In conversation with Shiv Panditt, a Dosco, who plays an astute Arab Security Agent in Khuda Haafiz
By SUNITA VIJAY
Shiv Panditt is riding high on a joy tide with the success of his latest venture, Khuda Haafiz – a Vidyut Jammwal starrer released on Disney+Hotstar.
The career graph of Shiv Panditt is prolific. Schooling from The Doon School, Dehradun, graduation from Hindu College, Delhi, one of the first Radio Jockeys for Radio Mirchi, a sports anchor in NDTV and STAR Sports, reality dance show host for Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, one of the hosts for the first IPL on Set MAX, owner of ‘Chandigarh Cubs’ cricket team and a successful actor in varied roles in films; Shiv Panditt has triumphantly donned many hats and is a busy bee at present. He was nominated for the Filmfare Award for his debut role in Anurag Kashyap’s Shaitan.
We spoke to him and here are the excerpts:
You’ve spent seven years in The Doon School. Please share the experience and how you feel connected with Dehradun and your alma mater.
My connection with Dehradun and The Doon School is deep-rooted and strong. Several members of my family have studied in The Doon School since 1984, and currently their kids too continue the tradition. The memories from school days are truly treasured, the bonds one forms back then still remain sturdy. Two of my closest friends live in Dehradun and having spent seven years in this city makes me hold a special place for Doon in my heart. I would say, my school, to a great extent laid the foundation of my career. The ISC curriculum and my teachers ensured that I learn the true essence of the English language. The interest that I developed in English, particularly in literature, propelled me into the creative field, dramas, plays and helped me in mingling with people having a creative flair.
When did you realise your potential to be in films or did it happen spontaneously?
As I said, English as a subject has always fascinated me. I got admission in Hindu College on the basis of English grades and sports quota. I was a state level football player, a goal keeper. In college, I joined the cultural club, participated in plays, choreographed fashion shows. I performed at India Habitat Center, Kamani Auditorium and others in various shows. When privatisation of FM broadcasting began, I applied as radio jockey in Radio Mirchi and got selected. As RJ, my job profile provided ample opportunities to interview celebrities and actors, opening the doors into acting/ hosting. Or, I can say, I was destined to be here, it had to happen this way.
How was the transition phase from RJ to TV host and then to films? The entertainment industry presumably requires blood, sweat and tears – was that the case with you too?
I call myself blessed. I never faced the uphill struggle in Mumbai. I had a stable job in Mumbai as Radio Jockey, an interesting work profile, a structured lifestyle unlike many other aspiring artists who come to this city with a dream. It was a time when I had started enjoying Mumbai as a city. It became a good time for opportunities to pour and I started receiving calls for auditions to various commercials. I consider myself lucky to face the camera under the guidance and direction of stalwarts like Binod Pradhan, Amit Sharma and Nitesh Tiwari, and the window to be a TV host and to act in films followed one after the other. Whatever came my way, was God sent. I didn’t have to strive too hard to get it. But I never gave up on hard work, and have unwaveringly worked towards improving and polishing myself.
Talking about your latest release, how much did you have to work on yourself to fit into the shoes of Faiz, an Arab security agency officer, in Khuda Haafiz? Was it challenging?
Yes, as in the role of Faiz Abu Malik, I had to burn the candles at both ends to look, behave and conduct like a commando. Voice modulation with correct accent was required. Physical fitness, overall looks, manicured moustaches, perfect phonetics, shoes, suit, cigarettes, lighters, accent, all was to be addressed parallelly by me. For three months my fitness trainer travelled with me to help me sculpt and tone the body. My personal inputs to make the character look genuine comprised procuring black cigarettes, golden lighters, spic-and-span shoe and dress etiquette, to make me look as close to an astute officer as Faiz. I followed a regimented routine to face the camera to be in perfect control of the situation. This is because I first have to convince myself after seeing myself on screen, even before the audience judges me. Nowhere should I feel that I didn’t try hard to fill the shoes of the character.
Shiv believes whatever happens in life is for our own good, we only realise it later. Do the best in that moment to not repent later. There is a reason behind everything and he takes all in positive stride. Proving his point he mentioned that the crew and cast had wished the release of Khuda Haafiz on big screen but the pandemic compelled release on Disney+ Hotstar. Shiv believes this too happened for good, seeing the enormous viewership and overwhelming response. Within a week of its release, Khuda Hafiz was ranked the second most viewed film on smartphones, as per TV viewership monitoring agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council), reported by Koimoi in August.
Shiv is extremely happy to work with Vidyut Jammwal, one of the best action heroes of Bollywood, a true master in his skills, a name in action cinema. The film has received positive comments from critics and is being appreciated by the audience. Shiv has his hands full. He has multiple projects in hand, a Dharma production film (almost ready), web series and a couple of other films in the pipeline. And he continues believing in pulling out all the stops.
He urges everyone to be positive during this phase and to see light at the end of the tunnel. He avers, “Life corrects itself, no one’s life is perfect – just accept it.”