the actor community.
Is OTT is the future of entertainment in India?
It surely is as a lot of good content is being aired on OTT platforms these days. If content is releasing on OTT platforms, it means people are watching it. Also, the projects get watched all around the world. Films fall in the same category but then the process is different. It needs to get completed first and then released and you don’t know whether the audiences will lap it up or not. In OTT, if the concept and the cast is good, people will surely watch it.
Does it happen that if you do not get meatier roles, plump assignments or people do not invite you to their parties, immaterial of the fact whether you are an “insider or outsider”, a feeling of insecurity seeps in and there are chances you get into a phase of depression?
It doesn’t. It depends on the individual that you are and also varies from person to person. If you work hard and give it your best shot, then all these factors don’t matter at all. As an actor, I prefer doing my job and it doesn’t matter to me whether I get invitations to parties or not. I have no insecurities and have never gone through a phase of depression. I believe that my work has and will always speak for me.
How did the lockdown period treat you?
This was the longest I have been with my family otherwise, by god’s grace, I have either been working or travelling. I learnt a few skills online as also to cook. I also understood that one doesn’t need a lot of things because I survived for months on two pairs of shorts and two T-shirts. This period told us to give life a break, to take it easy and go slow.
What is Hiten Tejwani doing when he is not breathing entertainment?
Apart from spending time with family, I watch talked about shows apart from sleeping, eating, and working out.